GRAFTON, N.D. - The North Dakota Supreme Court tossed out a conviction against a Grafton man in a child sexual assault case earlier this year and ordered he be given a new trial after a Walsh County judge committed an "obvious error."
Jose M. Martinez, 62, was charged with three counts of gross sexual imposition, all Class A felonies, in 2013 in Walsh County District Court after a now-18-year-old woman told authorities she had been sexually assaulted by Martinez several years prior when he was babysitting her 8- or 9-year-old self, according to the information filed against Martinez.
The woman first disclosed the sexual abuse to a case manager when she was 15 years old, who prompted her to tell her parents, according to court records.
A jury found Martinez guilty in February 2014 of one count of gross sexual imposition, but could not come to a unanimous decision on the other two counts. Martinez was then sentenced to 14 years in prison, court records say.
But the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction in July, finding that Judge M. Richard Geiger did not require certain important information to be included in his instructions to the jury.
The woman told jurors that Martinez sexually assaulted her on three different occasions, hence the three counts of gross sexual imposition. However, the instructions to the jury, in which the charges against Martinez were laid out, did not distinguish among the three different occasions.
"Under these circumstances, the jury could follow all of the court's instructions and unanimously agree Martinez was guilty, but disagree on the specific act or acts Martinez committed," wrote Supreme Court Justice Daniel Crothers.
Crothers and the justices found the omission jeopardized Martinez's constitutional right to due process and was an "obvious error."
Martinez is scheduled to go to trial again in February. He is faced with the same three charges as before. Geiger denied Friday a request made by the defense to dismiss the two counts that had deadlocked jurors in February 2014.