After weeks of haggling over who would pay for his defense and wrangling to organize a defense team that could hit the ground running, the first-degree murder trial of Jeffrey Martinson is back on track, with a May 2011 trial scheduled in Maricopa County Superior Court.
“It’s the beginning of the end,” said Sally Duncan, the trial judge in Maricopa County Superior Court who has been trying to push the case forward for over a year.
Martinson’s trial has become an example for many of the problems plaguing the legal systems in Maricopa County and Duncan once described the maneuvering among previous defense attorneys as a “three-ring circus.”
Arrested on Aug. 29, 2004 and charged with the death of his 4-year-old son, Martinson has been in jail since then, as revolving legal teams and crowded court schedules have delayed his trial.
At the same time, Joshua’s mother, Kristin Eberle, has spent more time attending court hearings and awaiting the trial of her child’s killer than she had with her son when he was alive.
All in all, it has not been an example of the “speedy trial or disposition” that victims are entitled to, according to Arizona’s Victim Bill of Rights.
In Martinson’s case, conflicts between attorneys resulted in several changes to his legal team, and each change pushed a firm trial date further into the future.
That was compounded by a heavy workload for his last team of public defenders, which prevented them from being ready in the 18 months that Arizona judicial rules require.
But instead of granting Gary Bevilaqua and Joseph Stazzone more time, Duncan denied their request for a continuance and allowed them to withdraw and she appointed a new team lead by Michael Terribile. But because they will be paid more than normal, to insure that the defense team is ready in 18 months, there was a two-week discussion on how and who would pay the bill.
On Dec. 9 Duncan could finally set a firm trial date after details were worked out.
“We will have a firm trial date,” Duncan said.
On the surface the case looks fairly simple. Police say that Joshua was discovered dead on the top bunk of a bedroom in his father’s Ahwatukee Foothills apartment. Martinson was discovered in the nearby master bedroom, unconscious with cuts on his wrists. All around the apartment, police discovered empty prescription bottles, over-the-counter medicine, an empty liquor bottle and plastic bags that may have been used to suffocate the child.
Joshua’s mother had received several orders of protection from the court against Martinson, who Eberle said repeatedly violated the orders. Witnesses have testified that Martinson was controlling and manipulative with Eberle and other women in his life.
Eberle won all of the motions she filled in court, asking for sole custody and limited visitation rights for Martinson, but in August 2004 he was still allowed to have his son for a weekend visit.
When Martinson didn’t return Joshua that Sunday in 2004, Eberle went to his apartment in the 5100 block of East Piedmont Road. When she couldn’t get an answer, Eberle called police.
When interviewed, Martinson told officers he attempted suicide and passed out Saturday night. Martinson told police that when he awoke on Sunday he discovered his son was dead and then tried to commit suicide a second time using Tylenol PM.
But a neighbor told police that Martinson had sent her a text message saying: “We love you and will miss you.”