GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. – Despite refusing an attorney, Isabel Martinez’s court-appointed legal representation has filed a motion for a continuance as well as a psychological evaluation of his client.
After a bizarre display of smiles and waving at the cameras inside the courtroom during her first appearance on Friday, Chief Magistrate Kristina Blum appointed defense attorney Robert Greenwald as "standby counsel" for the mother accused of fatally stabbing her husband and four of her children.
“Obviously, the nature of the charges are so serious and so severe that it is in her best interest that she have a lawyer appointed at least at this stage and see where it goes from here,” Greenwald said.
His role includes making sure that her rights are protected and that the process is fair from start to finish.
“Out of an abundance of caution in this case, the judge appointed me to represent Isabel Martinez. We will see moving forward what ultimately transpires. But, it is that important that she has someone representing her protecting her rights and her interests that the judge appointed me at least at this stage.”
On Monday, Greenwald, who has met with her once, filed a motion requesting that Martinez undergo a psych evaluation before proceeding to her preliminary hearing.
“[A] case of this magnitude, with the behavior that I observed, and out of an abundance of caution, I thought it was the appropriate thing to do,” he said of ordering a psych evaluation.
According to the motion, “Counsel believes that the defendant cannot proceed through any court proceeding including primary hearing, nor assist her counsel in her defense, until such time as she has been evaluated by a competent psychiatrists or psychologist to determine her competency."
"Based upon her demeanor and conduct at her first appearance, counsel does not believe that the defendant is competent to proceed nor participate, at this time with any court proceedings.”
The mother of five is charged with six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five counts of felony murder and five counts of malice murder for the massacre inside her Loganville, Ga., mobile home park.
At about 5 a.m., on Thursday, Gwinnett County Police responded to a 911 call from whom they believe was 33-year-old Martinez. It was a bloody scene that first responders won’t soon forget.
“This is a horrendous crime. We don't have a motivation. But when our officers got here, they placed a female into custody,” Cpl. Michele Pihera, Gwinnett County Police spokesperson, said Thursday morning.
Police found the knife used to kill Martinez’s husband, Martin Romero, 33, as well as their children, Isabela Martinez, 10, Dacota Monserrat Romero, 7, Dillan Martin Romero, 4, and Axel Oliver Romero, who would have turned 2 in August, inside their home at 509 Emory Lane.
They also found the couple’s fifth child, 9-year-old Diana Romero brutally stabbed, but alive. She was rushed to the hospital and remains in the ICU at Children's Hospital of Atlanta, according to family members.
As of Friday, she was awake, talking and surrounded by family, Gwinnett County Police tweeted.
“What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand. This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community,” Pihera said Thursday at the scene.
The family of seven lived in Chicago until recently when they moved to the rural Gwinnett County town.
Martin's cousin, Maria Salazar, who resides in Chicago, said that she had visited them in December for her godchild, Axel’s baptism.
“We visited a lot. We tried to get down there,” Salazar said.
And they seemed happy, always having BBQs and playing.
"They were very happy. [Isabel] was a stay-at-home mom, very devoted to her children. Always out with them, played with them, watch them. They loved riding their bikes, playing tag."
But all of the BBQs and smiles came to a screeching halt when Martinez’s father died in Mexico just a few weeks ago, Salazar recalled.
“She was depressed after death of her father. Only thing that could've triggered. She may have fallen into a very bad depression,” she said.
Isabel, whose full name is Maria Isabel Garduno-Martinez, is a “Mexican national who illegally entered the United States and is in the country unlawfully,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Southern Region spokesman, Bryan Cox, confirmed.
“This is her first encounter with ICE so we cannot estimate how long she’s been in the country; she crossed the border at an unknown time [or] location,” he continued.
She is currently being held at the Gwinnett County Jail.
At the end of her court appearance on Friday, Judge Randy Rich reiterated his suggestion for an attorney.
“I’m going to tell you I can’t force one on you. Alright? I would highly recommend consider changing your mind about that because you qualify for the court to appoint one at the county’s expense. At this stage of things I can’t coerce you and will not attempt to coerce you to accept an attorney. However, once again I would recommend that be done. Because you’re going to come into court in a couple of weeks and you’re going to have the district attorney sitting there and some police detectives sitting here and put up evidence to detain you further on these charges and I doubt that you’re well equipped to handle that on your own. But that is your decision and I will make a note that you intend to represent yourself. You may have a seat.”
Again, she rejected his recommendation.
“One thing we can do is that we can appoint an attorney that wouldn’t be representing you, but could at least advise you on court procedure, so they could be in court to advise you on things that can or can’t be done, but wouldn’t stand in your place,” Rich said to her in a last-ditch effort to give her legal counsel.
And as she left Gwinnett County Superior Court, Isabel spouted her faith to Rich.
“For me, the hope and the attorneys are always going to be the people and my faith. Those are my attorneys, that is why I am here. Nothing else matters, I am representing the people that are humble, hardworking, the people who suffer and those who have a lot of charges so they understand everything is possible with God."
Her preliminary hearing is slated for July 20, unless the judge grants the continuance motion. If the request is approved, Greenwald said it could be rescheduled for as early as August.
He expects Isabel's case to be demanding.
“Every case always has its unique challenges, but without knowing more specifics, with regards to the case, I won’t venture any type of guess. But every case has its own challenges,” Greenwald said.