The battle between Maricopa Attorney Andrew Thomas and the judiciary has boiled over and may impact the prosecution of a high-profile Ahwatukee Foothills murder case, depending on the outcome of a special hearing set for Tuesday.
Jeffrey Martinson was arrested on Aug. 29, 2004, in his Ahwatukee Foothills apartment where police found his 4-year-old son, Joshua, dead. Martinson has been in jail since then, as revolving legal teams and crowded court schedules have delayed his first-degree murder trial.
But motions filed by two dozen attorneys, including Michael Terribile who represents Martinson, ask that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office be disqualified from prosecuting cases because of a conflict of interest.
In Martinson’s motion, Terribile wrote that there was a conflict because of the “relentless attacks on the Superior Court bench,” as well as “intimidation and harassment,” directed by Thomas at sitting and retired judges.
“I think the argument is nonsense,” said Barnett Lotstein, special assistant to Thomas. “This is just an attempt by defense attorneys, who are inventive and want to see their names in the newspaper, who want to create some confusion.”
The motions reference a civil-racketeering lawsuit that Thomas and Arpaio filed in federal court accusing some judges and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors of conspiracy to derail an investigation into a new downtown court complex now under construction.
The motion also referred to charges filed by Thomas against Presiding Judge Gary Donahoe, accusing him of hindering prosecution and obstructing a criminal investigation into the court complex investigation.
The motions, for 41 different inmates, will be heard by Cochise County Presiding Judge Wallace R. Hoggatt in a series of hearings scheduled throughout the day in downtown Phoenix.
The Martinson case was described in December as a “three-ring circus” by Judge Sally Duncan, who has tried to keep Martinson’s case moving forward.
In 2004, Martinson, now 43, demanded a speedy trial. Then, through his attorney, he requested all the maintenance records for all the equipment used in all the labs that did work showing his son died of an overdose of the muscle relaxer soma and that the boy may have been asphyxiated.
That attorney was replaced by other lawyers due to possible conflicts of interest, and the new legal team tried to show while there is a known lethal dosage of soma for adults, there is no documentation of what a lethal dose is in a 4-year-old.
That legal team was replaced at Martinson’s request, which is under seal and not available for review, and the third legal team took over, saying for more than a year that they would not be able to start the trial within 18 months as ordered.
That team was replaced last year with a new team, lead by Terribile, which filed the motion to disqualify the county attorny’s office.
“Obviously we are frustrated,” said Kelli Luther, an attorney hired by Joshua’s mother, Kritsin Eberle, to represent the victim in the court proceedings.
Eberle did not return messages, but so far, she has spent more years in court awaiting the trial of her son’s alleged murderer, then she spent with him while he was alive.
According to police, Joshua was discovered dead on the top bunk of a bedroom in his father’s apartment. Martinson was discovered in the nearby master bedroom, unconscious with cuts on his wrists. All around the apartment, police said they 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 court orders of protection 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 filed 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.”