Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr., Trial - Day 4, Opening Statements Part II

Exclusive T&T coverage can be found HERE.

Day 4, Part I.....

Thursday, January 29, 2014
10:30 AM
I move up to the second row, directly beside the large screen in the gallery. The bailiff makes it clear to me that if my laptop typing becomes a distraction to the attorneys, I will not be able to use it. I tell her I understand that I may have to switch to hand notes.

Dept. V
Let me describe the courtroom. Many of the courtrooms in the Van Nuys West Courthouse are mirror images of each other. Like the courtrooms at the downtown criminal court building, this room is not very deep but it is wide.  The gallery consists of approximately 61 fix individual stadium type folding seats. There are also a few comfortable portable chairs in the gallery. I sat in one by the back courtroom door during jury selection so I could charge my laptop while writing.

There are three sections of seats in the gallery. On the far left and far right, there are five rows of four seats each.  The row of seats directly in front of the jury box are used as jury seats 15 through 18.

There are two long rows of 9 seats in the center, and behind that, one short row of about four seats.  The empty space to the right of the third row is currently taken up by the video screen where exhibits will be shown to the jury.

Separating the gallery from the well of the court is a low, half wall. There are two little swinging type doors in this wall, one on the left beside the bailiff's desk and one on the right near the jury box. The little door in the left, it looks like it's been replaced at some time in the past because the wood is a completely different color than the wood desk and the courts bench.

The back wall behind the bench is a beautiful yellow oak color. The small walls and desks closely match this color. The side and entry walls are covered in a light green [I believe] wallpaper, while the folding gallery seats are covered in a dark green material. There is a large, half round, yellow oak chair rail that runs around the side and entry walls of the courtroom that matches the wood desks.

The Well
On the far left, right next to the first row of gallery seats is the bailiff’s desk. It is not surrounded by plexiglass like the 9th floor courtrooms. Moving towards the back on the left side wall is the door to the custody area. This is where defendants who are in custody are kept and how they enter the courtroom.

There are large file cabinets next to the bailiffs desk. There is also a low credenza for file trays and there’s a copier and other office things in this far left corner area. Beyond that, moving to the right and against the back wall is an exit door to a private hallway. I expect this hallway leads to Judge Speer’s private chambers as well as the back hallway that connects to private elevators and other courtrooms.

To the right of this door, and forward, directly beside Judge Speer's bench is the court clerk’s desk. There is a short walkway with steps between the back wall and the clerk's desk for Judge Speer to get to the bench. The clerks desk is attached to and faces the side of the bench. The clerk's laptop is on a desk arm to her left, so when she's using it her back is to the gallery. There are cabinets with files and things piled high that sort of surround the clerks desk, so it's difficult to see her from where I sit.

In the center of the courtroom back wall is the bench. Right behind the judge to the right (judge’s left) is a tall, palm type plant. Moving right from the bench and slightly forward like the clerk's desk is the witness box. The witness box sits higher than the well but lower than the bench. Just right of the witness box on the back wall is another door that exits out to the back hallway. This is the door that I expect the jurors will go through to reach the jury room.  On the far right of the well, is the jury box. there are 14 seats in the jury box.

I’m looking for candy dishes but I don’t see any at the clerk’s desk. There is a small, bamboo type plant on the bailiff’s desk.

In the gallery to my left, there are four people who by their dress and lanyards appear to be clerks or other types of staff with the court. I ask and the young people confirm to me that they are interns, working for the court. 

A woman that DDA Akemon and I seem to recognize enters and sits in the front row. She hands a business card to the deputy. Defense attorney Burns recognizes her and they chat. I believe this woman was at one point, a prospective juror that was excused by the prosecution. If memory and my notes serve me right, I believe she was at one point, potential juror #16. She indicated her occupation was “life coach” and she had at one time worked for law firms as a paralegal.

10:39 AM

The defendant is brought out. Judge Speer takes the bench. There is a tall man sitting directly in front of me. I can’t see the judge but I can see the witness box. That’s what I’m most concerned about.

The jury is brought in. The noise from the projection unit is making enough noise to cover the sound of my typing.

DDA Akemon begins.

Prosecution Opening Statement

A photo of the defendant is put up on the screen. It’s the same photo that is on the Flickr site.

