A death row inmate on Tuesday asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to reduce his first-degree murder conviction or grant him a new trial in the killings of a southwestern Oklahoma couple.
An attorney for Mica Martinez argued that the 35-year-old deserves to have his conviction reduced to second-degree murder or be tried a second time because his original attorney changed defense strategy in the middle of the first trial and was ineffective. Martinez was convicted in the October 2009 slayings of Carl Miller, 64, and Martha Miller, 55, at their home in the Comanche County community of Cache.
"It wasn't reasonable," attorney James Lockard of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System said, referring to the trial defense strategy during oral arguments before the court at the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
But Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Crabb urged the five-judge court to allow Martinez's conviction and death sentence to stand, arguing that the deaths were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel — elements that are required for the death penalty in Oklahoma. She said those factors outweigh any mitigating ones in Martinez's favor.
"This is not a very strong mitigation case," Crabb said, as students and faculty members from the OCU law school listened to her arguments.
Prosecutors alleged during Martinez's trial that the Millers were brutally beaten and that Martha Miller was sexually assaulted. They said the couple's adult son was sleeping at the time but woke up and confronted Martinez. He managed to subdue Martinez and called sheriff's deputies.
Lockard said evidence in the case indicated Martinez was highly intoxicated when the victims were killed, and defense attorneys developed a trial strategy that Martinez was too drunk to form the specific intent to kill that was required to convict him.
"There is strong circumstantial evidence of his intoxication at the time. His mind is not capable of making decisions," Lockard said.
But he said a sample of Martinez's blood taken hours after he was taken into custody did not show a high alcoholic content because the alcohol in his system had dissipated. Lockard added that Martinez's trial attorneys abandoned their defense strategy and jurors never received legal instructions on considering the defendant's voluntary intoxication when deliberating a verdict.
He said police officers should have known intoxication would be an issue in the case. That comment prompted Judge Arlene Johnson of Oklahoma City to ask whether law enforcement officers have a duty to quickly collect blood from a suspect.
"Time is of the essence," the judge said.
"You would be imposing a great, great burden on police," Crabb replied.
Judge Robert Hudson of Guthrie pointed out that Martinez initially told investigators that he was not responsible for beating the Millers and that the crimes had been committed by others.
"There seems to be a consciousness," said Judge Gary Lumpkin of Madill. "He seemed to know what he was doing."
The judges did not indicate when a ruling will come.