A lost videotaped interview contributed to a murder defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge Wednesday in Hall County Superior Court.
Victor Alfonso Martinez, 30, was sentenced by Judge Bonnie Oliver to 12 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in the March 2013 death of 6-year-old Edwin Ledesma.
Martinez had been charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children in 2006. At the time, he had been implicated in Edwin’s traumatic injuries caused by shaking when he was 4 days old.
Martinez was later sentenced in that case to 18 years in prison.
After Edwin died, Martinez was indicted on a charge of malice murder.
A couple of issues arose after the indictment, including lost videotaped statements given to law enforcement by Martinez and the child’s mother, prosecutor Kelley Robertson told Oliver.
Even though a sheriff’s investigator wrote “an extremely detailed narrative” of the interviews, the missing videotapes were “certainly a concern for the state in going forward with a murder prosecution,” she said.
“(Martinez’s) statement was so important to proving his guilt.”
“Now, how does that happen?” Oliver asked Robertson about the missing tapes.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Robertson said. “I think the (Hall County) Sheriff’s Office believes that they released it to the (Hall) district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office doesn’t have it.”
She said the video showed Martinez giving “various explanations for how the injuries occurred, but he ultimately ended up picking up a roll of paper towels and showing the investigators how he shook the baby.”
Thorny legal issues also arose in the case.
Martinez’s lawyer, public defender Brett Willis, “had filed several motions and was of the opinion that Mr. Martinez would be entitled to withdraw his previous guilty plea if we were to go forward on the murder indictment,” Robertson said.
“That was not the state’s position and we would have litigated that, but the risk of losing that conviction, especially without the videotape at this point, was a concern and a risk we did not want to bear.”
Wednesday’s hearing took place as result of a negotiated plea agreement between the district attorney’s office and the Hall Public Defender’s Office. Oliver ordered the 12 years to run consecutive to the previous 18-year sentence, so Martinez will serve a total of 30 years.
Martinez entered the guilty plea through a Spanish-speaking translator.
In imposing the sentence, Oliver said, “Nothing I can do, hopefully, will be as bad as your day-to-day having to live with the consequences of your actions. What caused you to act in this way, I don’t know.”
The hearing turned emotional as details were given about the child’s life, including the extent of his injuries. Robertson said Edwin’s mother “quit visiting the child very early on and her parental rights were terminated.”
Cory Buckley, a Court Appointed Special Advocates supervisor who had sought to adopt the child, talked about the child’s struggles from complications that resulted from the injuries.
At one point, she turned toward Martinez and said, “All (Edwin) did was lie there in pain 24/7 until the day he died.”
“I appreciate all you have done for this child,” Oliver told Buckley after the woman’s tearful testimony.
Willis agreed. “I think it’s beautiful someone was able to ease that child’s suffering.”