Deaf and Damned

If Artie Martinez weren't deaf, he might have talked his way out of the Arizona State Hospital. Instead, he was locked up there for nearly 40 years.

He hasn't regained the ability to handle money. His personal-hygiene skills, while better than they were, are inadequate. He doesn't know how to take a bus, how to make a phone call. He can't walk two blocks alone without getting lost.

Martinez has not risen from the darkness of institutionalization to become a famous artist. He rarely draws these days, blaming his failing eyesight and boredom. But he keeps his sketchpad by his bed, and proudly shows it to visitors who ask to see it.

Martinez takes antidepressant drugs and other medications daily, which keep him levelheaded most of the time. He is very close to his caretakers.

"Artie's my buddy," caretaker Valerie Blair says. "We get along great, and I know he trusts me as much as he trusts anybody."

Blair convinced Martinez to quit smoking. That he did so after a half-century was impressive.

"No big deal," Martinez says. "I just stopped because I wanted to."
Blair and the home's other caretakers know about 200 basic signs, which doesn't make for intellectual discourse, but is better than Martinez had at the State Hospital.

Ed Martin has been back in his brother's life for a few years. He visits Martinez every few months at the Glendale home.

A Maricopa County judge in May 1995 appointed Martin as Artie Martinez's legal guardian. A Phoenix attorney is serving as Martinez's conservator, responsible for watching over his client's newfound money.

The Martinez case was personal for Elliot Glicksman, the attorney who won the hard-fought settlement from the state in August. One of his lifelong friends is a deaf man with whom he once traveled around the nation and who taught him sign language.

"I saw the way he got treated--and he didn't have mental problems," Glicksman says of his friend. "There is the built-in handicap of communication, of associations. I'm an attorney, and I do what attorneys do, which is to try to win cases based on the law and the facts. But, like I said in one of our pleadings: This case wasn't just about the law. This was about morality.

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