KINGMAN – A Superior Court judge on Tuesday reduced a first-degree murder sentence for a Golden Valley man accused of shooting his neighbor’s shotgun murder in October 2012.
On October 18, 2012, Phillip Martin shot Steven Jeffrey Schwartz, 55, with a rifle from about 45 feet away through a front window from inside his trailer. An unarmed Schwartz had walked down Martin’s driveway with his hands at his side.
Martin’s lawyers argued that the shooting was self-defense since Martin, now 68, thought the victim was trespassing, was armed and would have been “robbed” by Schwartz.
The jury at Martin’s first trial was unable to agree on the first degree murder charge and found him guilty of second degree murder. He was sentenced in November 2013 to 16 years in prison. The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned Martin’s conviction in December 2014.
The second trial judge allowed the prosecutor to try Martin again for first degree murder. Martin’s attorney objected, arguing that he would violate statutes that prohibit double risk. The judge ruled that Martin was not cleared of the first degree murder charge, but that the jury was blocked or was a suspended jury.
Martin was convicted of first degree murder at his second trial in August 2016. He was then sentenced to life in prison.
The appeals court upheld Martin’s conviction and prison sentence in 2019, but the Arizona Supreme Court released the sentence in August 2019.
The Supreme Court ruled that prosecuting Martin a second time for first degree murder “violated his constitutional right to be free from double danger.”
Martin’s case was presented to the US Supreme Court at a conference in May, but the court declined to review his case.
The Arizona Supreme Court has returned Martin’s case to Mohave County to decide whether to reduce the first-degree murder sentence to second-degree murder or set a retrial if the defendant can show prejudice.
Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe Jr. reduced the first-degree murder sentence to second-degree murder, ruling that the defendant “failed to establish a reliable inference of prejudice.” The judge ruled that Martin would clearly be convicted of second degree murder.
Sipe has set Martin’s sentencing hearing for October 15. The judge should sentence the accused to 16 years in prison.