In a courtroom filled with the defendant's relatives and supporters, lawyers offered closing arguments on Wednesday in the trial of a Butte County man who until recently faced a murder charge in the fatal drug overdose of a Monterey woman.
Defense attorney Larry Biegel told Judge Julie Culver that no one disputes Gabriel A. Martinez was responsible in the death of Lisa Groveman, 30, after meeting her in a Monterey bar and giving her drugs in June 2011.
"This young woman did not deserve to die," Biegel said. But by asking for and taking drugs, she "put herself in jeopardy," he said.
Biegel acknowledged Martinez "didn't do anything to help the situation," but said that, according to testimony by forensic pathologist John Hain, it was impossible to distinguish the "difficult to arouse state" of someone who was drinking from someone who took too many drugs.
The murder charge for what many would call an accidental overdose was a rarity in California.
In a surprise agreement earlier this month, the murder count — with a potential life sentence — was dropped. But Martinez, 37, still faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, furnishing illegal drugs and an enhancement charge of causing great bodily injury. Martinez agreed to a bench trial in which Culver, rather than a jury, is to decide his guilt or innocence.
Even without the murder charge, prosecutor Steve Somers argued that by providing illegal drugs, Martinez had to have known they could kill Groveman. He should have called 911 instead of leaving her unconscious in her bed, Somers said.
"His failure to act did in fact doom her to death," he said, adding Martinez gave her "poisonous levels" of methadone and Vicodin.
Somers said Martinez lied to police on numerous points and said he dressed Groveman's unconscious body and left her door unlocked because he hoped someone would find her.
"He chose not to help her," Somers said. "He chose his own interests over the safety of a 911 call."
Biegel reminded Culver the law says if one reasonable conclusion from circumstantial evidence points to guilt and another to innocence, the innocent version must be accepted.
According to testimony, Martinez was in Monterey on business June 9, 2011. His job included helping pharmacies package expired drugs for return to manufacturers for rebates.
He met Groveman and her friend that night at an Alvarado Street nightclub. At Groveman's request, detectives testified, he retrieved methadone pills from his hotel room. After spending time at another Monterey nightspot, where Groveman was seen taking pills on a surveillance video, they went to her apartment in the 500 block of Aguajito Road.
After having sex, Groveman started breathing strangely and drooling about 5 a.m., Martinez told police. He said when he left the apartment hours later, Groveman was "breathing on her own" and he left a cellphone next to her head so he could check on her.
When he called about 10 a.m. and she didn't respond, he returned, he said. He flagged a patrol car about 11 a.m. and police found Groveman dead on her bed.
Martinez arranged to turn himself in shortly afterward.
During his trial, argument centered on Martinez' police interview, recorded hours after Groveman was found dead.
Biegel said Martinez admitted his responsibility in Groveman's death. Reading from the interview transcripts on Wednesday, Biegel said when officers asked his client if he felt anything about the fact that Groveman was dead, Martinez replied, "I created this situation by being with her," and said, "I gave her something that she asked for and now she's dead."
Somers said Biegel neglected to read Martinez's next words, in which Martinez suggested Groveman might have taken "something else, too," a statement Somers called "laughable" and "unbelievable."
Biegel and Somers battled over a crucial legal question of whether the great bodily injury enhancement can be applied in cases in which the victim died.
Biegel argued the enhancement, which could significantly affect any sentence Martinez receives if found guilty, does not apply because his client is already facing the manslaughter charge in connection with Groveman's death.
He said the law clearly lists murder and manslaughter as exceptions to applying the enhancement.
Somers said the enhancement can still be applied to Martinez's second charge of supplying illegal drugs.
"Because someone dies does not mean they didn't suffer great bodily injury," he argued.
If convicted, Martinez faces two to five years for the manslaughter charge and three to five years for furnishing drugs.
The bodily injury enhancement could add three years, and because it is considered a violent offense would mean Martinez has to serve at least 85 percent of his total sentence, compared to 50 percent without the enhancement.
Culver said she will announce her verdict at 8:45 a.m. Friday.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or email@example.com.