“This is a case about the defendant Rafael Martinez blood thirsty and deadly quest for drugs, and the trail of bodies that he left behind.

Mr. Burns interrupts. “Objection your honor. That’s against, contrary to all our prior [motions? rulings?]".... The court rules, “Over ruled.”

DDA Akemon continues, “What you will learn in this case ... when defendant Martinez doesn’t get the drugs he wants he goes for the throat.  ... The carnage began in the summer of 1997, 17 years ago. Nancy Bohem, who was 57 years old, lived in North Hollywood with her 23 year old son Shawn.”

Nancy was laid off from her job at General Motors and started to sell cocaine. Shawn had the mental capacity of a 13 year old child and he competed in the Special Olympics. What Nancy didn’t know, was that her fateful decision to do drugs would bring her and her son face to face with a killer.

Rafael Martinez was a cocaine addict who would stop at nothing to get a fix. Saturday, September 20, 1997 at about 9 PM, police officers from LAPD were sent to Nancy and Shawn's residence.  They had not been seen or heard from for some time. When officers entered the home, they were met with the overwhelming smell of death. They found Nancy and Shawn stabbed, their bodies decomposing.  Nancy was stabbed 14 times in the neck. In a bedroom down the hall they found Shawn. He had been attacked in his bed and stabbed around 15 times in the upper body and neck.

Detectives started their investigation immediately. Martinez showed up immediately at the residence. He told police he was a concerned friend of the family. And he told police that maybe a gang called the Mexican Mafia or maybe a gang called the Aryan Brotherhood, or maybe is was a Colombian drug dealer. Martinez told detectives he had not seen Nancy or Shawn in a week.  Turns out, he was actually the true killer.  He went to Nancy and Shawn’s home on a quest to get high and lied to police to cover his tracks.

The people will prove that he intended to mislead detectives and find out what detectives knew in order to cover his tracks in case someone pointed to him as the killer.  The investigation will show that it was someone Nancy knew.

Nancy had a very strict policy and procedure about who was allowed to come and go from the home. Anyone who came to the home would first have to come to the gate and ring the bell. Shawn would have to know the person to be allowed to let them in.  Martinez lived 1/2 mile away. Friends of Nancy will testify they had seen him in the home prior, purchasing cocaine.  Evidence will show he was searching for drugs.

While Nancy slept in a back bedroom, she did her transactions in another bedroom where drugs and her body were found. Police did not find a drug stash in the house. Several of Nancy’s purses were dumped out and scattered around her body. Personal valuables were left at the scene and not taken.

No cocaine stash was found at at the scene, indicating that the murder was a dope rip-off, and not to take other valuables. Nancy’s friends observed Martinez grow increasingly aggressive towards her. Robert Callahan (sp?) will testify he was friends with Nancy and Shawn. Nancy sometimes granted his [witness? Martinez?] request to have cocaine on credit, and pay later.  Mr. Callahan will recount when he saw Rafael throw a tantrum and scream at Nancy.  Christine Salmas was also a friend of Nancy’s and she will testify that she saw the defendant come into Nancy’s home, buy cocaine, throw a tantrum and Nancy hand to calm him down.

It wasn’t until 2005 that detectives uncovered evidence. DNA experts found the defendant's DNA under Nancy’s fingernails. A DNA expert will testify for the prosecution in this case that evidence found under the fingernails is evidence of a violent struggle. The prosecution will prove that the defendant's DNA under the victims fingernails, proves that Nancy was grabbing at the defendant, and attached while she was being stabbed to death and struggling to save her own life. The defendant knew that Shawn would be able to identify him as the attacker. The defendant stabbed Shawn to death.

As detectives began to focus their investigation on defendant Rafael Martinez, they found out that four year after the killings, that Mr. Martienz struck again. He killed his new drug dealer under similar circumstances.

On May 10, 2001, Rafael Martinez was back to buying cocaine, from Luz Nieves, who also goes by the name of Nellie. Mr. Martinez again tried to get his cocaine on credit. When she refused he returned to her home a few hours later wearing a bullet proof vest and stabbed her to death. Defendant Martinez stabbed her 14 times. Evidence will show that was the same number of stab wounds as suffered by Nancy. 

