MARTINEZ -- Following a trial that polarized the city of Concord and its school district, a jury Thursday acquitted former elementary schoolteacher Joseph Martin of 21 counts of molestation, but deadlocked on 95 counts involving 11 other male students.
Martin's attorney called it the largest false allegation victory in nearly three decades and vindication for the 46-year-old Martinez resident.
The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office has not decided whether to retry Martin on the remaining counts, but the jury leaned solidly in favor of Martin's acquittal on those counts. For the charges involving 10 of the victims, the jury voted 9 not guilty to 3 guilty, while voting 11 not guilty to 1 guilty for the charges involving the 11th victim.
"Basically, it was like someone shooting 150 rounds at you and you look down and none of them hit you," said Martin's attorney Patrick Clancy of his client's reaction. "So yes, he was relieved."
Martin sat calmly as the clerk read the verdicts and about 10 supporters quietly sat in the audience, including his wife, Jennifer Martin, who testified on his behalf.
Clancy, who unsuccessfully attempted to lower Martin's bail to $100,000 from $10 million, said his client will remain in jail until a Sept. 8 hearing. Prosecutor Derek Butts said he was "disappointed" by the decision and would decide on whether to retry Martin on the deadlocked counts no earlier than the next hearing.
"It's way too early. It will take some discussion and further talks," he said. Martin was originally charged with 150 molestation counts involving 14 students. Butts dropped 34 counts shortly before closing arguments in the nine-week case. The allegations mostly involved Martin rubbing boys' bare chests with sexual intent, along with some allegations of brushing boys' groins.
Clancy had argued Martin was an affectionate teacher who touched students appropriately and helped them succeed through such reinforcement. He also said rumors from parents, students and teachers led to a "hysteria" that triggered false allegations against his client.
Butts had argued that Martin had a sexual affinity toward young boys.
Juror No. 9, who was one of the three voting for guilt on the remaining charges, said the decision-making process over the five days "wasn't hugely difficult."
"All we were looking for was reasonable doubt. That's what the judge told us. If we had two reasonable explanations for something, we had to go with the (one) that indicated not guilty," the man said, asking not to be named. "We stipulated that yeah, it might have happened. But we were able to find a reasonable alternative."
Late Wednesday, the jury told Judge Mary Ann O'Malley that they were hopelessly deadlocked, but she sent them back to try again. The foreman told O'Malley Thursday that there had been very little movement since then and they were stuck. O'Malley ruled a mistrial on the remaining 95 counts.
Clancy told a group of media members outside court that the jury was likely swayed by the lack of specialized training for the lead Concord detective -- a point he emphasized during the trial -- and that they believed Martin's touches were therapeutic and innocent, not inappropriate. But mostly, Clancy said it appeared the jury liked his client, who took the stand, and came to the conclusion he was a good teacher.
Even if Martin is fully exonerated, Clancy said he doubted his client would return to teaching.
"I seriously don't know if he'll return to Woodside. He has to think about how vulnerable he is to false accusations," Clancy said.
"If you're a man I would not be teaching elementary school. It's that bad," he continued. "I sometimes say, 'Which is more dangerous, working as a male elementary schoolteacher or a Navy SEAL?' And I'd say male elementary schoolteacher."
Prosecutor Butts said he worried that the fact Martin faced multiple life sentences may have influenced the jury.
"That was a concern of mine, that (the abuse) was not more egregious and they were boys," Butts said. "I was concerned a lot of good things were brought up about Martin that might outweigh that. That's not how it's supposed to go, but it was a concern.
"It's hard to think that 11, 12, 13 kids come in and say he put his hands down their chests and they wouldn't be believed," the prosecutor said.
Outside the courthouse, Martin's wife, wearing her husband's wedding ring on a gold necklace, spoke publicly for the first time.
"It's been a very long journey." she said, her voice breaking. She said she's prepared to keep fighting if prosecutors decide to retry her husband of six years.
"We will keep fighting until his name is cleared," she said.
She shared the difficulties she's endured as a single mother with the couple's two young daughters during Martin's incarceration and how every night their 3-year-old daughter prays her father will come home.
"The life we had isn't going to happen again.," Jennifer Martin said. "We'll have to find a new life."
Martin's case split the Mt. Diablo school district community. Threats were made to the schools during the trial, and individuals attacked one another on social media and blogs, Clancy said. One mother was barred from the courthouse, Clancy said, for confronting jurors and Martin supporters.
That mother released a statement Thursday: "We are devastated by the verdict. It's sad that Mr. Clancy would twist our pain into a defense strategy that we were never able to address."
Staff writer Gary Peterson contributed to this report. Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.