Martinez still not competent to stand trial

A deaf and mute illegal immigrant accused of the murder of a James City County teen remains incompetent to stand trial after a hearing on Friday.

Oswaldo Elias Martinez is accused of raping, beating and strangling to death 16-year-old Brittany Binger in James City County on Jan. 2, 2005.

He has never stood trial because he cannot speak or write. At the time of the crime, Martinez had never been taught Spanish, English or American Sign Language, according to Williamsburg-James City County court documents.

Central State Hospital workers worked with Martinez for eight years, trying to teach him American Sign Language, but he remains "unrestorably incompetent" and cannot aid in his defense.

Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green said Martinez's attorneys introduced no new evidence on Friday demonstrating Martinez's ability to understand language.

In August a judge ruled that Martinez could be institutionalized until he is able to stand trial, even if that day never comes. Virginia law allows for a defendant to be held for treatment indefinitely if they are incompetent to stand trial, poses a danger and is receiving medically-appropriate treatment.

Green said although Martinez is able to understand some of the hand signals given to him by Central State employees, he is a long way off from understanding the complexities of a murder trial.

"(It might work) if we had a judicial system that was more visual than speaking. But we do trials by language, not by demonstration," Green said. "The trial system doesn't allow for trial by theater."

Martinez's progress will be revisited every six months to assess the efforts to help him become competent to stand trial.

McKinnon can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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