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Facts Of The Sophia Martinez Murder

By Staff Report
Published On: Jun 26 2012 10:31:43 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2010 08:41:00 AM CDT

FACTS OF THE CRIME Eighteen-year-old Sophia Martinez left her El Paso home at about ten p.m. on March 10, 2000, to meet a blind date. About twenty minutes later, bank ATM security cameras near Sophia's home recorded a man with a handgun approach Sophia?s car and fire a shot into the vehicle, after Sophia made a twenty dollar ATM withdrawal from her account. The security cameras next recorded the man get into the rear seat of the driver?s side of the vehicle and a bloody-faced Sophia making a second withdrawal from her account, this time in the amount of two hundred dollars. Sophia?s vehicle then left.

The following morning, Sophia?s abandoned vehicle was located by New Mexico State Police in the desert not far from El Paso. There were numerous blood stains inside the vehicle. Later the same date, El Paso police found Sophia?s lifeless body by a dirt road in an isolated location near a well. An autopsy revealed Sophia had been shot five times in the face and head and that Berkley?s semen was found in Martinez?s body.

Berkley became a suspect in Martinez?s murder in September 2000, when a woman contacted the police and implicated both Berkley and her husband.

The woman reported finding a set of unfamiliar car keys and Sophia Martinez?s driver?s license on the kitchen counter of the apartment where she and her husband lived. Berkley burned the driver?s license on a grill. When the woman later saw a newspaper report of Martinez?s murder, she recognized Martinez from the driver?s license.

On October 1, 2000, Berkley was living with his parents. A police search of their home that day produced a black ?beanie? hat that was identical to the one seen on the man in the ATM surveillance video. The police also recovered a .22 caliber revolver from the night stand in Berkley?s father?s bedroom, latex gloves in Berkley?s bedroom at his parents? house, and Martinez?s car keys from the roof of the apartment complex where the woman who implicated Berkley lived.

Berkley was arrested, and confessed in writing on October 1, 2000.

Two days after Berkley gave his first written statement, Berkley?s father notified police that Berkley wished to make another statement. In his second, far more detailed, written statement, Berkley added that the murder weapon was a .22 caliber handgun he had secretly taken from his father and that he later burned ?the girl's? driver's license in a barbeque grill.

In his defense, Berkley?s father testified that he recognized Martinez as a girl his son had introduced to him and dated for a short period of time. However, neither of Berkley?s confessions included any indication Berkley knew his victim.

Finally, Sophia's mother testified she was very close to Sophia, that she had never heard of Berkley before Sophia's murder, and that she was not aware of Sophia ever having dated Berkley.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY ? Berkley was convicted and sentenced to death in April 2002 by an El Paso County jury for the capital murder of Sophia Martinez.

? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence on direct appeal, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review of this decision on December 12, 2005.

? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also denied state habeas corpus relief on March 8, 2006.

? The federal district court denied his federal petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 24, 2007.

? The United States Court of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit also denied a certificate of appealability on February 18, 2009., and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review of that decision on October 5, 2009.

? Berkley filed a pro se motion, caption "Notice of Agreed Interlocutory Appeal" in the trial court, in which he seeks to appeal the earlier dismissal of his double jeopardy claim.

? On April 8, 2010, the trial court denied Berkley's pro se motion to dispense with judgment and execution of judgment.

? Berkley's attorneys filed a successive writ on April 12, 2010, raising one claim regarding the bullet-lead analysis test. The State filed an opposition.

? On April 13, 2010, Berkley filed a successive writ in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY Berkley has no prior criminal record. However, at punishment, the State presented significant evidence regarding his bad character and violent past:

A former supervisor testified that she repeatedly counseled Berkley regarding his poor attendance, rude behavior with customers, and fighting with co-workers during the few months he worked under her but Berkley was non-responsive to her counseling. Berkley had a bad reputation for being peaceful among his co-workers.

A former co-worker who had known Berkley since he was twelve years old testified Berkley was perpetually disrespectful to his co-workers, mother and elders, and frequently carried a knife.

Testimony indicated that Berkley often spoke ethnic slurs and made verbal threats against a female Asian co-worker, indicating that ?he wanted to smash her face.? This co-worker was afraid of him.

A former employer testified about an incident in which Berkley was caught stealing food from his employer, confessed to the theft, and agreed to pay back the value of the food.

A former girlfriend testified about numerous incidents in which Berkley behaved violently toward her and others, including an instance in which Berkley choked her until she lost consciousness, and threatened to kill her.

Berkley often bragged or joked about violent episodes. Several witnesses attested that Berkley bragged about beating a man with a brick because the man owed him money. After beating the man, Berkley pulled his knife on a friend who asked what had happened. Berkley then put the knife blade in his friend?s nose, cut his nose, and told him ?He didn?t see nothing.? Berkley also bragged about stabbing a girlfriend with a fork. On another occasion, when Berkley became angry after spilling gasoline on himself, he stated that the ?best way to relieve the anger is to unload a clip in somebody?s head.? Berkley was referring to shooting someone in the head until no more bullets remain in the gun. Berkley also told a friend that his nickname was ?Little Capper,? which meant ?Little Killer.? Berkley told the same friend that he had pushed a teacher while in school. Berkley told another friend that he was suspended from school for striking a girl in the nose. When Berkley was twelve, because he was upset about a basketball game, he punched the glass out of a door.

Several witnesses had seen Berkley take drugs, or had seen him under the influence of drugs. Berkley was known to use marijuana and cocaine.

An FBI agent testified about numerous letters Berkley sent to one of his girlfriends from jail, while awaiting trial for Martinez?s murder, in which made repeated professions of his love for the young woman but also included negative, crude, and threatening references toward his own mother.

MISCELLANEOUS For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

Source: Texas Attorney General's Office

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