A violent gangster--who allegedly sought to intimidate witnesses and bragged to his buddies that he "always wins"--is smiling tonight. He won. Over the incredulous cries of prosecutors, an Orange County judge declared that Paul Javier Martinez (pictured) didn't receive a fair trial.
The decison by Judge Patrick Donahue voids a jury's April 2006 guilty verdicts against the 30-year-old member of the Los Angeles-based 18th Street gang. After a month-long trial, jurors believed that Martinez had attempted to murder an unarmed, innocent man in a Mission Viejo bar during a temper tantrum.
But that conviction, which would have carried stiff prison punishment, is now gone. Donahue, a former prosecutor who took more than 17 months to act, has called for a new trial in November.
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The Orange County District Attorney's office wasn't happy with the ruling. "We obviously disagree with Judge Donahue's decision," said Deputy DA Susan Kang Schroeder. "We'll be weighing our options about what to do next."
Prosecutors could ask the state court of appeal to reverse Donahue and reinstate the jury's findings against Martinez, a convicted felon from another violent case in Ventura County. Schroeder says District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and his top aides will make a decision in coming weeks.
In August, the OC Weekly revealed that Donahue was on the verge of taking the drastic action because two men, both gangsters, should not have been ordered out of the courtroom during closing arguments in the Martinez trial. A bailiff and a veteran prosecution investigator took the action after jail deputies intercepted a message from a locked-up Martinez, who seemingly wanted to intimidate witnesses if not jurors.
Bu the officers hadn't asked permission from Donahue, who was clearly unnerved by their actions. After the incident, the judge fired his bailiff. A defense attorney for Martinez called the eviction an "“illegal, premeditated . . . egregious" act of prosecutorial misconduct and, yet, waited to see the outcome before seeking a mistrial. Numerous courthouse observers thought that the officers had acted properly given the circumstances.