Ernesto Salgado Martinez, 42, of Indio, California, Previously Sentenced to Death in Arizona, Sentenced to Life for Murder in California

Ernesto Salgado Martinez, 42, of Indio, California, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in Riverside County Superior Court in Riverside, California, for the 1995 murder of a convenience store cashier in Blythe, California.

Martinez was previously convicted in Arizona for murdering a state patrol officer. He was sentenced to death. California authorities extradited him to California for murder charges.

Background According to Appellate Records in the Arizona Case.

BACKGROUND—According to the Appellate Record.

Martinez drove from California to Globe, Arizona in a stolen blue Monte Carlo to visit friends and family. After learning that his parents had moved to Payson, Arizona, Martinez met his friend Oscar Fryer. Fryer asked Martinez where he had been. Martinez told Fryer that he had been in California. Fryer then asked Martinez if he was still on probation. Martinez responded that he was on probation for eight years and had a warrant out for his arrest. Martinez then pulled a .38 caliber handgun with black tape on the handle from under his shirt and showed it to Fryer. Fryer asked Martinez why he had the gun, to which Martinez responded, “[f]or protection and if shit happens.” Tr. Sept. 9, 1997, at 83. Fryer then asked Martinez what he would do if he was stopped by the police. Martinez told Fryer, “he wasn’t going back to jail.” Id. at 85.

Sometime after his conversation with Fryer, Martinez left Globe and drove to Payson. On August 15, 1995, at approximately 11:30 a.m., Martinez was seen at a Circle K in Payson. He bought ten dollars worth of gas and proceeded south down the Beeline Highway toward Phoenix. Martinez was driving extremely fast and passed several motorists, including a car driven by Steve and Susan Ball. Officer Martin was patrolling the Beeline Highway that morning and pulled Martinez over at Milepost 195. Steve and Susan Ball saw Officer Martin’s patrol car stopped behind Martinez’ Monte Carlo and commented, “Oh, good, he got the speeding ticket.” Tr. Sept. 10, 1997, at 32. As they passed by, Susan Ball noticed Officer Martin standing at the driver’s side door of the Monte Carlo while Martinez looked in the backseat.

Shortly after Steve and Susan Ball passed, Martinez shot Officer Martin four times with the .38 caliber handgun. One shot entered the back of Officer Martin’s right hand and left through his palm. Another shot passed through Officer Martin’s neck near his collar bone. A third shot entered Officer Martin’s back, proceeded through his kidney, through the right lobe of his liver, through his diaphragm, and lodged in his back. A fourth shot entered his right cheek, passed through his skull, and was recovered inside Officer Martin’s head. The hand and neck wounds were not fatal. The back and head wounds were.

After murdering Officer Martin, Martinez took Officer Martin’s .9mm Sig Sauer service weapon and continued down the Beeline Highway at speeds over 100 mph. Martinez again passed Steve and Susan Ball, which they found strange. They began discussing how not enough time had passed for Martinez to have received a speeding ticket because it had only been a couple of minutes since they had seen him pulled over. They stayed behind Martinez for some time and watched him go through a red light at the Fort McDowell turnoff. Steve Ball commented, “Yeah, he just ran that red light. Something is up here. Something is going on.” Tr. Sept. 10, 1997, at 69. Steve and Susan Ball continued down the Beeline Highway and lost sight of Martinez until they reached Gilbert Road. At the red light on Gilbert Road, they caught up to him and took down his license plate.

Martinez passed through Phoenix and arrived in Blythe, California at around 4:00 p.m. where he called his aunt for money. At 6:00 p.m., Martinez called his aunt again because she failed to wire the money he requested. Growing impatient, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Martinez entered a Mini-Mart in Blythe and, at gunpoint, stole all of the $10 and $20 bills from the register. Martinez killed the clerk with a single shot during the robbery.1 A .9mm shell casing was recovered at the Mini-Mart the following day. Ballistics reports determined that this shell casing was consistent with the ammunition used in Officer Martin’s .9mm Sig Sauer.

Later that night, Martinez drove to his cousin’s house in Coachella, California, near Indio. Around 12:00 p.m. the next day, August 16, 1995, Martinez took David Martinez, his cousin, and Anna Martinez, David’s wife, to a restaurant in Indio. After leaving the restaurant, Martinez noticed that a police car was following him. David asked Martinez if the car was stolen to which Martinez responded, “I think so.” Tr. Sept. 15, 1997, at 146-47. Martinez turned onto a dirt road and instructed David and Anna to get out of the car. They left the car and went to a nearby trailer compound to call Anna’s aunt to come and get them.

Tommy Acuna, who lived in his grandmother’s house at the compound, was swimming when David and Anna appeared at the fence surrounding the compound. David and Anna asked Tommy if they could use his phone, but Tommy refused. Tommy did permit Anna to use the bathroom. Anna went into the bathroom and came out a couple of minutes later. After showing David and Anna out, Tommy went back to the bathroom “to see if they left anything in there because she wasn’t in there that long.” Tr. Sept. 16, 1997, at 48. He found a towel on the floor with the .38 caliber handgun wrapped inside. Tommy took the gun, hid it in his pants, and walked outside. He testified that he hid the gun because it was his grandmother’s house. By the time Tommy walked outside, the police had surrounded the compound. An officer monitoring the perimeter called out to Tommy and told him that he was going to search him. Tommy walked over to the officer and exclaimed, “I have got the murder weapon.”  The officer searched Tommy and found the .38 caliber handgun. This gun was later identified as the weapon that fired the bullets which killed Officer Martin.

After David and Anna got out of the Monte Carlo, Martinez turned around on the dirt road. Another police car appeared on the scene and headed towards Martinez. Martinez saw this second police car, left the Monte Carlo, ran toward the trailer compound, and jumped the fence. He then ran into Johnny Acuna’s trailer. The SWAT team evacuated the area and tried to communicate with Martinez. After those attempts failed, the SWAT team negotiator threatened to use tear gas. Martinez responded, “I am not coming out; you will have to come in and shoot me.” Tr. Sept. 17, 1999, at 23. After further negotiations, however, Martinez agreed to come out and was taken into custody.

While in custody, Martinez called his friend, Eric Moreno, and laughingly told Moreno that “he got busted for blasting a jura.” 3 Tr. Sept. 15, 1997, at 13. Martinez also told Moreno that a woman on the highway might have seen what had happened. They talked about the guns and Martinez told Moreno that one of the guns had been “stashed.” Id. at 21. After obtaining a warrant, the police searched Johnny Acuna’s trailer and found Officer Martin’s .9mm Sig Sauer under a mattress.

A jury convicted Martinez of first-degree murder, a class 1 dangerous felony; theft, a class 6 felony; theft, a class 5 felony; misconduct involving weapons (prohibited possessor), a class 4 felony; and misconduct involving weapons (serial number defaced), a class 6 felony. The trial court sentenced Martinez to death for the murder conviction, and to terms of imprisonment for the noncapital crimes.

OUR FREE OPINION

Although we are opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances, we certainly agree that Martinez has committed some egregious crimes. We would replace the death penalty with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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