The victim of an alleged drunken, angry driver is now fully paralyzed and can communicate only by blinking, but the man charged with changing his life forever was convicted Thursday of assault with a deadly weapon and drunken driving charges.
Juan Martinez Jr., 47, a repeat DUI offender who crashed his pickup truck into an Indio home while inebriated, seriously injuring a man and two children inside the residence, is slated to be sentenced Feb. 9 in connection with the March 20, 2016, crash.
Jurors deliberated a couple of hours before finding Martinez guilty of one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of drunken driving causing injury, but acquitted him of a second assault count alleging that he intentionally tried to strike a man inside the home with his truck.
Jurors were handed the case Wednesday and reached a verdict in about half an hour, but logistical issues led the court to instruct the panelists to return Thursday to render their decision.
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.
The defendant, who allegedly had a .17 percent blood alcohol content — more than two times the legal limit — at the time, 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, according to testimony.
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 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 a 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 removed the “criminal intent” necessary to convict Martinez 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. In that case, his blood- alcohol content was around .15 percent — nearly double the legal limit of .08, according to prosecutors.
–City News Service
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