crime scene do not cross tape strung across an area of the street
Photo by Tex Texin at flickr

A man was drunk when he plowed his pickup truck through the wall of an Indio home last year, causing injuries to a man and two children inside, a prosecutor said Wednesday, but a defense attorney said the driver was not culpable because he’d been struck in the head with a brick just prior to getting behind the wheel, causing him to black out.

The summations were delivered in the trial of Juan Martinez Jr., 47, who is charged with assault with a deadly weapon and drunken driving causing injury in connection with the March 20, 2016, crash.

He allegedly had a .17 percent blood alcohol content — more than two times the legal limit — at the time of the crash.

Prosecutors allege Martinez was involved in a fight with his girlfriend at a home on East Circle Drive just before 6 p.m., then drove off in his truck, but only made it as far as across the street before plowing through the wall of a home, striking a man, a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. The adult victim, Francisco Rodriguez, was pinned between Martinez’s truck and a wall, while the boy was trapped between the truck and a couch.

Three days after being hospitalized for broken bones, Rodriguez “suffered an embolism, resulting in paralysis and an inability to speak,” according to Deputy District Attorney Arthur C. Hester.

The prosecutor said Rodriguez’s condition has not improved since the embolism, which caused three separate cardiac arrests. He can only communicate through blinking, Hester said.

“This is his life now,” Hester said, displaying photos of Rodriguez before the crash, smiling with his family, to present-day snapshots showing him laid up in a hospital bed, staring vacantly toward the camera.

The boy suffered a broken leg, necessitating multiple surgeries, while the girl suffered an abrasion to one of her legs, authorities said.

Martinez allegedly crashed his truck into the house two additional times as he tried to drive away, at one point striking a parked car that was pushed into the home’s carport, causing it to collapse. Hester also alleged that Rodriguez intentionally tried to strike a man inside the house with the truck, but he was able to dive out of the way. Following the crash, Martinez allegedly tried to negotiate with that man in an attempt to head off police involvement, Hester alleged.

Others from inside the home, as well as neighbors, restrained Martinez until police arrived. Some of them punched and struck Martinez in the head with a pipe, which defense attorney Cameron Quinn said exacerbated his condition after previously being hit with a brick during a fight.

Martinez testified Tuesday that he became disoriented after sustaining a head injury in the melee preceding the crash. He claimed he was attacked by his girlfriend and her children, who threw bricks at him, striking him in the head as he sat in the truck’s driver’s seat.

Martinez testified that he “blacked out” three separate times after being struck with the brick and only remembers later being pulled out of his truck.

Quinn told jurors that the blackouts rendered Martinez without the “criminal intent” necessary to convict him of any of the charges, “as dramatic as they are.”

Hester alleged that Martinez’s attempts to back out of the house, negotiate with one of the people on scene, and his refusal to speak with police during his hospitalization at Desert Regional Medical Center showed he was conscious of his actions.

Martinez admitted to having three or four Chavelas — a mixture of beer and tomato juice — at a restaurant a few hours prior to the crash, according to the prosecution.

He previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of drunken driving in 2015, about six months prior to the house crash. His blood-alcohol content was around .15 percent — nearly double the legal limit of .08 — in that case, according to prosecutors.

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