Why No Action in the Murder of Bria Metz? Or, How to Derail Justice by Driving Up Costs

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I heard from the father of Bria Metz yesterday: he said it’s been two years since Bria’s murderer, Aurelio Martinez, confessed to the crime.  Yet Martinez still hasn’t been to trial or been sentenced.

Bria Metz, murdered at 17, her body was abandoned by the side of a highway

Aurelio Martinez, sex offender and child abuser, confessed to killing Bria

The state of Florida also hasn’t gotten around to resolving Martinez’ 2003 felony child abuse and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges.  Apparently, the authorities are too busy doing other things.

Here is my previous post on the disgraceful record of Florida’s serial failure to keep the public safe from Aurelio Martinez.

So why does it take years to try a case in which the murderer confessed?  The answer lies in the machinations of the defense bar, and the perverse, outsized power they wield over criminal procedure and admission of evidence in our courts.  I don’t use the term perverse lightly — while the Florida Bar grandstands around the state pretending to examine problems of evidence that are either exceedingly isolated incidents or trumped-up claims by professional activists using fake statistics and faked “studies,” real problems that result in real denials of justice fester, unresolved — for many thousands of victims who will never receive justice as a result.

It would be nice if the Bar cared about that.  They don’t.

Here is a record of the docket entries in one of Martinez’ current charges.  Some entries are routine paperwork.  Others represent the types of manipulation that defund the courts.  Remember that most docket entries equal your money being spent in some way, large or small — and 155 docket entries into this murder case, there still hasn’t been a trial, just machinations and delays.

Martinez is also churning attorneys — another behavior designed to postpone trial, and a strategy frequently abetted by the defense attorneys themselves.  Must be nice to have that sort of power over other people’s money — and the administration of justice.

Imagine that you are the parent of a murdered child, forced to witness this drawn-out manipulation of procedural rules.  Bria’s family will likely be enduring this sickening game for the rest of their lives.  In the eyes of our legal system, Aurelio Martinez is the victim now:

