Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A possible defense strategy may be emerging in the case of accused murderer Alberto Martinez.
Mental state may affect 'fragging' trial

Defense attorneys hinted Friday that a Supreme Court decision barring the execution of mentally retarded defendants could keep the Army from seeking a death sentence against the only soldier known to be charged with "fragging" - or killing his superior officer - during the Iraq war.

Little else was said by attorneys for Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez during his arraignment Friday on two counts of premeditated murder.

He is charged with killing Capt. Phillip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, his superior officers in the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard. Martinez did not enter a plea, which he can do later under military justice rules.

Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge overseeing the hearing, set a tentative trial date of June 4.

During the 30-minute hearing, defense attorney Maj. Marc Cipriano told Parrish they may raise issues of mental health that would prevent Martinez's execution under a 2002 Supreme Court decision that found sentencing mentally retarded criminals to death violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Both Cipriano and the chief prosecutor, Maj. Craig McNeil, declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.

Being a psychology major, I took a psych course or two back in the day. And I don't recall ever reading or hearing that murdering sociopaths were, by definition, "mentally retarded." But it's been 20 years since I graduated, so I could be mistaken. The fact that his attorneys are even considering this is a sign of desperation.

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