A high-stakes criminal trial involving an alleged Forest Acres home invasion and rape moved slowly during its second day Thursday as Judge Knox McMahon repeatedly explained crucial legal matters to the defendant, who is representing himself.
Nathan Martinez, 37, is on trial for rape, burglary, kidnapping, armed robbery and weapons violations in a 2014 incident in which a mother was raped at gunpoint while her two school-age children were locked in a bathroom.
At one point Thursday, a Richland County sheriff’s investigator told the jury how in March 2014, after receiving a sketch of a Forest Acres home invasion-rape suspect that resembled Martinez, he called the Forest Acres police department to give a detective there Martinez’s name as someone to check out.
He knew Martinez, Lt. Kevin Isenhoward testified, because he had seen him at the sheriff’s department the month before.
“I object, your honor,” Martinez said.
McMahon sent the jury out and asked Martinez to explain his objection.
“It’s going to cause unfair prejudice,” Martinez told McMahon, explaining that the jury would now think the only reason he could have been at the sheriff’s department was as a suspect in some crime.
McMahon disagreed, saying, “Everybody who goes to the Richland County sheriff’s department is not a criminal suspect.”
Martinez persisted, telling the judge the jury would want to know “the whole story” about why he was at the sheriff’s department and saying again that Isenhoward’s testimony “is causing unfair prejudice. ... Now I’m going to have to explain exactly why I was at the sheriff’s department, so they will understand.”
With the jury still out of the courtroom, prosecutor Campbell explained to the judge that the reason Martinez was at the sheriff’s department was that he was being interviewed as a suspect in yet another rape. That fact was being kept from the jury, Campbell said.
Minutes later, with Martinez returning to the same point – that the jury needed to know why he was at the sheriff’s department – the judge told Martinez, “You want them (the jury) to know you have been charged and indicted for what is alleged to be (another) rape?”
Martinez persisted, and McMahon then told him if he insisted on the jury learning about the rape charge, that would not derail the trial because he, Martinez, would be putting that damaging information before the jury.
“Self-inflicted wounds are not grounds for a mistrial,” McMahon said.
Prosecutors will continue putting on their case as the trial moves into its third day Friday.