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Posted on: August 31, 2017

Victims Closer to Justice in State v. Martinson

PHOENIX—The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling has upheld the Court of Appeals opinion in State v. Martinson, the case of a father accused of killing his five-year-old son in 2004, allowing the County Attorney’s Office to resume prosecution of Martinson.

“This decision allows us to move forward in seeking justice for the young victim and his mother,” said County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “We continue to be validated on our contention that evidence of premeditation should have been allowed in the original trial.”

In August 2004, Jeffrey Martinson, a divorced father, had a scheduled weekend visitation with his son. When victim was not returned on Sunday evening, his mother called police to check on Martinson’s home. Once there, police discovered the defendant lying on his bed, unresponsive, with his wrists cut. In another room they found the five-year-old boy deceased. A toxicology report later found evidence of a lethal amount of muscle relaxant in the child’s blood. The defendant was indicted by a grand jury of one count of first degree felony murder and one count of child abuse.

The case went to trial in 2011, and after opening statements, the defense made a motion to preclude evidence of intent to kill, which the Superior Court granted erroneously relying on a 1993 case, State v. Styers. Though jurors unanimously found the defendant guilty of both counts, they were unable to reach a unanimous decision in the penalty phase, resulting in a mistrial.

The defense made a motion for a new trial, citing juror misconduct and other errors. The trial judge granted this motion. In order to ensure that evidence of intent would be admissible, the State subsequently filed new charges in 2012 for premeditated murder and asked that the newer charges be substituted for the older ones. This request was litigated between the trial court and the appellate courts, with the trial court ultimately dismissing the 2004 case with prejudice--in effect barring any prosecution whatsoever. The Court of Appeals’ ruling, which has been upheld, found that the trial court ruled in error and allows the prosecution of Martinson to resume.

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