instructions should not be given, the judge bought it and the
Appellate Court found that the defendant had not gotten a fair trial.
In this case one Marvin Martinez shot and killed Angel Ayala and
Mario Cerna in 2001 near a body shop in Santa Cruz. Martinez was
subsequently interrogated by police officers who videotaped what
turned out to be his confession. Perhaps the most important part of
the confession was Martinez's mental state. It was clear to the
Appellate Court justices that Martinez was emotionally wrought, and
overwhelmed with what had taken place. He also freely admitted what
he had done. Martinez talked about a lifetime of torment, which dated
back to when he and Cerna attended middle school.
Cerna would beat him up on a regular basis and talk about him in
an extremely negative way to all who would listen. This went on for
years and culminated in the confrontation outside the automobile body
Martinez said his goal was to shoot in the direction of Cerna in
the hope that it would scare the daylights out of him and get him to
leave him alone. Unfortunately, that bullet hit Ayala.
Cerna and Martinez then looked at each other and Martinez was
overcome with a tremendous amount of anger for all he had taken over
all of these years. He shot again wanting to scare Cerna, not to
actually hit him.
The key to this case occurred when the defense attorney asked the
judge to give jury instructions for a lesser offense than murder
known as voluntary manslaughter. The defense attorney suggested that
Cerna's behavior over the years had led to Martinez shooting him, in
what is referred to as the "heat of passion."
The prosecutor objected and the judge denied the giving of these
instructions. The Court of Appeals found this to be an incorrect
decision concluding that the instructions pertaining to provocation
and heat of passion should have been given.
The key to a murder conviction is premeditation. If the jurors
were, after viewing the tape, to decide that they were not convinced