Jeffrey Martinson’s defense took a hit last week when Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan ruled that evidence about his manipulative and controlling behavior can be admitted in his murder trial.

Martinson, 43, is on trial for the first-degree murder of his 5-year-old son, Joshua Eberle-Martinson, five years ago.

If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

Last month’s evidentiary hearing was to determine if Martinson’s past relationships with women could be brought up in his trial. The prosecution contends that Martinson has an abusive personality and that he could have killed his son just to get back at the child’s mother, Kristen Eberle.

Duncan ruled that the prosecution can use information on the orders of protection issued by the court at Eberle’s request – instances of custodial interference and violations of the orders by Martinson and his treatment of Joshua when the case goes to trial – possibly as early as next month.

But Duncan also ruled that similar manipulative actions by Martinson towards a girlfriend, Kristina LaFond, and Martinson’s actions towards Eberle before Joshua was born are inadmissible because they aren’t relevant, or could be unfairly prejudicial.

The facts of the case are fairly simple. Phoenix police say that Joshua, after a weekend visitation in 2004, was discovered dead on the top bunk of a bedroom in Martinson’s Ahwatukee Foothills apartment in the 5100 block of East Piedmont Road. Nearby, police found Martinson in the 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.

Martinson admitted to police he attempted suicide and passed out that Saturday night. He also told police that when he awoke on Sunday and discovered his son was dead he then tried to commit suicide a second time using Tylenol PM.

Because, at the time, a court had just ordered that Martinson have no more unsupervised visitations with his son, the prosecution alleges that he killed his son to get back at Eberle.

Martinson’s defense appears to be focused on challenging the medical examiner’s diagnosis that the child died from an overdose of Soma, a muscle relaxer, and possibly asphyxiation.

The trial is tentatively set to begin with jury selection Oct. 5, but that is also the day that Martinson’s defense attorneys are also scheduled to begin a trial in a 2003 case where Brandon Henderson is accused of a string of robberies and one murder.

Duncan has ruled that if the Henderson trial begins on Oct. 5 she will delay Martinson’s trial until the attorneys, Gary Bevilacqua and Joseph Stazzone, are available.

But the two defense attorneys have been asking for a delay until next year so that they can prepare for Martinson’s defense. They just finished a death penalty case and have argued that they need more time to prepare.

But Judge Gary Donahoe refused the delay, saying that they have had 18 months, since getting the case, to prepare for a defense. They are the third legal team to defend Martinson, who is in jail, since his arrest Aug. 29, 2004.

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