Pinellas Case Uniform Case Entitlement Date Filed
CRC0912955CFANO 522009CF012955XXXXNO STATE VS MARTINEZ, 06/23/2009
Type Apr Cal Final Disposition Comp Division
01/30/2012 TRL M
Reset Original Sort Docket Date Docket Entry Defendant
1 11/01/2011 REMOVE FROM: MTN/HRG) A
2 11/01/2011 REMOVE FROM: MTN 110311/0830 AM -M-(REMOVE FROM A
3 10/17/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
4 10/12/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 013012 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
5 10/11/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 110711/0830 AM -M- A
6 10/11/2011 TRIAL SET: 013012/0830 AM -M- BRING A
7 10/11/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
8 10/07/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
9 10/04/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
10 10/04/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING – 110311 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
11 10/03/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
12 10/03/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING: 101111/0830 AM – MTN TO CONTINUE A
13 10/03/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
14 09/30/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (2) A
15 09/28/2011 MOTION: TO CONTINUE TRIAL (2ND) A
16 09/27/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
17 09/27/2011 SUBPOENA (028) STATE A
18 09/26/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
19 09/23/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
20 09/22/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
21 09/21/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
22 09/19/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
23 09/01/2011 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
24 08/31/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION (2) A
25 08/19/2011 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
26 06/24/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
27 06/20/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 110711 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
28 06/17/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 082911/0830 AM -M- A
29 06/17/2011 TRIAL SET: 110711/0830 AM -M- A
30 06/17/2011 MOTION WITHDRAWN D/MTN TO COMPEL A
31 06/17/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
32 06/09/2011 MTN/COMPEL MORE ADEQUATE DISCOVERY A
33 06/09/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING: 061711/0830 AM – MTN/CONTINUE TRIAL & A
34 06/09/2011 MOTION: TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
35 04/28/2011 ATTORNEY APPOINTED: SIMONE LENNON A
36 04/28/2011 REGIONAL COUNSEL WITHDRAWN A
37 04/28/2011 TO CONFLICT (FORSETT HEARING) A
38 04/28/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL DUE A
39 04/18/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
40 04/13/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 082911 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
41 04/12/2011 TRIAL SET: 082911/0830 AM -M- A
42 03/07/2011 NOTICE OF: CANCELLATION OF DEPOSITION 040811 A
43 03/07/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
44 03/02/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
45 02/28/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
46 02/23/2011 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 041211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
47 02/22/2011 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 041211/0830 AM -M- A
48 02/22/2011 ORDER DENYING: PROSE/MTN TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
49 02/14/2011 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
50 02/10/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
51 02/08/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
52 02/07/2011 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 022211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
53 02/04/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 022211/0830 AM -M- A
54 02/04/2011 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- A
55 02/04/2011 COUNSEL A
56 02/04/2011 HEARING SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- MTN TO DISMISS A
57 02/04/2011 AT 8:30 A
58 02/04/2011 REMOVE FROM MOTION CALENDAR 2/17/11 A
59 02/04/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
60 02/01/2011 DEFT’S. MOTION: FOR CONTINUANCE OF TRIAL A
61 02/01/2011 HEARING SET: 020411/0830 AM -M- MTN TO CONTINUE A
62 01/28/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
63 01/25/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING – 021711 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
64 01/19/2011 PRO SE MOTION: TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
65 01/18/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (2) A
66 01/13/2011 SUBPOENA (028) STATE A
67 01/04/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
68 12/13/2010 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
69 12/09/2010 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
70 11/23/2010 LETTER – COURT TO DEFT ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF LETTER A
71 11/23/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO COURT: RE: COMPLAINT CONCERNING ATTORNEY A
72 10/22/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
73 10/20/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
74 10/18/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
75 10/13/2010 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
76 10/12/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: REQT TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
77 10/08/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
78 10/04/2010 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 022211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
79 10/01/2010 TRIAL SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- A
80 09/16/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: COMPLAINT AGAINST ATTORNEY A
81 09/16/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO COURT: REPRESENTATION A
82 09/02/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
83 08/30/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 100110 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
84 08/27/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 100110/0830 AM -M- A
85 08/13/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: COMPLAINT CONCERNING ATTORNEY A
86 08/03/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: RE: ATTORNEY A
87 06/23/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
88 06/21/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 082710 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
89 06/18/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 082710/0830 AM -M- A
90 06/18/2010 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
91 06/18/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
92 05/05/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
93 04/30/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 061810 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
94 04/29/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 061810/0830 AM -M- A
95 04/29/2010 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
96 04/29/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
97 02/23/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
98 02/19/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 042910 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
99 02/18/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 042910/0830 AM -M- BRING A
100 02/18/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
Reset Original Sort Docket Date Docket Entry Defendant
1 02/11/2010 REGIONAL COUNSEL APPOINTED A
2 02/11/2010 ORDER WITHDRAW PD DUE TO CONFLICT A
3 02/11/2010 ORDER GRANTING: PD/MTN TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL A
4 02/03/2010 NOTICE OF HEARING: 021110/0830 AM A
5 02/03/2010 MOTION TO WITHDRAW PUBLIC DEFENDER & A
6 01/21/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
7 01/20/2010 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
8 01/15/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 021810 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
9 01/14/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 021810/0830 AM -M- BRING A
10 11/23/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
11 11/20/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 011410 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
12 11/19/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 011410/0830 AM -M- BRING A
13 11/19/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
14 11/19/2009 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
15 10/12/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
16 10/09/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 111909 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
17 10/08/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 111909/0830 AM -M- BRING A
18 10/08/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL A
19 09/09/2009 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
20 08/14/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
21 08/10/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 100809 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
22 08/07/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 100809/0830 AM -M- A
23 08/07/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL A
24 08/04/2009 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
25 07/31/2009 DEMAND NOTICE INTENTION TO CLAIM ALIBI A
26 07/31/2009 ANSWER TO DEMAND FOR DISCOVERY A
27 07/22/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
28 07/20/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 080709 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
29 07/17/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 080709/0830 AM -M- A
30 07/10/2009 NOTICE OF DEFT QUALIFICATIONS AS A PRR – SERVED A
31 07/10/2009 NOTICE OF ENHANCED PENALTY RET’D SERVED A
32 07/08/2009 CASE REASSIGNED FROM DIV T TO DIV M BY COURT ADMIN 4180 A
33 07/06/2009 DEFT INVOCATION CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS A
34 07/01/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
35 06/30/2009 DETERMINATION OF STATUS – INDIGENT A
36 06/30/2009 AFFIDAVIT OF INDIGENT STATUS A
37 06/29/2009 NOTICE OF ARRAIGNMENT – 071709 COURTROOM: M AT 09:00 A
38 06/26/2009 NOTICE OF DEFT QUALIFICATIONS AS A PRR A
39 06/26/2009 NOTICE OF ENHANCED PENALTY A
40 06/23/2009 WRITTEN PLEA NOT GUILTY-PUBLIC DEFENDER A
41 06/23/2009 DEMAND FOR DISCOVERY A
42 06/23/2009 PC FOUND IN POLK COUNTY A
43 06/23/2009 INDIGENT CRIMINAL DEFENSE FEE ASSESSED $ 50 A
44 06/23/2009 PUBLIC DEFENDER APPOINTED (INSOLVENCY) – PROVISIONAL A
45 06/17/2009 CASE TO BE TRANSFERRED TO PINELLAS COUNTY A
46 06/17/2009 MEMO OF SENTENCE/ORDER OF COURT (POLK CTY) A
47 06/17/2009 DEFENDANTS ELECTION OF VENUE A
48 06/03/2009 NOTICE OF HEARING RE ELECTION OF VENUE (POLK CTY) A
49 06/01/2009 DEFENDANTS ELECTION OF VENUE (POLK CTY) A
50 06/01/2009 ORDER FOLLOWING 1ST APPEARANCE (POLK CTY) A
51 06/01/2009 POLK COUNTY ARREST WARRANT A
52 05/27/2009 INFORMATION FILED: (1CT) MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE (PBL) A
53 05/12/2009 PINELLAS CTY ARREST AFFIDAVIT A
54 05/07/2009 ARREST WARRANT (POLK CTY) A
55 05/07/2009 COMPLAINT – COMPLAINT AFFIDAVIT SECOND DEG (POLK CTY) A