The crime differs in one critical aspect. When defendant Martinez turned his knife on her roommate, Francisco Santos, Mr. Santos fought back and survived.  Mr. Santos will testify that after hearing Luz Nieves scream, ‘Why are you doing this to me!’ and seeing Nieves holding her hands to her neck, he was attacked by Rafael Martienz and stabbed in the head and arms. He was able to fight off Mr. Martinez who then fled, just as he did after killing Nancy and Shawn.

He again tried to cover his tracks. He told police that it was Luz who attacked him with the knife. The evidence will show the exact opposite. Martinez was on a quest to get high and angered that he had been refused to get cocaine on credit. He stabbed his dealer then stabbed the roommate.  He was convicted of the attack on Luz and Santos.

Nancy Boehm. Francisco Santos. Luz Nieves. Rafael aka ‘Junebug’ aka Junior.

DDA Akemon then reviews the timeline of events for the jurors. I believe there is an overview map up on the ELMO of the North Hollywood streets. There are markers to show where Nancy and Shawn lived, where the defendant lived with his grandmother and where Luz and Francisco lived. It shows how close Martinez lived to all the victims.  Also included are photos of the victims and the defendant attached to the named residences. I note that the photo of Shawn shows a happy, smiling young man.

During the time of both attacks, Martinez was living at his grandmothers house. That residence was equal distance between the two crime scenes. The photo of Nancy that's by her residence is a much younger photo of her than what’s on the Flicker page.  The photo of Shawn is of a smiling, happy looking young man.

Nancy and her son Shawn are discovered stabbed to death in their residence, approximately 1/2 mile from Martinez’s residence. The investigation goes cold.

The defendant went to buy drugs from a female drug connection Luz Nieves on credit and is denied. He returned hours later wearing a bullet proof vest and stabbed Luz to death and stabbed her male roommate, Francisco Santos, multiple times.

Defendant Rafael arrested for Nieves and Santos knife attacks.


Detectives reopen the Boehm investigation and order DNA testing of Nancy and Shawn’s fingernails.  Foreign male DNA was detected under Nancy’s fingernails.  The samples were sent to a private DNA lab, CELLMARK, in Texas (in addition to the LAPD lab), to see what they can find.

During that time frame is when the lab in Texas reported back to LAPD that in testing Nancy's fingernail clippings they detected a male DNA profile. It was from somebody, they just didn’t know who.

With the male DNA detected, an LAPD analyst started working on the DNA profile to get a match.  Because of her work, she will tell you all about it, she matched the DNA to the defendant.

Martinez was arrested and charged with the murders of Nancy and Shawn Boehm.

1997 Crime Scene

DDA Akemon shows the jurors photos of the outside of Nancy & Shawn’s home. It’s at night and there is crime scene tape in front. A family friend found the bodies. Nancy Boehm probably had some emotional problems. Her house was very much in disarray. It was not a clean residence. A close up photo shows the Boehm residence. There were old junk cars in the driveway [I counted four.] In the lower right of the photo, there is a gate and walkway leading up to the front door.

The iron gate is right beside the edge of the garage near the street. There is another photo. You can see the gate and that there is foliage and plants growing up the side of the garage, and up high on the other side of the narrow walkway.

“This is a drug dealer’s home. So who comes and goes is governed pretty strictly,” DDA Akemon tells the jury.

We are presented with diagram showing the floor plan of the home and outlines of where Nancy and Shawn were found in the home.  Next, we see photos of how Nancy and Shawn were found. It’s quite sad.  Shawn was on his knees, a face down position beside the bed. He was directly beside his bed.  Nancy is on her back, on a small bed. Nancy's face is blocked out in the photo.

“Some would consider her [Nancy] a hoarder. You’ll see photographs of the living room. It’s packed with junk,” DDA Akemon explains.

Nancy was found in a bedroom, but not the bedroom she slept in. It’s clear from the photos, Ms. Boehm’s body, she is face up with her hands out. She was in a condition of decomposition.  When her body was first found, it was covered with junk mail and documents. The room and her things appeared to be ransacked.

