Murder suspect's attorneys attack state's case

·4 min read

Jul. 1—OTTUMWA — Attorneys for an Ottumwa murder suspect filed written closing arguments Thursday saying prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof.

The written arguments came Thursday and moved the case of Preston O'Dell Martin one step closer to being submitted to Judge Greg Milani for consideration.

The bench trial of Martin, charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, concluded in May but attorneys have had weeks to file written arguments before Milani begins to consider the case.

Defense attorneys for Martin have claimed at trial that their client was insane at the time of the crime, and thus should not be held criminally liable for the death of 41-year-old Thomas Carlton Foster. While repeating that defense in their written closing arguments, they also attacked the state's case saying prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof standards for any of the charges.

Prosecutors filed their closing arguments a day after the bench trial closed. They have until July 8 to file their rebuttal argument with the court. Once that filing is made, the case will be fully submitted to Milani for his decision. Once Milani reaches that decision, the verdict will be read in open court.

Charges in the case come after the 2019 death of Foster, whose family found him stabbed multiple times in the kitchen of his home on Queen Anne Avenue.

Martin faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 50 years, if convicted as charged.

Should Martin be found to have been criminally insane on that day, he would not be convicted of the charges. In Iowa, insanity would mean a defendant could not establish right from wrong, or that they were incapable of knowing the nature or quality of the act being committed.

If Martin is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed for a period of time until he is no longer a danger.

Martin's attorneys, Ken Duker and Nicole Jensen, argued the state's evidence is lacking for a conviction of all three charges. In their filing, they argue to Milani that there's no evidence Martin entered Foster's residence without permission or with the intent to commit an assault or theft. Additionally, they argue there's no evidence to show that Martin acted deliberately or with premeditation.

They point to testimony by crime scene experts that there was no evidence of a forced entry into the home. The attorneys argue that mere speculation can not be used to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt.

While the attorneys agree that Foster's residence "was in disarray," they argue there isn't evidence that Martin ransacked the home.

Even if Martin were to be found responsible for any of the charges, attorneys argued he should not be held criminally accountable by reason of insanity.

The attorneys spent numerous paragraphs attempting to discredit testimony by Dr. Rosanna M. Jones-Thurman, who was called by the state to refute Martin's defense of insanity.

Jones-Thurman had testified that Martin was not suffering from schizophrenia, but rather antisocial personality disorder. She also said she found Martin to be malingering his symptoms and not cooperating.

"Out of the six doctors who evaluated Preston [Martin] in this case, she is the only one to make that claim," Martin's attorneys wrote.

The state had argued that Martin has a lengthy criminal history and had no prior defense of insanity. Martin was incarcerated between 1999 and 2007, and 2012-2013.

However, attorneys for Martin argue that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2017, and also point to a family history of the mental illness.

"It's ridiculous for the state to infer that there must have been an absence of symptoms or diagnosis simply because none were reported or used as a defense in a prior criminal matter," Martin's attorneys wrote.

The attorneys say Martin's actions occurred under a strong internal provocation, and that the psychotic episode he was experiencing induced the criminal behavior.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.