Judge Frank Ochoa ruled last week that 62-year-old Samuel Joseph “Joe” Martinez is competent enough to stand trial for the 2006 beating of a homeless woman. Martinez’s state of mind came into question after he “freaked out” on more than one occasion while incarcerated in Santa Barbara County Jail, a psychiatrist said.
Martinez is charged with assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury with the special allegation that he personally caused great bodily injury. He is also charged with torture. The incident took place on July 22, 2006.
According to police spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a passerby discovered the badly beaten and partially nude victim in a secluded area of the Louise Lowry Davis Center at 1232 De la Vina Street. The 53-year-old woman had been living on Santa Barbara’s streets for several months, McCaffrey said. She was found unconscious with a gag tied around her mouth, and reportedly suffered a severe beating to her entire body. “The medical report indicated the attack included numerous heavy blows inflicted over a substantial period of time,” McCaffrey said.
The woman spent several days in a coma at Cottage Hospital, but eventually regained consciousness. She was discharged a few weeks later. It took detectives over a year to link Martinez to the case. He’s been in custody since 2007 and is being held on $500,000 bail.
During the competency hearing, psychiatrist Dr. Theresa Boulette answered questions from prosecutor Paula Waldman and defense attorney Joe Allen. Boulette said she spent nearly two hours speaking with Martinez in jail and concluded — taking note of how he answered questions, his body language, and his facial expressions — that he’s “sufficiently, not perfectly, competent to stand trial.”
Although Martinez exhibited signs of dementia, Boulette said, the disease had not progressed far enough to completely cloud his judgment. She said that although his speech was slow and halting, Martinez was calm and cooperative during the interview. Boulette also noted that years of heavy drug use beginning at an early age combined with multiple blows to the head from multiple falls and fights may have contributed to his slightly altered mental state.
Boulette said she did become concerned, though, when Martinez blurted out that he wanted to hurt a custody officer and another inmate. She opined that medication might calm him down while he’s in jail, and that he should stand trial sooner rather than later because his condition will only worsen. Throughout the proceedings, Martinez spent much of the time fidgeting in his seat, his face muscles twitching.
He will be back in court to face the criminal charges on May 31.