The first-degree murder trial of Jeffrey Martinson probably won’t take place until 2011, almost seven years after police say he killed his son and attempted his own suicide.
The delay means that the child’s mother, Kristin Eberle, will have spent more time in court waiting for the trail of her son’s alleged killer, then she spent with her son, Joshua, while he was alive.
The latest delay is partly due to what Judge Timothy Ryan called, the “purposeful refusal to work the case and meet court deadlines,” by Martinson’s two most recent defense attorneys, Gary Bevilacqua and Joseph Stazzone.
The ruling by Ryan came after the two attorneys said they wouldn’t be able to begin Martinson’s trial this month despite 19 months to prepare.
In a harshly-worded ruling, Ryan relieved the two and ordered a new defense team for Martinson. He also blasted the system that allowed Bevilacqua and Stazzone to represent Martinson without actually preparing for his defense while busy on other first-degree murder cases.
“The Court further regrettably finds no basis for confidence in the current framework under the Office of the Public Defense Services providing Mr. Martinson with competent counsel, i.e., an attorney that is not overburdened by an excessive capital case load and qualified to serve as lead counsel in a capital case,” Ryan wrote.
Because the legal departments tasked with providing legal counsel for indigent defendants didn’t appear to be able to supply a legal team for Martinson that could guarantee being prepared for trial in 18 months, Ryan selected a private attorney, Michael Terribile, to lead the defense.
But last week, who would pay for Terribile raised new questions that could bog the case again.
The confusion over which county department will pay for Martinson’s defense didn’t amuse the trial judge, Sally Duncan.
“The tree-ring circus with the lawyers needs to come to an end,” she said on Oct. 29.
Duncan set a Nov. 16 hearing date to confirm the attorney on the case and to move the case forward.
It is the latest twist in a case that has been hung up in the judicial system almost from the beginning.
Initially Martinson demanded a speedy trial, but then his second attorney bogged down the prosecutor’s office with requests for documents, including the maintenance records and service manuals for all the laboratory equipment used to determine that Martinson’s son, Joshua Eberle-Martinson, died from an overdose of Soma, a muscle relaxer.
If Martinson keeps Terribile as his lead attorney, it will be the fifth set of legal counsel to work on his behalf.
Despite the legal wrangling, the case is fairly simple.
Police say that Joshua Eberle-Martinson 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, Kristin Eberle, had received several orders of protection from the court against Martinson, who she 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 on Sunday, Aug. 24 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 police 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.”