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**UPDATE** Murder Trials Gone Wrong - AZ vs. Jeffrey Martinson

**UPDATED**

This story was originally posted in September of 2013. I was just following up on the progress of the case, and was shocked to see an article saying that Jeffrey Martinson was being set free November 26, 2013 after spending 9 years in prison! 

Because of double jeopardy, he will not be re-tried for the murder of his 5 year old son. The trial cost the taxpayers an estimated $2.97 million dollars, nearly half of the cost of the Jodi Arias defense. Judge Sally Duncan dropped all charges against Martinson citing a pattern of "misconduct by the prosecutor" - and ordered his release.

In a 28-page ruling, Judge Sally Duncan said that Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Frankie Grimsman charged Martinson with felony murder, on the grounds that 5 year old Joshua died by child abuse inflicted by Martinson.  But during his trial, Grimsman tried Martinson as if he were charged with premeditated, intentional murder.  Judge Duncan warned Grimsman many times throughout the trial not to treat the charge as premeditated.  This trial looks like it was a mess - Martinson was found guilty, but before he could be sentenced a juror came forward and accused the forewoman of "browbeating" them for a guilty verdict. The guilty verdict was thrown out in March of 2012. Now it appears that Martinson will not be re-tried or held accountable for his son's death!  See below for details on the case, and I'm posting a link to the article announcing his ordered release:

http://www.miaminewsday.com/national/32662-man-charged-with-murdering-son-to-walk-free-from-prison-after-9-years.html



The public has gotten used to the annoying and sometimes seemingly senseless delays in the judicial system. Bringing a murder suspect to trial can be a daunting task and be years in the making before the case sees the inside of a courtroom.  Most recently the public has been frustrated by the delays in setting a date to begin jury selection in the sentencing retrial of Jodi Arias who was convicted in early May for the June 4, 2008 murder of her ex boyfriend Travis Alexander.  Believe it or not, I found a case that's taken even longer, had more attorneys involved and still is unresolved. I'm talking about AZ v Jeffrey Martinson. There's more to this story than I can get into right now, but the delay aspect is what I wanted to hit on in today's blog.

In August of 2004, Martinson's 5 year old son Joshua Eberle-Martinson was found dead in a bunk bed at Martinson's apartment.  Martinson himself was found unconscious with a plastic bag over his head and (self-inflicted) cuts on his wrists - believed to be a murder/suicide by police. Martinson was in the middle of a very contemptuous custody battle with ex-wife Kristin Eberle over visitation with 5 year old Joshua. Martinson was seeking more time with his son, over the objections of Eberle who had been granted several orders of protection against the allegedly abusive Martinson. Police responded to Martinson's apartment when Eberle called to report she had been trying to pick up Joshua from a weekend visitation at his father's home where nobody was answering the door. It was too late for Joshua, but Martinson was still alive and he was arrested on August 29th, 2004 - the day after Joshua's body was discovered.  

The state believes that Martinson drugged his young son, after medical examiner Dr. John Hu found toxic levels of the drug carisoprodol (Soma) in the 5 year old's system and the death was ruled a homicide. Over the years that the case made its way through the system, Martinson reportedly went through a total of 5 sets of court appointed defense teams (11 attorneys). Each change in representation caused further delays in bringing the case to trial. The trial finally began in August of 2011, 7 years after Joshua's death.  In November, the jury convicted Martinson of first degree murder and aggravated child abuse.  The jury deadlocked on sentencing, with 2 jurors voting for death, 8 voted for life imprisonment and 2 were undecided. 

Ordinarily the judge would then set a date for retrial on sentencing and choose a new jury panel.  We all know the Arizona process after watching the Arias trial!  However, this is where this case was turned upside down.  After the mistrial was announced, detailed notes from jurors were sent to Judge Duncan claiming the jury forewoman "bullied several jurors into submission", badly interpreted the judge's legal instructions on felony murder as it relates to child abuse.  "Laura", the juror who wrote the note claimed forewoman "Kathy" was an employee of the AZ Supreme Court and she alleged Kathy would not allow the jury to discuss anything other than the most serious counts of child abuse - several jurors wanted to discuss or at least consider the lesser charges. Judge Duncan spoke to each juror, one by one in January of 2012.  Martinson's attorney asked for a mistrial - wanting to start over from the beginning of the guilt/innocence phase.  Another juror named "James" told the judge he didn't feel the state proved murder, but he voted guilty anyway. 

Judge Sally Duncan overturned Martinson's guilty verdict and ordered he be given a new trial, citing "juror misconduct" and a recently filed Arizona Court of Appeals opinion regarding the "opinion" testimony of medical examiner in her 7 page ruling on the case. Dr. Hu had testified at trial that Joshua "absolutely died as the result of a murder - what he called of "acute Soma toxicity". Judge Duncan's ruling further said that Hu "did not rely on any specialized knowledge in making his findings. Instead, he based his findings on information that he was no more uniquely qualified to determine than the jurors". The judge also found that juror misconduct occurred, an independent basis to grant a new trial".

