Appeals court denies pretrial order in murder mistrial case

BROWNSVILLE — A state appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling denying a pretrial writ of habeas corpus in the case of Paola Michael Martinez, 20, whose murder trial ended suddenly in mistrial last April when two different versions of a police report and evidence supporting her plea of not guilty by insanity surfaced during proceedings.

Martinez was accused of stabbing her uncle, Alejandro Perez Ramirez, 53, once through the heart on Jan. 24, 2017.

The appeal centered around an April 2019 trial during which Brownsville Police Officer Jesus Martin Luna, Sr. gave testimony based on a police report that differed from the report given to Martinez during pre-trial discovery.

Luna testified that upon discovering Martinez in a park, she was “laughing to herself.” The officer described her laugh as “calm, cold, collected” and “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Investigation by the court revealed that Luna read from an altered police report. In the original document, Luna stated that Martinez was laughing “in a sinister manner” and described Martinez’s laugh as “weird.”

Martinez moved for a mistrial based on the altered report, which Judge Juan A. Magallanes of the 357th state District Court granted, instructing Cameron County Assistant District Attorneys Jose Arreola, Anthony Cornejo, and Art Villareal, and DA Luis V. Saenz to investigate.

According to the appellate court’s ruling, Luna initially denied having any knowledge as to how the discrepancy arose, but eventually admitted during a May 2019 hearing that Patrol Sergeant Maria Alvarez Garcia suggested that he remove the words “sinister” and “weird” from the original report because they were too “subjective.”

On Wednesday, 13th Court of Appeals declined to issue the habeas, finding that Martinez did not sufficiently demonstrate that prosecutors and the Brownsville Police Department intentionally altered the report to provoke her into requesting a mistrial.

Martinez’s defense attorney Nat C. Perez told reporters following the April 2019 mistrial that the Brownsville Police Department turned over photos of Martinez’s bedroom showing she had been writing on the walls that morning, and that he hadn’t seen them yet.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the court cited testimony from two prosecutors indicating they were unable to answer as to why the discrepancies occurred. One prosecutor told the trial court, “I wouldn’t be able to answer that question because I don’t have access to the [police’s] system.”

A second responded, “Your Honor, I have no idea.”

According to previous reporting on the trial, reports issued by two psychiatrists, including expert for Cameron County District Attorney’s Office Dr. Tomas A. Gonzalez, stated that Martinez was suffering psychosis and did not know right from wrong when she stabbed her uncle.

In the reports, Martinez accused her uncle of raping her and physically abusing her on multiple occasions across a two-year period. She told the psychiatrist that she experienced hallucinations.

Gonzalez wrote, “She stated it was a deep voice and it said to her, ‘I am sent by the dark one.’ She added that she also saw a ‘vision of the voice that would take to me wearing a white suit with a black tie.’”