Jeffrey Martinson, who spent nine years in custody for the death of his son in 2004, was released in November after a judge ruled that misconduct by the prosecutor in the case was too much to overcome.
The decision has far-reaching implications: Because Martinson’s verdict was overturned with prejudice, he cannot be retried for murder without invoking double jeopardy.
And despite an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling in 2012 that the prosecution could re-indict Martinson on different charges, the trial judge found that prosecutorial misconduct precluded filing new charges.
Martinson was charged with first-degree felony murder in 2011 for killing his son with muscle relaxant pills.
According to Martinson, he found his 5-year-old son, Josh, floating in the bathtub in 2004 and tried to save him but ultimately failed. Martinson said he then tried to kill himself. Autopsy reports, however, found muscle relaxants in the boy’s system. Based on the new evidence, Martinson reasoned his son must have taken the pills, thinking they looked like candy.
In 2011, a jury found Martinson guilty – a verdict that allowed for the death penalty. But one juror came forward before Martinson could be sentenced, stating that the forewoman forced other jurors into finding Martinson guilty. The guilty verdict was thrown out in March 2012 and by that fall, Martinson was facing new charges.
Martinson was ordered released from jail after Judge Sally Duncan ruled that the prosecutors’ actions had resulted in a “a win-by-any-means strategy.”
Duncan’s 28-page ruling detailed the conduct of the prosecution, including Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Frankie Grimsman, and concluded that their actions had demonstrated “a pattern and practice of misconduct designed to secure a conviction without regard to the likelihood of reversal”
Several things factored into Duncan’s decision:
– Martinson had been charged with felony murder, with the prosecution arguing that the boy had died as a result of child abuse. Despite the charge, prosecutors tried the case as if Martinson were charged with intentional, premeditated murder. Several times over the course of the trial, Grimsman was warned by the trial judge not to continue with the premeditated course of action.
– After the first conviction was thrown out because of improper testimony and juror misconduct, Grimsman then tried to re-indict Martinson on premeditated murder charges.
– Grimsman then repeatedly tried to have both Duncan and Martinson’s defense attorneys removed.