Wake-Up Call

That's what the jury gave Scott Falater, convicted of killing his wife in the Sleepwalker Murder Case

The 43-year-old Martinez's own story is inspiring: The seventh of eight children born to illiterate Mexican farmworkers, he immigrated to California when he was 6. He says he resolved as a youngster to learn English: "The people around me who were successful spoke and read English well. You didn't get far if you couldn't do that."

He managed a drugstore after earning his undergraduate degree, then entered law school. He finished law school at Arizona State University, worked for Community Legal Services helping tenants for a few years, did some defense work, then joined the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in 1988.

Martinez's courtroom foe was a veteran criminal-defense attorney with a reputation as one of Arizona's best. Kimerer is a bear of a man who's pushing 60. He has a resonating bass voice and a relaxed manner that belies his work ethic. He's disarmingly honest--especially for an attorney.

Kimerer's co-counsel, Lori Voepel, is a beginner in the courtroom (this was only her second trial). Like Kimerer, however, Voepel balances a solid understanding of criminal law with a keen feel for people.

Martinez is almost a foot shorter than Kimerer, and still looks like the distance runner he used to be in the high desert of rural Victorville, California. His high-pitched voice grates at times, and he has a short fuse with adverse witnesses. But he does seem to earn the grudging respect of juries.

Martinez's forte--he's now unbeaten in 14 murder trials--is his relentless passion for his cases and his attention to detail.

It also doesn't hurt to have an eyewitness to a drowning on your side.
Neither side would complain about the judge responsible for keeping the Falater case on track. No one on the Maricopa County bench is more universally respected and liked than Judge Ron Reinstein. The former prosecutor has an easygoing demeanor and a gentle sense of humor that defused many volatile moments during the trial.

Last October, Scott Falater strode into an interview room on the fourth floor of the Madison Street Jail, smiled, and shook his visitor's hand firmly.

It was the first time he'd agreed to speak with the media since his arrest almost two years earlier. Seemingly hungry to talk about his life, Falater presented a dignified front, even in his striped jail suit.

"I thought my brain had thrown a rod," he said then. "And I thought, 'I'm going to the State Hospital, or to the prison for life. . . .' Sometimes when I think about this, I wonder, 'What kind of Jekyll and Hyde am I?' . . . At first, I considered the sleepwalking defense bullshit, pure and simple."

As the day for jury selection arrived, most reporters were in the courtroom next door, for the trial of several south Phoenix youths accused of gang-raping a mentally handicapped teenage girl.

A tall, blond woman sat at the defense table next to Scott Falater and his two attorneys in Judge Reinstein's courtroom. It was Jo Ellen Demetrius, a famed California-based jury "consultant" who worked for O.J. Simpson's defense.

Demetrius was in town for one day, hired to help Kimerer and Voepel pick a jury. She wanted a well-educated panel consisting of as many women as possible. In the end, however, only one of the jurors--eventual foreman Michael Riley--had a college degree. And the eight women who decided Falater's fate expressed far more animus toward him after the verdict than the four men.

Reinstein presides almost solely these days at capital murder trials, and he's deft at this drill. He asked the assemblage if they belong to any organizations or groups.

One woman says she belongs to the YMCA.
"A subversive organization," the judge replied, drawing laughter.
Riley told Reinstein, "I'm a registered Democrat--that's pretty subversive." More laughter.

Mike Kimerer--a former college professor--gave a civics lesson to his potential jurors. He asked them as a group if they have any questions about any defendant's presumption of innocence. They didn't.

He then asked if they had any preconceived notions of Scott Falater's guilt. They didn't.

Kimerer asked if they realize that, at that moment, Falater was guilty of nothing. No one responded.

"If you believe in the presumption of innocence, then why wouldn't you have that idea?" he asked.

"If you were my client," the barrister continued, "would you like to be my juror?"

No response.
"We aren't going to be denying that Scott Falater stabbed his wife. It's an unusual defense. You think you'll all be objective in listening to the evidence?"

No response.
Kimerer retreated to his 21st-floor office near North Central Avenue and Indian School Road to ponder his enigmatic panel.

"It worries me," he said, acknowledging his understatement.
He said he believes that his client was sleepwalking when he killed Yarmila, which makes Falater innocent.

But he's been around far too long to even suggest that certainty equates with acquittal.

Everyone in the crowded fourth-floor courtroom knew what Scott Falater's defense was going to be before the attorneys delivered opening statements.

However, Juan Martinez could not "anticipate" the sleepwalking defense until after Mike Kimerer took his turn.

Instead, Martinez tersely presented the chilling, overwhelming evidence of Falater's culpability in his wife's awful death.

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