PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT OFTEN OVERLOOKED IN ARIZONA

By on

Several months ago, The Arizona Republic submitted a public records request (“PRR”) to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (“MCAO”) regarding one of its prosecutors, Juan Martinez, who is under investigation for serious misconduct by the State Bar of Arizona. The PRR also sought information about Martinez’s communications with a former medial personality, with whom he has been alleged to have had an affair. That same woman is now employed at MCAO as a law clerk.

As of December 2, 2018, the Republic reported that MCAO still had not complied with the PRR nor provided justification for its failure to provide said records, as required by law. While MCAO has thus far prevented the public from accessing its own records on the subject, MCAO was required to provide some 847 documents about Martinez to the State Bar. MCAO requested, however, that these 847 documents be filed under a protective order to prevent the public from learning their contents. The Presiding Disciplinary Judge, who is overseeing the ethics investigation, granted the request.

The State Bar is investigating whether Martinez provided false testimony during a disciplinary hearing and whether he revealed the identity of a juror in the second Jody Arias murder trial, which he prosecuted in 2013-2015. If these allegations against Martinez are proven to be true, it would call into question whether Martinez acted dishonestly during any of the thousands of criminal cases he has handled during the course of his decades-long career. The concern would be whether there might be innocent people whom he wrongfully sent to prison, or people whom were sent to prison unfairly, based upon some form of prosecutorial misconduct.

Dishonesty is a cardinal sin in the legal profession. As lawyers, we are officers of the court and, as such, are tasked with always telling the truth. Always. Whenever any lawyer, especially a prosecutor, is found to be untruthful, it not only casts doubt not upon all of his/her cases, but also impacts the public’s perception of the legal profession at-large.

Since Arias’ 2015 murder conviction, Martinez has been the subject of at least seven formal Bar complaints. One particular complaint, which addresses about 10 years’ worth of his cases, accused him of (1) engaging in unprofessional conduct; (2) using means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden another person; (3) using methods of obtaining evidence that violates the legal rights of persons; (4) improperly tarnishing defendants; and (5) engaging in professional misconduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. Again, these are extremely serious accusations against any Arizona attorney, but are particularly damning when lodged against a prosecutor.

According to the Republic, several women have come forward within the past year—including former jurors, court staff, and court reporters—to make further accusations against Martinez. In early 2017, he was formally accused of carrying on affairs with two different media personalities (one TV commentator and one Internet blogger) during the Arias trials. It was alleged in the ethics complaints that Martinez leaked confidential information to the media personalities, including the identity of the sole holdout juror in Arias’ second trial. That juror was, in turn, hounded and threatened by bloodthirsty members of the public who wanted to see Arias receive the death penalty. The threats to this juror got so bad that she eventually needed 24-hour police protection to maintain her safety.

That complaint was dismissed in January 2018, however, the State Bar has appealed the decision. During the appellate process, the State Bar obtained interviews from yet another woman who had been dismissed as a juror in the second Arias trial. She stated that Martinez called and texted her, asked her questions about other remaining jurors on the panel, and flirted with her to the point that she sent him pictures of her bare breasts.

In October 2018, the Disciplinary Committee of the Arizona Supreme Court found probable cause to file a formal complaint against Juan Martinez. The complaint stated the Committee found sufficient proof that Martinez had (1) provided confidential and/or sealed information including the identity of a juror in the Arias case to a third party; and (2) provided false testimony or evidence during the State Bar’s disciplinary investigation regarding the nature of his relationship and conversations with third parties including the member of the news media and a discharged juror.

Should the matter proceed to a formal hearing, Martinez could face a range of disciplinary action, which could include formal disbarment.

Whether Martinez faces bar discipline is important, but not nearly as important as the collateral impact it may have on other cases. Convictions may be overturned, sentences reduced, new trials ordered. Maricopa County could also be sued—say, by the juror whose identity Martinez is accused of leaking to the press—which could leave taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars. It could further affect Arias’ murder conviction and sentence of life imprisonment (both of which are currently on appeal) as well as other criminal prosecutions handled by Martinez over the years.

Prosecutorial misconduct all too often goes undetected. Prosecutors are entrusted with tremendous power and we, as a society, expect prosecutors to be held to the highest of ethical standards. And most prosecutors do play by the rules. But there are more prosecutors willing to engage in clear acts of prosecutorial misconduct in this state than most people want to admit. It is unfortunately rather common for prosecutors to withhold evidence that is helpful to the defense or to intimidate certain witnesses from coming forward. Even worse, criminal defense attorneys and judges are often ill-equipped to properly deal with prosecutors engaging in bad behavior. If the accusations against Martinez are true—and the Supreme Court’s ethics committee has already found probable cause to believe that they are—the court system should review all of his previous cases to make sure he and his fellow prosecutors did not engage in bad behavior in those cases. Some people will likely be released from prison as a result.

The attorneys at the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, PC have extensive experience in addressing a wide range of forms of prosecutorial misconduct. If you or a loved one are facing a criminal case, contact the attorneys at the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, PC to schedule a free consultation today.

  Category: Uncategorized
  Comments: None

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *