Agreeing the prosecutor and judge committed a laundry list of violations and errors during Noe Martinez's murder trial, the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday threw out his conviction.
Six members of the court signed the order reversing the conviction for seven separate errors, concluding "that the quantity and character of the errors were great." The seventh, Justice Bill Maupin, agreed with the reversal for cumulative error committed in the case, but disagreed with two of the seven findings.
And the high court ruled that the issue of guilt or innocence was close since only one eyewitness identified Martinez while the other said he was not the killer. They said no physical evidence tied the defendant to the scene, no murder weapon was found and his fingerprints were not at the scene.
"In sum, the state did not present overwhelming evidence of Martinez's guilt."
A Clark County jury convicted Martinez of murder, attempted murder and use of a deadly weapon in those crimes.
The errors included admitting an unsigned letter alleging the defendant was guilty of child neglect " which had nothing to do with the murder case " and evidence that shotgun materials found in the house. A pistol was the actual murder weapon, not a shotgun.
The court allowed the prosecutor to refer to Martinez being held in jail while awaiting trial, improperly commented on his use of the right to remain silent, shifted the burden to Martinez to prove some of his statements and asked whether two witnesses had agreed to take a polygraph test.
"The district court admitted irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence, affecting Martinez's right to a fair trial," the court concluded.
It will be up to prosecutors in Clark County to decide whether to retry the case.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.