By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
No jury in Colorado had ever sent someone convicted of felony murder to death row, although the option remained on the books. Nor would the panel of judges assigned to Riggan's case. On April 16, they unanimously decided against the death penalty, citing the absence of intent. Riggan was sentenced to life without parole.
Afterward, even District Attorney Dave Thomas conceded that his office had not expected to win that one. But it was necessary to test where the panels, as opposed to juries, would set the death-penalty bar.
Danny Martinez's hearing was the second to go before a panel, but only by a matter of days. In Denver, another panel would soon begin hearing the case against Jacques Richardson, the rapist who'd murdered Capitol Hill resident Janey Benedict.
Both of these cases represented further steps up the ladder in terms of culpability. As with Riggan, the jurors in the Richardson case had not been able to decide if he'd intended to kill Benedict when he hog-tied her, leading to her death by strangulation. Unlike Riggan, however, Richardson had a "serious" criminal history as a serial rapist--such histories being one of the aggravators judges can use in making their decision.
Danny Martinez presented another problem. He had been convicted of first-degree murder after deliberation. However, the prosecution theory presented to the jury was that while Danny had participated in the rape and torment of Brandy DuVall and had "called the shots" as the gang's leader, it was Francisco Martinez who'd stabbed the girl to death. The wording in the first-degree-murder count included the "complicity instruction," which meant the jury didn't have to find that Danny had actually done the stabbing.
In the past, Colorado juries have been reluctant to sentence so-called complicitors to death. The question was whether a panel of judges would follow suit.
Danny's life would hang on that issue.
Forrest Lewis begins the defense portion of Danny Martinez's hearing by trying to shift the responsibility for Brandy's death onto Sammy and Francisco.
It was Sammy who gave her cocaine when she was brought into the house and Sammy who was the first to have sex with her, he says. And Francisco, he reminds the court in a soft Southern accent, was the brute who shoved a broom into her anus, kicked her "like a football" and eventually stabbed her in the neck while Sammy held her head down.
Danny hangs his head as his lawyer smears his friend Francisco. In the months preceding his trial, he'd told his mother that he couldn't accept a plea bargain that would spare him the death penalty (a deal that was never formally offered); he couldn't leave his childhood friend to face such a consequence on his own. Especially because Danny's lawyers had told him that any such agreement would hinge on him giving a statement implicating Francisco.
Danny now sits silent as Lewis, an experienced attorney respected on both sides of the aisle, paints Pancho as the evil instigator of all the worst atrocities while describing his own client as essentially a drunk bystander during the murder. "The only evidence of any weapon in his hand was after the fact," Lewis notes, when Danny retrieved the knife that Francisco had dropped. Or so Sammy Quintana had claimed.
Lewis quickly moves on to Danny's tough childhood in Five Points. Both of his parents were drug users. Danny Martinez Sr., in particular, was "a bad influence" who lured Danny away from a program in Arkansas where he was doing well and had just completed his GED.
At this, Danny's father, a short, stocky man, stands up in the middle of a pew. "Well, excuse me!" he says loudly, then stalks from the courtroom.
Lewis takes no notice. He says that others, including a teacher and probation officer, will be called to the witness stand to talk about Danny's good points. The panel will hear that Danny's sister, Raquel, and brother, Antonio, had dreams and "got out...But Danny did not believe that he could get out."
None of this will be used to excuse Danny's participation in some of the horrible events of the night in question, Lewis notes. "He is guilty of complicity," the attorney concedes. But the "blood of Brandy...is on the hands of Francisco.
"He'll never get out of prison. He'll never see his children except through bars. He should be in prison for the rest of his life, and he will be...But the death penalty...is excessive."
Brandy was only fourteen years old, and she was shy."
Once more, Angela Metzger finds herself standing at a podium trying to describe to strangers the little girl she remembers, not the wayward teen the defendants and their lawyers made her out to be. "When she went swimming, she would wear jeans and almost drown rather than show her body," she says. "She was wise and smart...I used to say that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like her."
Once more, Angela begins to cry, her voice becoming high and tight in an effort to keep control. She stamps her foot as she gathers herself together. Danny, who has been watching her, looks quickly away.