Juan Martinez, the Maricopa County prosecutor famed for his role in the high-profile Jodi Arias case, will no longer be handling death penalty cases, according to a statement released this week by acting Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell.
Mitchell, who assumed the role of acting county attorney just weeks ago after Governor Doug Ducey gave former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery a seat on the state’s highest court, said that she has reassigned Martinez from the Capital Litigation Bureau to the Auto Theft Bureau.
“The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office remains focused on serving victims and providing justice to our community with fairness and equality,” Mitchell said in her statement explaining her reasoning for reassigning Martinez. “The cases assigned to our Capital Litigation Bureau are very time intensive and demand the assigned prosecutor’s undivided effort and attention. Given the Arizona Bar proceedings involving Mr. Martinez, I felt it was important to assign him a caseload that would be more flexible and allow him to take time when needed to focus on resolving these complaints.”
Mitchell said Martinez will remain lead prosecutor on the cases already assigned to him that are currently in trial or pending remand. Mitchell is one of eight people currently in the running to be appointed interim county attorney until January 2020 by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Lately, Martinez has been more well known for his litany of misconduct complaints than for his work as a homicide prosecutor. Martinez has been the subject of at least seven bar complaints in the past four years. This past March, the State Bar of Arizona filed a misconduct complaint against Martinez, alleging that he had committed seriously unethical behavior during the Arias trial and inside the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The disciplinary hearing stemming from that complaint recently was postponed.
According to the complaint, Martinez began a sexual relationship with a blogger who was writing about the Arias case, then used her to dig up information on a juror who was preventing Arias from receiving the death penalty. Martinez wanted to find “information that might disqualify her from continuing the deliberation.” Once he figured out who the holdout juror was, he allegedly tried to get her dismissed from the case so he could get Arias sentenced to death, but failed.
Martinez is also accused of striking up a relationship with a juror who was dismissed from the case and using her to get a “read” on how two other jurors may be leaning in the case. When questioned about his actions at a deposition, Martinez lied, the bar complaint states.
In April, four lawmakers and 18 local, state, and national organizations signed on to a letter sent to former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery demanding he resign for the way he has handled Martinez’s repeated misconduct. A bar complaint has also been filed against Montgomery that alleges he covered up Martinez’s misconduct.
ABC15 has since reported that Martinez’s history of sexually harassing female coworkers goes back decades.
Martinez’s personnel file contains a reprimand from a supervisor in the early 1990s. The supervisor wrote: “It has come to my attention that there was an incident in February, where you made inappropriate sexual remarks toward a female attorney in this office. … It is now time that this behavior ceases, once and for all.”
Montgomery, now a state Supreme Court justice, responded to calls for his resignation by stating that after the investigation, Martinez was disciplined with a written reprimand and mandatory training for sexually harassing his female coworkers. But documents related to the investigations of Martinez’s misconduct were sealed at Montgomery’s request.
In 2016, the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee recommended that Martinez be placed on one year’s probation for his unethical behavior. But Martinez asked for a disciplinary hearing, in which deliberations reportedly lasted all of one minute before the charges were dismissed.
Mitchell said the reassignment shouldn’t be seen as “prejudging the outcome of the [disciplinary] proceedings” and that she wants to “ensure due process is given to Mr. Martinez in the bar complaints.”