A September 20, 2012 article from the eastvaluetribune.com wrote that Martinson's new trial was supposed to begin in October of 2012 and he would not face the death penalty.  They estimated the trial would go "no longer than January of 2013".  As far as I can tell, this trial STILL has not started. According to the Maricopa County Superior Court websites "minute entries" shows the last minute entry referred to a 9/6/13 court date to hear oral arguments on the defendants "Request for Consolidation" and Ruling on Defendants "Motion to Dismiss Prosecutorial Misconduct/Double Jeopardy".

This case has been going through the justice system for more than 9 years now. I can only imagine the outrage that Joshua's mother feels, as Martinson's conviction was overturned after waiting 7 years and 11 defense attorneys to get to trial. Does this seem just to you??  

Comments

  1. FYI:

    Debra Milke Convicted and Sentenced to Death on the Word of a Dishonest Detective

    In December 1989, 25-year-old Debra Milke lived in Phoenix, Arizona with her 4-year-old son Christopher and her boyfriend, James Styers. A few days before Christmas, Milke asked Styers to drive Christopher to the mall so he could visit Santa Claus. Instead of taking the boy to the shopping mall, Styers and a friend drove him to a secluded ravine outside of town where Styers shot the boy three times in the head. Detectives and prosecutors believed that Debra Milke had arranged the murder of her son for a $50,000 insurance payout.

    Styers confessed to the homicide and was convicted of first degree murder. At his trial, neither he nor his friend implicated Milke in a murder-for-hire plot. No other witnesses came forward with incriminating evidence against the mother.

    Evidence that Debra Milke had plotted the murder came from a Phoenix detective named Armando Saldate. According to the detective, Milke told him that her role in the conspiracy to murder her son had been "a bad judgment call." Milke's interrogation had not been recorded, and Saldate was the only officer involved in her questioning. Milke proclaimed her innocence from the beginning, and denied making any kind of confession to Detective Saldate or anyone else. A local prosecutor, relying on the detective's credibility, charged Milke with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse, and kidnapping.

    Detective Saldate, at Milke's October 1990 murder trial, testified that the mother had confessed to him regarding her role in her son's homicide. The defendant took the stand, professed her innocence, and called the detective a liar. As is often the case, jurors believed the police officer over the defendant. The jury returned a guilty verdict. A few months later the judge sentenced Debra Milke to death.

    As it turned out, Detective Armando Saldate was in fact a notorious liar. Prior to his interrogation of Milke he had been caught committing perjury in four criminal trials. His credibility was so comprised judges refused to accept into evidence confessions this detective had acquired.

    On March 14, 2013, Chief Federal Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned Milke's conviction and vacated her sentence. The 49-year-old had been on Arizona's death row for 22 years. Based on Detective Saldate's history of perjury and other incidents of police misconduct, Judge Kozinski ruled that Milke's confession should have been excluded from her trial. Without this dishonest detective's tainted testimony the prosecution had no case. In rationalizing his decision, Judge Kozinski wrote: "No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonest or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone's life or liberty."

    On September 6, 2013, Judge Rosa Mroz of the Maricopa County Superior Court set the 49-year-old prisoner free on $250,000 bond. County prosecutors plan to bring Milke back to trial by the end of September. On the strength of the disgraced detective's testimony, the prosecution will be seeking the death penalty.

    It's quite possible that at Milke's second trial, at the close of the prosecution's case, the judge will direct a verdict of not guilty on the grounds of insufficient evidence. It is also possible that a judge will exclude the detective's testimony and dismiss the case before the trial begins.

    http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/2013/03/debra-milke-on-death-row-22-years-on.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. My Forte - This case is the most egregious example of all that is so f***ed up with the justice system that I have ever heard of.

    I understand the juror misconduct BUT I do not understand how it can be questioned that the ME has no independent knowledge to substantiate murder charges. The 5 yr old didn't independently OD on Soma. Aggravating that the jurors did not see fit to address the coercion of the jury foreperson DURING the deliberation process - but with Az. the judge still may have granted a mistrial instead of dismissing the foreman, adding an alternate and having the jury begin deliberations anew. Thanks for posting about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NancyB,
      There was sooo much background info on this case and trial - it's just unreal that justice can be delayed indefinitely. What a joke that trial became, with the defendant having 11 different attorneys, or 5 teams of attorneys during this case. And the delays continue...any surprise, this happened in Ahwatukee AZ? A comedy of errors in this trial. Joshua's mother Kristen Eberle must be tortured over this.

      Delete
  3. This trial was dismissed 6 days ago due to prosecutorial misconduct. Martinson is to be released without having been given his fair trial.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/jeffrey-martinson-release-murder-dismissed-son_n_4312637.html

    ReplyDelete

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