An alleged Columbia area serial home invader will go on trial Monday in Richland County criminal court on charges that include two home invasions, four kidnappings, two burglaries, a robbery, three sexual assaults and weapons violations.
It will be the second time this fall that 5th Circuit prosecutors have put Nathan Martinez, 37, on trial.
In September, Martinez’s first trial unexpectedly ended during the second day of prosecution testimony when Circuit Judge Knox McMahon declared a mistrial.
McMahon, who is expected to preside at Martinez’s second trial, did not explain why he halted the trial in September. But Martinez had told the judge in open court he wanted to terminate his court-appointed lawyer, Aimee Zmroczek, and represent himself.
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At the time the judge halted the trial, Martinez had not only fired Zmroczek, he already had cross-examined a key prosecution witness in the case, a woman who had told the jury that Martinez had entered her home, tied her up, locked her daughters in a bathroom, and sexually assaulted her. The woman sobbed through much of her testimony as she answered questions from her alleged assailant.
Martinez also cross-examined the woman’s 14-year-old daughter, who had been 11 at the time. She told the jury Martinez had tied her up and put her in the bathroom with her 5-year-old sister. The husband had just left home to go to work. The daughter was defiant as Martinez cross-examined her and, as her mother before her, was unwavering in her identification of Martinez as the gun-toting, hammer-wielding attacker.
At the time, just before 7 a.m. on a school day, the woman was getting ready to go to work and preparing her daughters for school. The husband had just left home to go to his job.
In this upcoming trial, Martinez again will be representing himself. Judge McMahon has appointed Columbia lawyer Justin Kata to sit by him and advise Martinez on legal questions.
Jury selection will likely begin Monday, and the testimony may not start until Tuesday.
The exact number and nature of the charges against Martinez that will be the subject of this week’s trial have not been released yet by 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office.
The two home invasions took place in March 2014.
Allegations in warrants against Martinez include:
▪ An incident at a Forest Acres housing complex in which a man armed with a pistol burglarized an apartment and sexually assaulted a woman inside the apartment. Two small children were inside the apartment at the time getting ready for school, and the intruder locked them in a bathroom while the assault took place.
▪ An incident at a Columbia house off Leesburg Road in which a man broke into a house, woke a sleeping woman, threatened her with a knife, tied her up and forced her into a car. The man drove the woman to Lower Richland, where he raped her twice.
Martinez has been held at the county’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center since his arrest in April 2014. His attempt to get out on bond was denied.
Kata is Martinez’s sixth court-appointed lawyer.
Court records on the case in files at the Richland County courthouse say Martinez not only has had six lawyers, but he also has an unusual history, including believing he has “micro-chip implants” in his head.
“Defendant believes the removal of these masses will aid his case, and will eliminate his adverse mental health problems,” according to a defense filing earlier this year.
Evidence included eyewitness testimony, DNA, fingerprints, stolen rings he allegedly pawned afterward, according to court records, and possibly a statement Martinez gave to police after his arrest, prosecutors have said.
Witnesses at the September trial also identified Martinez by his tattoos, which are all over this body and up to his neck. Four enormous tattoo letters on his neck, partially visible above his shirt collar spell CRIP, the name of a notorious national gang.
After McMahon declared a mistrial, Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson pledged to try the case again.
“We always want to win, but everyone needs to be doing things the right way. It’s the only way that we as a society can have a fair and just system. That ideal includes the prosecutors, defense lawyers and everyone in between,” Johnson said.
The solicitor’s office has three prosecutors on the case: Luck Campbell, Meghan Walker and Jessica Godwin.
In September, when McMahon dismissed 15 jurors and alternates, he pledged to try the case again. “The same parties will participate, the same witnesses will be called.”