Bloody Outrage: Another Murder That Could Have Been Prevented — Updated

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CORRECTION TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE:  A reader informed me that the names of judges currently presiding over a court division in Florida attach to previous cases from that division — therefore, the judge listed online may not be the same judge who meted out a previous sentence in that division.  I have corrected the following story to reflect this.

Why this happens is another issue.  There ought to be real transparency in court proceedings, and it shouldn’t require a trip to the courthouse or a phone call to sometimes-unresponsive clerks to discover how a particular judge ruled on a particular case — who let a sex assailant and child abuser go free, to kill another victim, for instance.

Corrections are underlined.  If anyone can provide the names of these judges, please let me know.  I can’t access the dockets — although I pay these judges’ salaries, and so do you.

In the St. Petersburg Times this morning:

Sex offender accused of pregnant St. Petersburg teen’s death

Polk County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 36-year-old St. Petersburg man for the murder of a pregnant teen whose body was found Monday in Davenport.

Aurelio Martinez, (left) a registered sex offender, was arrested at about 7 a.m. on a second degree murder charge for the killing of 17-year-old Bria Metz.

I looked up Martinez’ sex offender record. In October, 1997, in Dade County (Miami), Martinez was convicted of burglary with assault and battery and sexual battery. He was also convicted of probation violation because he was on probation at the time of the attack.

Serious stuff, right? Burglary, assault and battery, sexual assault? So what did the presiding judge do? He or she sentenced him to probation. Probation for burglary, assault, a sex crime, and violating probation.

I guess the judge figured Martinez was getting good at probation. He’d been been on it for so long.

There’s a problem, though: the judge was not supposed to sentence Martinez to probation for these crimes. There’s another problem, too. Because some judge let Martinez go, probably in violation of Florida sentencing law, Martinez was free to commit felony child abuse with injury to the child in 2003.

In November, 2003, in Hollywood, Florida (Broward County), Aurelio Martinez and Amy Andrea Young were charged with child abuse, presumably of Ms. Young’s child. Police actually filed two charges against Martinez: felony child abuse and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Judge Carlos Rodriguez presided, the weapons charge apparently disappeared (of course), and Martinez was sentenced to three years in prison.

Here is where it gets confusing, at least from what can be seen on-line. The child abuse and assault with a deadly weapon crimes were committed on 11/2003. Martinez was sentenced in 7/2005, twenty months later. Was he in prison during that time? Or was he on probation again, until he violated that probation as well? Broward County wants me to pay for access to that part of the website — the charge is five dollars simply to find out Martinez’s sentence. That’s nuts.

[Note to Howard C. Forman, Clerk of Courts, Broward County: I already pay for that website. It’s called taxes.]

My guess is that Martinez was in jail awaiting sentencing. It would be nice to think so — nice to think that the judge hadn’t given him probation again, for beating a child. In any case, he entered the state prison system in 7/2005 and got out 25 months later, which is either two years behind bars or nearly four years behind bars, depending on what happened in 2004.

In 2006, during the time he was in prison, he was also sentenced to one year and three months in the 1997 “burglary/assault-and-battery/sexual assault” charge in Dade County. Maybe he was going to get out early from the child abuse charge, and they finally decided to give him some time for “burglary/assault-and-battery/sexual assault/parole violation.” Or maybe it took them several months to figure out that he was on probation in another county for serious felony charges.

