A drunken driver who crashed his pickup truck into an Indio home, seriously injuring a man and two children inside the residence, was sentenced to almost 13 years in state prison Friday.
Juan Martinez Jr., 47, was convicted in December for the March 20, 2016, crash that severely injured a man, a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, when Martinez’s pickup plowed into a home on East Circle Drive.
Jurors deliberated for 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.
Prosecutors said 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 the three victims. 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 caused three separate cardiac arrests, leaving him able to only communicate through blinking.
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 had a .17 percent blood alcohol content — more than two times the legal limit — 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.
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 that prior to driving off, he was attacked by his girlfriend and her adult children, who threw bricks at him, striking him in the head as he sat in the truck’s driver’s seat. The head injury left him disoriented and caused him to “black out” three separate times after being struck with the brick. He testified that he 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.
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