Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Death Penalty for Warren Murder Affirmed

Image of death row inmate David Martin

Death row inmate David Martin

Image of death row inmate David Martin

Death row inmate David Martin

The Ohio Supreme Court has affirmed the death sentence of a Warren man convicted of kidnapping, robbing, and killing an acquaintance in 2012.

The Supreme Court voted unanimously to affirm David Martin’s convictions for the murder of Jeremy Cole and the attempted murder of Melissa “Missy” Putnam at Putnam’s home. The Court ruled 6-1 to uphold Martin’s death sentence, with Justice William M. O’Neill stating his long-standing opposition to the death penalty.

Martin was arrested within weeks of the murder when federal marshals located him in Summit County. During his transport back to Trumbull County, he confessed to the crimes. In his appeal, he argued that his incriminating statements to the marshals and to a police should have been suppressed. The Court rejected the challenges to the admission of his statements, and other claims he raised.

Writing for the Court, Justice Judith L. French noted that the death sentence has been imposed in cases similar to Martin’s. The opinion stated the Court has approved death sentences in cases combining a robbery-murder specification with a specification involving one murder and one attempted murder.

Martin Robs and Kills Cole
Putnam, a small-scale marijuana dealer, had known Martin for a few months when she sold him some marijuana at her house. She invited him over to smoke marijuana with her the next day. That day she also asked her friend Jeremy Cole to pick her up and drive her to places to apply for jobs. Cole and Putnam returned to her home in the late morning before Martin arrived. The three smoked marijuana together, and Putnam recognized that Martin was carrying the same gun he possessed the day before.

At some point, Martin pointed his gun at Cole and ordered him and Putnam to sit on the couch. Putnam testified that Martin took offense to something Cole said and ordered him to lie face down on the floor with his hands behind his back. Martin ordered Putnam to tie Cole’s hands, and told Putnam to tie her own hands. Martin dumped the contents of Putnam’s purse and took her cell phone and about $100, and took her marijuana that was on a table.

Martin made Cole and Putnam go to Putnam’s bedroom and lie on the bed. He went through Cole’s pockets and took his cell phone, and tried to locate his car keys. Cole said his girlfriend had the car keys and the car and would be back in an hour. Putnam knew that to be a lie and told Martin she would help him locate Cole’s car keys, and the two left her bedroom.

Martin then placed Putnam in her daughter’s bedroom, and she heard a struggle her bedroom.  She heard Cole tell her, “Get out Missy... He’s about to shoot me.” She then heard a shot. Putnam then saw Martin standing over her and begged him not to shoot her in the face. Martin shot her, and the bullet passed through her hand and into her neck.

Martin Flees, Later Confesses
Martin told authorities he left the house on foot and stopped underneath a bridge where he removed his wristwatch and clothes, except for a pair of shorts, and burned them. He returned to his home and showered.

Putnam regained consciousness, climbed out a window to flee the home, and called 9-1-1. Responding police found Cole face down and alive, but barely breathing with his hands tied behind his back with another cord that was different than the one Martin ordered Putnam to place on Cole. Cole was taken to Trumbull Memorial Hospital where he died.

The Trumbull County coroner determined Cole had been shot once between the eyes from a distance of three to eight inches.

Putnam identified Martin, and Warren Police Detective Wayne Mackey obtained a warrant for Martin’s arrest. About three weeks after the shooting, members of the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested Martin in Tallmadge in Summit County and recovered a loaded handgun. Deputy U.S. Marshals William Boldin and Anne Murphy, task force members, transported Martin to the Warren Police station, first stopping at the Summit County jail in Akron.

While being transported from Tallmadge to Akron, Martin remarked: “I did what I had to do,” and “I can accept the needle. I did what I did, but I had to.” He made further statements indicating he committed the crime. On the way from Akron to Warren, Martin asked the marshals if they would like to see where he burned his clothes, and when Boldin said he would, Martin directed them to the bridge, where they found a pile of burned material that included a partially melted watchband.

The marshals drove Martin to the Warren police station where Mackey advised him of his Miranda rights and questioned him. He admitted to the shooting, but denied robbing Putnam and Cole, and claimed he drew his gun only after they went in another room and conspired to harm him. He also admitted the gun recovered during his arrest was the one used to shoot Cole and Putnam.

Martin Indicted for Capital Murder
Martin was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder, which included one count of felony murder and one of murder with prior calculation and design. Each count carried three death penalty specifications: “course of conduct,” which involves the purposeful killing of or attempt to kill two or more persons, felony-murder predicated on kidnapping, and felony-murder predicated on aggravated robbery. He also faced six non-death-penalty charges, including the attempted aggravated murder of Putnam, and robbing and kidnapping Cole and Putnam.

