Unlike Martinson, however, Jim Styers also was convicted of premeditated murder, and the high court did uphold that conviction. He remains on death row, along with Christopher's mother, Debbie, convicted of orchestrating the "hit" on her son ("Death Row Debbie," April 10, 1991).

Forewoman Kathy later testified that she'd understood the judge's instructions to mean that the jury had to decide the felony-murder count before even contemplating anything less serious, and that's why she wouldn't allow discussion of the so-called "lessers."

"But the instructions never said you couldn't discuss anything," defense attorney Terribile told the judge during the evidentiary hearing. "The jury always has the right to discuss everything."

Josh Eberle-Martinson in a photo taken shortly before his August 2004 death.
Josh Eberle-Martinson in a photo taken shortly before his August 2004 death.
Jeff Martinson's booking photo
Jeff Martinson's booking photo

The Martinson defense team knew from the start that it had an uphill struggle.

Its client was highly unsympathetic, a man who, in the best-case scenario, had allowed his child to die (intentionally or not) on his watch, failed to call authorities afterward, and then took the coward's way out by supposedly trying to kill himself.

The selection of the jury obviously was going to be critical.

"Death-qualifying" prospective jurors is tedious, and litigants have to rely on the expected honesty with which would-be panelists relay their backgrounds and beliefs.

Perhaps a jury consultant would have steered away defense attorneys from future forewoman Kathy, a middle-aged widow whose husband — an honored U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent — was murdered by a drunken fellow officer in a nationally publicized 1997 shooting.

But the Martinson defense team had no such expert to guide them.

Kathy told the attorneys during jury selection that her husband had been murdered by a "corrupt" cop who was sentenced to a reduced nine- to 15-year prison term. She also expressed her satisfaction with the legal process in that case.

The defense attorneys kept her on their final list, an ill-fated decision.

But Kathy took a completely different tack when confronted about it by Martinson's attorneys during the recent evidentiary hearing.

She admitted that she had been angered and upset with what she considered a soft sentence for her husband's killer, who was allowed to plea-bargain to reduced charges after psychiatrists said he was insane and in an alcoholic stupor at the time.

If the defense lawyers had known her dissatisfaction with the murderer's "sweetheart deal," as she called it, they surely would have removed her from further consideration.

But Kathy's true feelings only came to light months after the Martinson jury had rendered its guilty verdicts.

No one on the jury believed during the deliberations that Jeff Martinson should walk out of court a free man.

Some panelists said at the recent hearing that they still believe he gave little Josh the pill to kill the boy in a sick effort to "get back" at mom Kris Eberle.

But one juror, Jo, told Judge Duncan that she would have hung the jury had she not been hounded by Kathy into clamming up about the viability of the less-serious child-abuse charges.

Whenever she tried to make a pro-defense point, Jo said (and her account was corroborated by others), "The foreperson jumped up and started a tirade basically aimed at me and how I had fallen asleep so much [during the trial] and how dare I say that, and she's gonna call the bailiff and say we're a hung jury."

Like all the other jurors, Jo eventually voted guilty on the felony-murder count.

But like many of her peers, she said she doesn't recall ever voting on the actual child-abuse charge, Count Two.

Jo told Judge Duncan that she now knows she made a terrible mistake.

She agreed with a majority of the panel during the evidentiary hearing that prosecutors never proved that Martinson gave Josh the drug.

The testimony of juror Krysten was typical.

"Did you personally find beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Martinson gave him the pill?" attorney Terribile asked her.

"There is no actual proof that he gave the pill to him," replied Krysten, a pharmacy employee. "It's just that the child had the medicine in his system."

So did she believe that the state proved that the cause of death was the Soma overdose?

"No. I think it was contributory, but I don't think it was the cause of death itself . . . I have no idea what caused his death."

However, Krysten said Kathy swayed her that the mere presence of the Soma in Josh's body was evidence of the most serious level of child abuse, the intentional type.

The two key witnesses at the jurors' hearing were the forewoman and Laura — whose note to the judge had been the catalyst for the whole thing.

Defense attorney Van Dreumel asked Kathy whether it was true she had argued during deliberations that Martinson intended to kill Josh to punish the mother.

"I believe I stated that when we were looking at motive, that could have been a motive for why he did it," Kathy said.

"So you were in the process of trying to consider why Jeff would intentionally kill his son?"

"Yes," Kathy agreed, adding that she personally was convinced that Martinson did mean to kill his son, as in premeditation.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets