He claimed that he then tried twice to commit suicide with alcohol, pills, and by cutting his wrists. He spoke by phone to a neighbor at one point, telling her (according to her testimony), "We love you, and we'll miss you."

But Phoenix police detectives got no such account from Martinson.

In an hours-long interrogation that began immediately after Martinson's release from a hospital, a seemingly dazed Martinson (still in his hospital gown) swore he had no idea how Josh had died.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan
Jamie Peachey
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan
Jeff Martinson during his trial
Pool Photo by Darryl Webb/Ahwatukee Foothills News
Jeff Martinson during his trial

That interview surely didn't help his chances at trial after jurors compared it with his courtroom testimony.

The forewoman gave the verdict forms to Judge Sally Duncan's bailiff, who handed them to the judge.

Jeff Martinson faced two charges, the felony murder count and child abuse itself.

The bailiff read the verdict aloud:

Guilty on both counts.

The defense attorneys asked Judge Duncan to poll jurors about their votes.

Each agreed that they were his or her true verdicts.

Judge Duncan reminded the panel that its work wasn't done. Jurors in Arizona, not trial judges, determine sentences in death-penalty cases after a separate mini-trial.

The panel took the next step, the formality of finding Martinson "eligible" for a possible death sentence.

Next, they started enduring a final task, deciding the defendant's fate, life or death.

Their deliberations were cut short when the judge declared a mistrial a few days later, after the jury confirmed it was deadlocked. (Just two of the 12 jurors had voted for death, two were undecided, and the rest were for life imprisonment.)

Ordinarily, the judge would set a date for a retrial just on the sentencing, and a newly formed panel would try again to reach a verdict.

But detailed notes sent to Judge Duncan by two of the jurors shortly after the guilty verdicts (just before the sentencing phase began) spun this tragic murder case into serious turmoil.

In the first missive, a juror named Laura claimed that forewoman Kathy had bullied several other jurors into submission and also had badly misinterpreted the judge's legal instructions on felony murder as it relates to child abuse.

(New Times was unable to determine the last names of all the jurors)

Laura wrote that Kathy, an employee of the Arizona Supreme Court, never allowed discussion during deliberations on anything other than the most serious, or "intentional," kind of child abuse.

Laura claimed that she and three of her peers had wanted at least to mull over the definitions of less serious types of abuse but repeatedly were shot down.

Martinson never stood a chance if the jury never contemplated even the possibility that he merely had been legally "reckless" or "negligent" in allowing his son to consume the Soma pill.

Federal courts and most states don't permit judges or lawyers to delve into what takes place in a jury room during a trial and deliberations. Arizona rules do allow such inquiries by judges in rare circumstances, but only in criminal cases.

One of Judge Duncan's front-end questions after getting the jurors' written complaints was this:

Should she "invade" the normally untouchable province of jury deliberations and try to get to the bottom of things?

The judge decided, over the strong objection of prosecutors, that the claimed goings-on within the Martinson jury fit such rare circumstances. In January, she began to hear one by one from the 12 jurors and three alternates, in a days-long evidentiary hearing fraught with human and legal drama.

Martinson's attorneys asked the judge to declare a mistrial and start again from the beginning, the guilt/innocence phase.

Prosecutors expressed outrage that Judge Duncan allowed things to get this far.

"There was clearly sufficient evidence to support convictions," Deputy County Attorney Grimsman wrote, before the judge ordered the evidentiary hearing. "There was no [juror] misconduct, [and] there is clearly nothing more going on [other] than some personality conflicts between some of the jurors in this case."

Judge Duncan won't make a ruling until after the lawyers present their final oral arguments, scheduled for March 26.

As it sits, the defense team's argument that Jeff Martinson was deprived of a fair trial because of juror misconduct is very compelling. But the legal standard for a judge to overturn guilty verdicts is steep, and Martinson has no guarantee of winning a new trial, either on his sentencing or on the whole shebang.

His lawyers have alleged, among other things, that the jury:

• Wrongly shifted the legal burden of proof from prosecutors to the defense, with some jurors admitting on the witness stand that they voted to convict because Martinson failed to "prove" his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

• Failed to formally vote on one of the two charges — the actual child-abuse count — but deemed Martinson guilty of that crime anyway, in violation of the court's instructions to carefully examine each count on its own.

• Was convinced by the forewoman that it should convict Martinson of felony murder even if he meant no "intentional" harm in giving Josh the pill or hadn't even given him the pill.

• Looked up the definition of a legal term, "heinous," on the Internet during deliberations (in violation of Judge Duncan's admonition) after the judge failed to promptly answer their question about what it meant.

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