An Orange County Superior Court judge Monday ruled that a defendant in a double murder trial stemming from a car crash in Irvine was mentally competent to continue to act as his own attorney despite an attempted apparent suicide attempt and an outburst in court.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King said he found no evidence that Norman David Martin suffers from any mental disorder. King noted that he has been handling hearings with Martin for about 18 months and that he has not noticed anything out of the ordinary except for a July 27 “outburst” in which he proclaimed in court, “I have planted the seed of doubt.”
King said he has “been paying attention to Mr. Martin’s demeanor” since he admonished Martin for the outburst.
King appointed Alisha Montoro of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office to be a stand-by attorney for Martin while authorities worked to determine if Martin was mentally incompetent to continue acting as his own attorney.
Montoro asked for a week’s delay in the trial so she could get a neuropsychologist to examine the defendant as she said Martin suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash and that it could have left him impaired.
King said the traumatic brain injury has been known since March.
Another point of concern was Martin’s failure to attempt to cross-examine any witnesses and his relative non-participation in the legal proceedings.
“Mr. Martin made a tactical decision to conduct himself this way through the trial,” King said.
Martin apparently attempted to harm himself while in Orange County jail on Wednesday, which, King noted was, “sad, very sad.”
But, he added, “Suicide, or attempted suicide, if that’s what it was, is not grounds for competency.”
Martin is charged with two counts of second-degree murder stemming from the July 22, 2017, pre-dawn crash of a Chevrolet Corvette at Jamboree Road and Main Street.
Prosecutors allege Martin was speeding at 138 mph when he ran a red light and the Corvette struck the crown of the intersection and went airborne, slamming into three palm trees.
Martin was ejected from the two-seater sports car along with his 26-year-old passengers, Jamie Lopez and Nancy Ortiz, who were both pronounced dead at the scene.
Martin had a blood-alcohol level at the legal limit of .08 hours after the crash, prosecutors allege.
He could face up to 30 years to life in prison if convicted.