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DA files response to Hall man’s Supreme Court petition, saying there were no negative stereotypes at trial

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh filed a response to a Hall man’s petition to the Supreme Court, claiming the filing “twisted and misrepresented” the testimony at trial to say there were “negative ethnic stereotypes” about Hispanic men. 

Alejandro Martinez-Arias was convicted in February 2017 after a jury trial on charges of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and child molestation. He was sentenced to life with 25 years to serve. 

The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the decision to deny Martinez-Arias a new trial, and the man’s attorney, Matt Cavedon, filed a petition in September to the Georgia Supreme Court to review the case. 

The case involves allegations involving a young girl who did not “immediately report the abuse because she did not know whether anyone would believe her, and she was afraid of what would happen if she told,” according to the Court of Appeals’ summary of the case.   

The prosecution called on a counselor, Betsy Escamilla, who had said she had a passion for working with at-risk Latino students. 

“Ms. Escamilla explained that, based on her personal and professional experiences, traditional ideas in some Mexican homes are that the breadwinner is usually male and is seen as the head of the household, and someone to whom others in the home, especially females, should be submissive,” according to the district attorney’s response. “Additionally, Ms. Escamilla emphasized that, in her experience, traditional Mexican families are very ‘collectivistic’ It was this collectivism, in particular, that Ms. Escamilla testified made disclosures difficult.” 

Escamilla also testified that “sexual assault is sometimes seen as the girl’s fault,” according to Darragh’s response. 

“It’s kind of seen as if it happens – and no way am I saying this is an acceptable norm, but it happens – but if it happens, it’s something that you don’t share, that you keep it quiet, that it is the girl’s fault for opening her legs and the boys are just supposed to be that way, they just have urges,” Escamilla said during the trial. 

Darragh’s response said the court should deny the petition because it does not meet the standard for review, which are “cases of great concern, gravity, or importance to the public.” The prosecutors said no stereotypes were offered as evidence and any mention of Mexican culture was to explain why the girl delayed her disclosure. 

“Nowhere in the record does Ms. Escamilla, or any other witness, testify that Mexican, Latino, or Hispanic men are somehow predisposed to molest female children in their household,” according to the district attorney’s response. “Nowhere in the record is there testimony that ‘Latina girls are…expected to service Latino men’s sexual exploitation and perversion.’ Nowhere in the record is there testimony that Mexican, Latino or Hispanic families are more likely to tolerate child molestation than other families.” 

Cavedon said his concern was about the testimony potentially poisoning the jury’s deliberations. 

“What we're concerned about here is in this case, we heard that kind of language or at least language about 'machismo' and 'sexual perversion' in the actual trial itself from a witness in the open courtroom,” Cavedon previously told The Times. “That means it was there for the jury's consideration. The judge instructed the jury to weigh all of the evidence together for its deliberations and told them that they could use that evidence for whatever purposes they deemed fit."   

There is no set timetable for the Georgia Supreme Court to decide whether to grant the petition.