It’s now that I note that the defendant is turned around in his seat and looking at the photos. The defendant’s right elbow is resting on the arm of the chair and his right hand is covering his mouth.   Martinez stares at the screen with the information on the screen and the photos of the victims. Martinez doesn't show any emotion looking at the photos.

Shawn’s bedroom was very cluttered. His body was in the middle of the room. He’s in a head down position. More photos are shown of the bed, and the bloody bedspread. DDA Akemon explains to the jurors what they are seeing. The blood on the bed spread, that blood pooling is probably where the attack started. Shawn was probably attacked while he was in bed. The close up photo of his body; it’s a very bloody scene with blood all over Shawn and on the floor.

More photos are shown of Nancy and the condition she was in when she was discovered.  There are numerous bags and purses around her and at her feet. In the photo, DDA Akemon points out the drug paraphernalia; the plates for drugs with straws and a scale.

The defendant keeps looking at the photos. Close up photo is presented of the left side of Nancy's neck and the multiple stab wounds. There is a fatal wound to the upper left side of her neck. The other 13 stab wounds were clustered on her neck, just under the chin. 

Shawn was stabbed 11 times. Now another photo of Shawn’s body, showing the stab wounds in the back of his neck and under his right ear.  On the right side of his neck, wound #10 was a fatal wound.

DDA Akemon tells the jury they will hear from numerous DNA experts but in the end, the bottom line, the DNA is his [defendant’s].  In 2005-2006 the DNA expert took Nancy's fingernail clippings from each hand, combined them and then tested them and came up with defendant Rafael Martinez’s DNA under Ms. Boehm’s nails. That’s indicative of a violent struggle.

A colored chart is put up of the DNA results. The defendant’s DNA, Nancy’s DNA and then the mixture DNA that was found under Nancy’s fingernails.  When they did the statistical analysis, they would have to look at 1 in 3.297 billion people, before they had another two people that would look like that mixture profile.

2001 Knife Attacks

The jury may compare the 2001 attack with the 1997 attack for the limited purpose of determining the defendant’s intent.

Photo of the apartment building of Nieves and Santos. There is a photo of Nieves’ neck wound. It’s not the way it looked when it happened. The photo is after surgeons tried to repair the damage.  DDA Akemon shows the jury a succession of photos involving the 2001 attack. Photos of the surviving victim, Francisco Santos.  The defendant turns around to look at the images on the ELMO. I don’t see any emotion on his face. As I watch the defendant, he keeps looking back at the screen and looking back at the gallery.

The opening is interrupted while a juror takes a restroom break, then we’re right back on the record.

Martinez turns around. He keeps his fingers over his mouth, his elbow resting on the arm of the chair.

“[We] expect you will hear testimony in this case that after he attacked, he fled. The fire department arrived very quickly, and some of the first responders found Mr. Santos bleeding in the middle of the street.  ... As soon as they realized there was someone else in the house, they broke off [from treating Mr. Santos] and went in to assist Ms. Nieves.” 

The attack started in apartment #6. The victim was able to run down the hallway and ended up in apartment #7. The neighbors were assisting her when she ran for help.  Photos of the interior of the apartment are put up on the screen. It was a chaotic scene. A diagram sketch of the apartment floor plan is put up on the ELMO. There are red lines on the sketch, showing the major blood trail, investigators found. Martinez's blood was there also. He may have been injured in that attack. There’s a blood trail on the stairs, into the living room, on the coffee table and then into the bedroom. More photos of the 2001 attack showing the blood trail. Akemon explains to the jurors the orientation in the photos. One photo shows a significant amount of smeared blood on the walls in the hallway and around the master bedroom door jam. 

Mr. Santos retreated into this bedroom when he was attacked. Mr. Santos comes out of the bathroom while the attack on Luz is underway and that’s when Martinez attacks Mr. Santos.

More photos of where Luz ended up in apartment #7 and the blood trail.  Firemen and police found her in apartment 7.  Luz was taken to the hospital, where she died of a stroke related to blood loss.  She had 14 stab wounds. One to the eye, a total of three to the neck and just under her chin. Two injuries in her neck were opened to save her life. There were numerous, defensive wounds on her right hand.

Francisco Santos had approximately 15 stab wounds. Photos of him and his wounds all over his face are put up on the ELMO. 

