As Maricopa County legal defender Dawn Sinclair began presenting a 2 1/2-hour closing argument in the defense of Jesus Arturo Martinez Jr. on Monday, she told members of the jury they would be making one of the most important decisions in their life:
They would decide whether Arturo Martinez, 24, is sentenced to life in prison or death for the murder of Nisay Kang, the 34-year-old Chandler woman he beat and stabbed to death in May 2007 at a convenience store at the former Peaks at Papago Park apartment complex in east Phoenix near the Tempe border.
At the conclusion of the penalty phase of court proceedings over the last 23 days, after which Arturo Martinez’s sentence will be decided, a jury now is set to deliberate over his fate, a decision that could come as early as this week.
Not excusing what Arturo Martinez did to Kang, who was a wife and mother of a then-8-year-old girl, Sinclair presented a portrait of mitigating factors in his case that included Arturo Martinez acting out in school as a youth when his parents separated and disrupting a public education system and often smoking marijuana, which later escalated to cocaine use, that caused him to lose his way in life.
Arturo Martinez told police he was “drugged up” at the time he killed Kang, and that he wanted to take her money but didn’t want to be caught.
“This isn’t a man who was thinking,” Sinclair said. “It wasn’t pre-meditated. The person Jesus Arturo Martinez Jr. really lost his way at the time of the murder. It was horrific, but Junior is not horrific. He never meant for her to die; he meant to take her money. The robbery was not a well-conceived plan. He got scared and panicked. He didn’t take a weapon. He is not a monster, but lost his way because of drugs.”
Arturo Martinez, 24, who appeared in court on Monday wearing a white shirt and khaki pants, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping, burglary and robbery in August, avoiding a trial. He held his head down at looked at the table as deputy Maricopa County attorney Treena Kay showed pictures of what he did to Kang in the course of about 15 minutes, beating her with his fists to the point he bruised his own arms and hands and broke her nose, repeatedly stabbing her in the face and eyes with a pen before severing her carotid artery and jugular vein with a pair of scissors he retrieved from a drawer behind the store’s counter.
He stole money and some merchandise from the store moments before he tore down a video surveillance camera and took the tape and the keys that still were hanging from the lock of the store’s door.
The merchandise — some Monster energy drinks and cigars — were something that Kang would often give to Arturo Martinez when he did not have the money to pay for them.
Police later found the energy drinks inside the refrigerator of the apartment where Arturo Martinez was living with his girlfriend and girlfriend’s brother and showered after the crime. Police also confiscated $498 in blood-stained currency from Kang’s purse that witnesses saw him carrying outside the store that morning, and the pair of Kang’s underwear he tore off of her after pulling off her pants. He didn’t sexually assault her, but prosecutors argued he was acting out a fantasy of rough sex he had fantasized about from pornography he had seen.
Through the beating, Kang, whose father was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, fiercely fought back not only for her life, but her dignity and virtue, Kay argued. Kang bruised her own hands while hitting Arturo Martinez back, scratching his neck and arms.
Kang’s husband, Paul Ea, who has attended the hearings and whose father also was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime, stayed inside Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Paul McMurdie’s courtroom during the proceeding. However, Ea’s former mother-in-law and his daughter Alisa, now 13, who also were there, stayed outside during the prosecution’s presentation.
During the prosecution’s closing argument, Kay countered with graphic photos of the crime scene: candy and potato chip racks up against the doors of the store, blood stains on the wall, a photo of Kang’s bruised and bloody face, Kang’s body, naked from the waist down lying in a pool of blood.
Kay stressed the aggravating factors in Kang’s death to warrant the death penalty for Arturo Martinez: Kang was killed in a cruel manner as she was conscious and aware of the crime against her and was alive up to the point her carotid artery and jugular vein were severed; the crime was committed for pecuniary or monetary gain; and other crimes were committed that resulted in a death: kidnapping, burglary and robbery.
“He didn’t impulsively attack her,” Kay said of Arturo Martinez. “He pretended to be a customer. He went behind the counter after she told him to wait outside.
“This murder was personal, hands-on, ongoing and cruel.”
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