If they did decide to give him a bit of time for the sexual assault, finally, it wasn’t much, and it was served concurrently with the felony child abuse sentence.

Are you enraged yet? I’m enraged. Probation for a sex crime, even after violating probation, and then less than two years for the sex crime after his probation was revoked because he’d violated probation a third time and committed felony violence against a child, and he still didn’t even serve all of that sentence? Do we have absolutely no standards? And still, the academicians and activists and the Pew Foundation whimper:

“We’ve got too many people behind bars. We’re a fascist state.”

But, of course, it gets worse.

Let’s start at the beginning. Only, we can’t do that, because juvenile records are sealed. Oh, well. Aurelio Martinez’s first adult charge, unsurprisingly, occurred months after his 18th birthday. Funny how that happens: I wonder what he was doing before he aged out of juvenile. The 1991 charge was for loitering and resisting arrest. It was dropped. Whatever. It didn’t take long for Martinez to get into serious trouble. In 1994, he was convicted of felony burglary, felony grand theft, felony possession of burglary tools, and carrying a concealed weapon.

You know where this is going. Three felony convictions? Probation, of course. Some judge let him go. One year of probation, starting 12/15/94. What was this judge thinking? What is he thinking today, after the murder?

Another charge against Martinez was decided by the judge that day — it has a different case number and different filing date. I’m not sure if it is a totally separate offense. In any case, felony armed burglary in that case was dropped (thank you, plea bargains), felony cocaine possession and concealed weapon charges were disposed with probation, and probation violation was disposed with terminating probation. But at the end of the day, Martinez walked out of court on probation anyway.

Get it?

“But we’re a fascist state. We’re so hard on criminals.”

Imagine being the police officer who had to arrest Martinez, knowing full well he was armed, that he had used weapons, that he had a record.

Imagine being the social worker walking into his home a few years later to try to rescue a child. We send unarmed child protection workers into homes where there are armed felons. We expect unarmed child protection workers to challenge the authority of armed felons.

“But we’re a fascist state.”

Nobody asks judges to do what we ask of unarmed child protection workers and police officers. Perhaps if we asked them to confront the violent people they send back into the community in the communities they send them to, sentencing patterns would change.

What is the matter with our judges? In this case, it looks very much like at least one judge broke the law. But even if he didn’t — even if there was some loophole that permitted that judge to let Martinez walk free — why, in his judgment, did that seem like the right thing to do? How does any judge justify putting armed felons back on the streets, with no time served?

If no judge broke the law in releasing Martinez, clearly there are still problems with our repeat offender laws and minimum mandatory laws that need to be resolved by the legislature.

Because we can’t trust judges to keep us safe.

At least Martinez had to register as a sex offender in 1998, an act that placed his DNA on record and reminded him that his DNA would be in the state database, so if he committed another sexual assault, he could be identified. How many rapes have sex offender registries prevented this way?

But this raises another enforcement issue: is anybody enforcing the sex offender registry laws? In 2001, in Broward County, Martinez violated the registry rules. Adjudication was withheld — in other words, nobody did anything. And then he brutalized a child.

The record so far:

  • 1991: Aurelio Martinez turns 18 and his subsequent crimes become public record.
  • 1994: A judge lets Martinez walk on a fistful of serious, felony charges, including armed burglary.
  • 1997: Another judge lets Martinez walk on even more serious, felony charges, including sexual assault, probation violation, burglary, concealed weapons.
  • 2005: Judge Carlos Rodriguez slaps Martinez on the wrist for felony child abuse charges, drops other weapons charges, and chooses to not use his authority to enhance Martinez’s sentence in any way, despite his record, the unadjudicated sex offender registry violation, and the other times he has violated probation by committing violent crimes.
  • 2007: Freed a few years later, Martinez violates probation again and flees.
  • 2009: By his own admission, Martinez murders pregnant, 17-year old Bria Metz by strangling her.

Another question: did anybody know that Martinez was in St. Petersburg? If so, why wasn’t he picked up before Metz died, but only afterwards? From today’s St. Pete Times:

Martinez, who is currently in the Pinellas County Jail on violation of probation stemming from a 2003 child abuse case, told detectives he was with Metz was at his home the night she disappeared.

Metz wanted money, Martinez told detectives, and he drove her to her grandmothers. The two argued about money and began fighting after Metz threatened to expose their relationship to law enforcement.

Martinez told detectives that he grabbed Metz’ neck and held her for three to five minutes.

Serial judicial leniency claims another life. Bria Metz joins Eugenia Calle, and how many other victims of murder, killed despite numerous chances to put their murderers away?