A jury found him guilty on all counts and specifications. After a mitigation hearing, the jury recommended a death sentence. The trial judge weighed the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating factors presented and sentenced Martin to death. He was additionally sentenced to 61 years in prison for the other crimes.

Martin appealed his conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court, which is required to consider the direct appeal in death penalty cases.

Gun, Statements Should Have Been Suppressed, Martin Claims
Martin presented several arguments to the Supreme Court in his challenge to his conviction, including claims that the trial judge should have suppressed evidence used against him.

He argued his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against illegal search and seizure were violated when marshals entered the apartment of David Fleetwood in Tallmadge to arrest Martin. He maintained the entry into the apartment was illegal because the marshals had only an arrest warrant for Martin but not a search warrant authorizing them to enter the apartment.

Justice French explained the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an arrest warrant carries the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which a suspect lives when there is a reason to believe the suspect is at the residence at the time. But an arrest warrant does not authorize the police to enter the home of another person where the suspect does not live to make an arrest. A search warrant is needed unless there is an exception that justifies entry.

The Court found that to challenge the arrest at Fleetwood’s home without a warrant, Martin had to show he had some “legitimate expectation of privacy” while there. It found there was no evidence that Martin had an expectation because at the trial court suppression hearing, neither Martin nor Fleetwood submitted any evidence that Martin was a guest at Fleetwood’s home.

“His presence in the apartment was ‘totally unexplained,’” the opinion stated.

Without an expectation of privacy, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision not to suppress the arrest, which led to the discovery of the murder weapon.

Martin argued his statements to law enforcement should be suppressed because he was not immediately read his Miranda rights when apprehended by the marshals.

The opinion stated that Martin started making incriminating statements to marshals Boldin and Murphy at the arrest site and while being transported to the Summit County jail. At the jail, Boldin administered Miranda warnings to Martin before they left the jail to go to Warren. On the way, Martin made more incriminating statements and showed the marshals where he burned his clothes and watch.

The Court noted the Miranda warnings are designed to protect an individual in custody who is being interrogated by police. Miranda applies when a suspect is in custody and subject to interrogation, and does not cover voluntary statements.

Boldin testified that Martin began to talk on his own and that marshals “did not ask him any questions whatsoever,” except to confirm his identity. After Boldin read Martin his rights, Martin told the marshal that his mother had been a homicide victim in Cleveland, and Boldin testified he did ask some questions about his mother’s murder, but the two did not talk about the charges Martin was facing.

The Court ruled Martin’s comments were “spontaneous and unsolicited,” and found the trial court was not mistaken by allowing their admission. Additional statements made to the marshals after Boldin read Martin his rights were correctly admitted as were statements made to Warren police because Mackey read Martin his rights when he arrived in Warren.

Court Weighs Circumstances
In addition to reviewing the trial court’s weighing of aggravated circumstances and mitigating factors, the Supreme Court conducts its own review.

The Court noted the aggravating circumstances that permit a death sentence include an offense committed in the course of conduct “involving the purposeful killing of or attempt to kill two or more persons,” and committing murder while committing robbery and kidnapping.

The Court found evidence to support the finding that Martin purposely killed Cole and attempted to kill Putnam. He shot both in the head, using the same gun, during the same robbery in the same house, which formed a course of conduct. Martin also robbed Putnam of money and her cell phone, and took Cole’s cell phone. And the evidence indicated that Martin ordered Putnam to tie up herself and Cole, additional evidence showed that Martin retied both victims himself.

Those acts provided evidence to conclude that Martin met the law’s definition for kidnapping and robbery and proved he killed Cole after committing a felony murder.

The Court examined mitigating circumstances, including testimony from two of Martin’s cousins and a childhood friend who recounted his troubled childhood and teen years. Martin also provided a 586-page Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services file on his family covering a 12-year period beginning when he was 2 years old. The file indicated his mother was a prostitute who was killed when he was 4 years old, and his father, while able to raise Martin and his siblings, did not provide much structure or discipline. Martin was charged with assault and marijuana possession at age 13, and his friend described him as “roaming through the projects” at all hours, while his father exerted no positive influence.

The Court also noted Martin accepted responsibility for the shooting, cooperated with law enforcement, expressed remorse for the deaths, and apologized to the victims’ families.

The opinion stated that while Martin was cooperative, he was not completely honest with investigators and attempted to minimize his guilt. After weighing the circumstances, the Court concluded the death sentence was appropriate.

“At best Martin’s mitigating factors deserved modest weight. We find that the three aggravating circumstances, especially the course-of-conduct circumstance, outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Court wrote.

2014-1922. State v. Martin, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-7556.

Video camera icon View oral argument video of this case.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

Adobe PDF PDF files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the free Acrobat® Reader
Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated.