Prosecutor wants more gang data before jurors hear Topeka murder trial in Brian Miller killing

Defense attorney objects to jurors hearing more Topeka gang information

De’Angelo Megle Martinez, of Topeka, is charged with alternative counts of first-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of 20-year-old Brian Wade Miller, criminal discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault and aggravated endangering of a child younger than 18. (File photo/Shawnee County Jail)

During his retrial, defendant De’Angelo Megle Martinez objected to a prosecutor’s motion that would allow more testimony about possible gang ties to the slaying of a man killed in a drive-by shooting.

 

The prosecutor said gang ties of people linked to the deadly shooting show the motive for the slaying and illustrates the bias of some witnesses.

Martinez, 21, of Topeka, is charged with alternative counts of first-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of 20-year-old Brian Wade Miller, criminal discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault and aggravated endangering of a child younger than 18.

Miller was killed April 8, 2016, in the 2000 block of S.E. Echo Ridge.

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As of Tuesday, Martinez’ retrial is scheduled to start Feb. 5.

In Martinez’ first trial, jurors deadlocked Sept. 15 about whether Martinez fired pistol shots, killing a southeast Topeka pedestrian, and were unable to reach a verdict. Jurors had deliberated about a day before they deadlocked.

On Nov. 13, assistant district attorney Brett Watson filed a “renewed motion” asking a judge to admit more evidence of gang affiliation during Martinez’ retrial.

Defense attorney James Chappas responded Jan. 5 when he filed a motion objecting to jurors hearing testimony about gang ties beyond the limited amount earlier allowed during the first Martinez trial.

Chappas said the two sides had agreed to limited admissibility of alleged gang affiliation evidence in the earlier Martinez trial. Chappas said the prosecution filing in November “does not move to rescind the stipulation but angles to ignore it completely by seeking court approval to offer evidence in excess and in breach of the agreement.”

In the prosecution motion, Watson said evidence of gang affiliation is admissible to demonstrate the motive in the shooting and to show the bias of a witness and why he or she might testify in a specific way.

Watson is asking the judge to permit the testimony from Topeka police Sgt. Ruben Salamanca, a gang expert; the gang affiliations and street names of Martinez; Christopher Shawn Pattillo, who was convicted of murder as the driver of the drive-by vehicle; and Anthony Kerley. Police Detective Jeri Cole also would be asked about the investigation of the slaying of Geovanni Plakio, a gang member, court records said.

On July 17, Pattillo was convicted of felony first-degree murder in Brian Miller’s death and three other felonies and sentenced to a life term for the murder conviction and 18 years and six months for the other convictions, a total of 43 years and six months.

During a hearing on Friday, Salamanca, the gang expert, testified before Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham.

Salamanca testified about the 10 points law enforcement officers use to identify a gang member, including tattoos, gang hand signs and being arrested more than once with gang members.

He also testified about the background of several gangs in Topeka, the dates specific members were confirmed as gang members and the gang culture.

“In the gang culture, (snitching) is the worst thing you can do,” Salamanca testified. In April 2016 when Miller was fatally shot, two local gangs “had been going at it for quite some time. These gangs did not get along.”

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.

 

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