LAPD Detectives Pinner and Solomon investigate the case and they quickly identify Martinez as a suspect in this case.

A person named ‘Junebug,’ short for a person named junior.  The detectives interview Mr. Santos.  Santos’ interview is played for the jurors, and the text of the conversation appears on the screen. It goes so fast I can barely catch half of the conversation.

Santos tells detectives that the defendant came and got the rock and he didn’t pay. He got it on credit.  He left. He came back again. He was wearing a bullet proof vest and something similar on his legs also.

Detective: How did he seem to you?
Santos: He looked like he was on speed or something. A lot different from when he came over and acted before.
Santos: I went into the bathroom. ... When I flushed the toilet, I heard [her?] cry.
Detective: So you heard her say in Spanish, Why are you doing this and why are you doing this to me?

Santos ran into Nellie’s room and tried to reach the metal bat, and Martinez broke the door down.

Santos: He was stabbing me, stabbing me on my back head and stabbing me on my face. ... I was too weak and my arms started hurting too much. ... So I faded out ... lost control of my arm. I would just fade out. ... So somehow, I managed to push his ass out of [the apartment and onto the] stairs and he held onto my shirt and kind of .... then he stabbed me behind my head...

After detectives interview Santos, they arrest him [Martinez] and they interview him.  He gave a statement. DDA Akemon plays an audio of the interview of the defendant by Detectives Pinner and Solomon. I try my best to take notes from the audio but I don’t do so well. This is just a small snippet of the dialog on the recording.

Martinez: To be honest with you ... I went over there and ... and the first thing out of his mouth was, You’ve got my money. ... And then she started in with me. ... She started telling me how she wanted her money.  ... That she can’t [pay her bills?] ... So I’m watching her ... she went into the kitchen ... he went [the other way?] ... she comes out of the kitchen with the knife.
Detective: What are [you] saying? ... She came straight out of the kitchen.... ?
Martinez: Then she come ... I kind of ... and that’s where she had stabbed me ... there... she stabbed me and she was going to stab me again. ... I just grabbed her and Francisco started kicking me, so I'd get off of her ... and you know, I turn around ... I don’t know what happened to that knife.

Martinez gives a story to the detectives that they attacked him.  Martinez claims that Santos had a weapon.

Martinez: I’m looking at what he had ... He had a potato peeler or something like that.
Detective: What did you have in your hands?
Martinez: Nothing man. ... I actually punched him. ... As soon as he came out, I actually punched him.
Detective: When she ran out of the apartment, did you notice any injuries on her?
Martinez: I don’t know. ... I never did. ... I had her hand, you know ... and in the mix of us rolling around ...
Detective: Did you at [any] point ever have the knife in your hands? ... Did you ever stab Nellie?
Martinez: Not that I know of.
Detective: So the answer is no?
Martinez: No.
Detective: Did you ever stab Francisco?
Martinez: No.

The prosecution will argue that that is a bold face lie. In connection with this case, compare the similarities. The jury may compare the 2001 attack with the 1997 attack with the limited purpose of intent.

Akemon presents a new overview image of the streets and the closeness of the two locations to Martinez’s grandmother’s residence.

The Drug Connection
There is a drug connection in this case. The victims did not not each other. Both were cocaine dealers, selling to Martinez. Two men and two women. The type of location is similar. These are residences as opposed to businesses, parks or public area. At both scenes we have broken doors. A door was broken down in the Santos residence. And the same thing in the Boehm residence. The door with the yellow sign on it, that’s where Ms. Boehm’s body was found. There is a close up of the door broken into as well.  Both are frenzied knife attacks.There’s evidence of similarity as to the number of stab wounds. Nancy 14; Shawn 11; Luz 14; Santos approximately 15. Another area of similarity is the left side of the neck. A knife; a sharp instrument as opposed to a gun or a club. And very similar injuries.

When you’ve heard all the evidence in this case, for the defendant’s blood thirst quest for drugs, that in September 1997, that Rafael with malice and forethought, deliberately and with premeditation, murdered Nancy Boehm and her son and he did it all for drugs.

The prosecution is finished with their opening statement and the defense steps up to the podium.
 To be continued in Day 4, Part III.....