Jeffrey Martinson Wins New Trial As Judge Cites Juror Misconduct, Legal Errors: UPDATE

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A Superior Court judge yesterday afternoon granted a defense motion and ordered a new trial for convicted child killer Jeffrey Martinson.

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Jeffrey Martinson

In so doing, Judge Sally Duncan overturned last year's guilty verdicts of first-degree murder and child abuse against the 47-year-old Ahwatukee man, who has been incarcerated at the county jail since shortly after the August 2004 death of his 5-year-old son Josh.

The judge cited juror misconduct and a recently filed Arizona Court of Appeals opinion regarding the "opinion" testimony of a medical examiner in her detailed seven-page ruling.

We won't belabor readers with much background of this controversial and tragic case, but just about everything you need to know about it is available here, in our cover story published just last month.

Judge Duncan discussed the March 8 appellate decision in State v. Sosnowicz, which held that when a medical examiner's opinion about the manner of death is based on evidence that jurors would have been able to sort out without the aid of expert testimony, that testimony is inadmissible. (The manner of death concerns how someone died, i.e. homicide, suicide, natural causes.)

The appellate court said in its unanimous ruling that "the admissibility in a criminal case of a medical examiner's opinion regarding the manner of death depends on the particular facts and circumstances of each case."

In Martinson, the testimony of medical examiner John Hu clearly was pivotal for prosecutors.

Dr. Hu testified that Josh absolutely died as a result of a murder--what he called "acute Soma toxicity."

Judge Duncan chided herself for allowing Hu to testify about the manner of death, writing that she "improperly allowed an expert witness to tell the jury how to decide the case."

She said that "Dr. Hu did not rely on any specialized knowledge in making his findings. Instead, he based his opinion on information that he was no more uniquely qualified to determine than the [jurors]."

The doctor gleaned that information from Phoenix police detectives, including the damning fact that Martinson had failed to call 911, unfavorable rulings against Martinson in his ongoing custody dispute with Josh's mother, and so on.


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9 comments
The Real David saint
The Real David saint

plead him out and be done with it! The prosecution obviously couldnt prove their case, without the Dr's opinion anyways, and that will likely not change.  It would just be a waste of time and resources...

Gladie
Gladie

Why would anybody plead guilty to anything that could not be proved in a court of law?  And since when is requiring the government to prove someone did something criminal before locking that person up a "waste of time"?  What country are you from?

Tmf7811
Tmf7811

 because 'victims rights' have become more important than the publics rights.  For anyone that is confused, when the rights of any criminal are violated all of our rights are violated.

Conservative citizen
Conservative citizen

The medical examiner can't say that the boy died from homicide. The evidence supports the fathers story that the boy could have taken the pill on his own and drowned and the father attempted suicide.

It would be one thing if the medical examiner could determine that the boy died of homicide, but he testified that the only reason he put homicide as the cause was because the police told him to. Either the medical evidence supports homicide or it doesn't.

menz18
menz18

I am guessing you don't have kids otherwise you wouldn't make such an ignorant comment. The man deserves to rot behind bars for what he did to Josh..He has made a mochery of that court system. The family is unable to have closure until this is finally over..

Gladie
Gladie

Closure does not magically arise from a criminal conviction irrespective of guilt or innocence. Closure comes only from forgiveness, love and faith. Clearly you have never lost anybody you loved or you would already know that. We do not die; we just exist in a different form.

Conservative citizen
Conservative citizen

menz18, I'm guessing you were behind the lynch mob after Casey Anthony as well. She obviously had something to do with her daughters death, but the evidence did not support conviction. How many innocent people have been convicted only to find DNA or some other evidence cleared them years later?

The Constitution is there to protect you as well as any other citizen from being wrongfully accused by people who always have the potential to make rash judgements based on emotion. Either you believe in the way we have decided to administer our justice system, based on the Constitution, or you don't.

Tmf7811
Tmf7811

 The person who made a mockery of the court systems was 'Juror 14'.  If ensuring someone gets a fair trial before being killed by the government is making a mockery of things than the victims rights movement created by people who care not about victims and care only about profiting from imprisonment has been even more insidiously successful than any thinks.  Our rights are our rights using them is our right and calling the use of them an insult to victims is the real insult to victims.  We are a country of laws and justice not of vengeance.  When vengeance overtakes a legal system it is only a mockery of itself.

justiceseeker
justiceseeker

Tmf7811, Your comment was spot-on! You exposed the sick game being played daily. Prosecutors with absolute immunity and no accountablity has created a culture of rampant abuse of power and destruction of many lives. The public needs to attend the April 10th hearing where Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon will be disbarred -- they should be indicted and sent to prison!  It takes nothing for ordinary people to be falsely charged and sent to prison for decades in Arizona -- these two should test the system and see how they like it.

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