On today’s podcast we present Parts Nine and Ten, the final chapters, of Mongol, our exclusive new Crime Story series written and read by Molly Miller that tells the story of the tragic killing of a police officer and the complex search for truth and justice in the aftermath of his death. You can find all of the previously published parts of the series here.
Sullivan forged ahead in his defense of David Martinez. Armed with exculpatory information he found in the Perkins and Montebello tapes, he believed Martinez had a strong case. But first he would have to convince the judge to admit the recordings in court – a ruling she had waffled on during pretrial motions. Immediately Jack Garden objected to the use of the tapes, due to the fact that they contained hearsay from other inmates in Martinez’ holding tank and transit vehicle. Judge Charlaine Olmedo sustained the objection, but she told Sullivan that he could play the video and audio tapes if they were edited down to exclusively include the parts in which Martinez was speaking.This task would be difficult for anyone. The tapes were garbled and filled with overlapping discussions that would have to be meticulously picked apart. It was a colossal task for Sullivan who was, by his own admission, not stellar with technology.
Sullivan fumed at the counsel’s table, flipping through stacks of papers and wrinkling his usually pristine suit-jacket. He called Officer Noyola to the stand and asked him the purpose of the Perkins Operation. Noyola responded, curt and dry, “It’s to provide law enforcement with inculpatory or exculpatory evidence.” Sullivan then proceeded to read a series of statements that David Martinez made during the operation. Statements like “I didn’t know it was the police,” and “they had no reason to come to my house,” and “I was just protecting my family bro, like anyone else would.” The fragments of dialogue underscored Sullivan’s assertion that Martinez didn’t know law enforcement was at his door — the sentences pointed to his innocence. On cross-examination Jack Garden sauntered around the lectern. “Do inmates sometimes lie because they know they’re being recorded?” he asked. Noyla nodded. Garden returned a smile and led Noyola down an alternate road — insinuating that Martinez was putting on a show. Garden clicked his pen with satisfaction as Noyola noted that Martinez mentioned being concerned about informants in the transit vehicle. By this time, Sullivan was fuming. “So if the inmate says something inculpatory then it’s inculpatory, but if he says something exculpatory then he’s a liar?!”
Charlaine Olmedo excused the jury to admonish Sullivan for his tone. Sullivan called other witnesses, including neighbors who didn’t hear the police announce and friends of David Martinez who attested to his character. But it all felt inconsequential compared to the content on the tapes. Unsure if the jury would ever hear the recordings Sullivan knew the strength of the defense would rely on a single witness: his client, David Martinez.
When Martinez took the stand, it was Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake who rose from his chair. The imposing man was persistent and thorough in his interrogation. He pelted Martinez with questions poised to slip him up. Blake took his aim. “You shot to kill that day.” Martinez stood firm. “I shot to protect my family.” Martinez endured the stand for two days and for two days his story stayed the same. He acknowledged that he was a member of the Mongols, but he testified that at the time of the shooting he had been trying to move on with his life. The drugs and the partying had gotten old. He wanted to be a father to his two young children and a supportive husband for Sandra so he let his motorcycle registration expire and he stopped attending Mongol events. That’s why he thought it was the Mongols at his door at 3am on October 28, 2014. He feared they were angry because he was distancing himself from the club.
Martinez explained that the night of the incident was pure chaos. He ran to the living room and saw his dad open the door. Then he saw the barrel of a gun. And he pulled his trigger. It was supposed to be a warning shot. Martinez didn’t mean to shoot anyone. He didn’t know it was the police – didn’t see them and didn’t hear them. Martinez told the jury that after the dust settled, he was confused because his parents were so adamant that the officers shot their own man. He started to believe them because he desperately wanted it to be true.
The defendant on the stand was different from the one that Sullivan met at the beginning of the case. This man was ready to accept the truth; he took full responsibility for shooting Shaun Diamond.
On the final day of testimony, Sullivan walked into the courtroom bleary-eyed but beaming. With the help of an assistant he had managed to edit the hours of the Perkins audio tapes and the Montebello jail video tapes into small clips that the judge had found admissible in court. Sullivan had nearly all the pieces of a winning case. Jim Moss told the jury that the scene was chaotic. Jaime Martinez admitted to pointing his gun at the door. David had testified that he hadn’t seen or heard the police and that he feared for his life. But there was one piece of the puzzle that Sullivan didn’t have: a record of David’s mindset in the seconds before he pulled the trigger. Evidence of that internal monologue did not exist. If it did there might not be a trial. Still, Sullivan knew that in order to convince the jurors he had to give them something as close to that fictional record as possible. If he couldn’t show them David’s mindset before the incident, he would settle for showing them the aftermath.
Sullivan called Noyola back to the stand and played the edited tapes.
The jury watched a distraught Martinez in the holding tank crying out in concern for his family. He yelled through the air vent to his friend, Raul, that he didn’t know it was the cops at his door. He told the undercover officers that he assumed it was the Mongols when he heard the banging. He was broken and in shock without an ounce of bravado.
After the court’s TV screen faded to black, Sullivan asked Noyola if Martinez looked like a man who was lying in the video. Noyla dodged the question – “There’s no way to tell,” he said. Sullivan let the words hang in the air. The silence implying his dissent: there was a way to tell. The look in the man’s eyes, the way his limbs hung, the pitch of his voice. This was not an act. Sullivan shut his laptop and gave Martinez a nod.
All the evidence had been presented. Now it was up to Sullivan to make a final plea to the jury that could save his client from life in prison.
Closing arguments began the following day. The court was packed with police officers who got there early to place “reserved” signs on the gallery benches for Diamond’s family. By the time the Martinez family arrived there wasn’t enough room for them to sit. David Martinez’s cousins and uncles were forced to wait in the stark court hallway as their loved one’s fate hung in the balance. Jack Garden delivered a strong soliloquy infused with the long history of the Mongols hostility towards law enforcement. Garden reiterated the narrative that Martinez was a gang member who saw the officers and took his shot with malice in his heart. He was forceful in his statements, never wavering in voice or message: the embodiment of the strength and resolve of the law. When Sullivan addressed the jury it was not with brute strength but with passion and vulnerability. He told them about how his respect for David Martinez had grown over the course of the trial. Sullivan begged the jury to put themselves in David’s shoes, to imagine what they would do if they thought someone was forcing their way into their home in the middle of the night. What would they do to protect their family?
The jury deliberated for five days. Finally, a partial verdict was reached: the jury found David Martinez not guilty of first-degree murder. They hung on second-degree murder and were unable to break their deadlock to discuss charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault on a police officer. Three were adamant of his guilt while nine clung to the belief that he was innocent.
Despite the defense’s victory, David Martinez remains in jail. Prosecutors refiled the charges of second-degree murder and all lesser offenses. A retrial was scheduled to begin in February of 2020, but was continued until fall of 2020 in order to provide the defense with more time to interview potential witnesses. Martinez’s retrial faced further delays when the pandemic threw court schedules into disarray. It is now scheduled to begin in January of 2021.
In the wake of the trial, Brady Sullivan has announced that he is postponing retirement in order to continue representing David Martinez in the trial ahead.
Five and a half years after his arrest, David Martinez continues to wait in jail.