A written ruling penned by a circuit court judge will decide the fate of a deaf and mute man accused of raping and killing a James City teenager more than 11 years ago.
At a Friday hearing in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court, substitute Judge William Shaw said he will soon decide if it is medically appropriate for Oswaldo Elias Martinez, 45, to remain institutionalized at Central State Hospital, of if he will become a free man.
Shaw did not did not give a timeline for when he plans to submit his ruling to the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
Martinez, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is accused of beating, raping and strangling Brittany Binger, 16, on Jan. 2, 2005. He is charged with two counts of capital murder, according to documents filed in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.
Martinez never stood trial because he cannot speak or write, and is unable to aid in his own defense. Martinez had no formal language training in English, Spanish or American Sign Language at the time of the crime, court documents state.
Experts at Central State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Petersburg, spent eight years trying to teach Martinez ASL before Shaw ruled that Martinez will never be competent to stand trial in September 2013, according to court documents.
Martinez continues to be held at Central State Hospital because Virginia Code allows prosecutors to seek indefinite medical treatment in capital murder cases if the prosecutor can prove that the treatment is medically appropriate, Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green said.
Shaw's ruling will be the first time a decision has been made on the code section that allows prosecutors to seek indefinite treatment, Green said.
Martinez's treatment includes educational classes with little assistance from an ASL interpreter, defense attorney Timothy Clancy said at Friday's hearing.
"He simply sits in a class with non-hearing impaired individuals," Clancy said, adding that the treatment is not medically appropriate because it is not medical in nature.
Green's argument is that the state has the right to hold Martinez as long as the treatment he's receiving isn't medically inappropriate. Green defined medically appropriate treatment as that which does not harm the person receiving it at an April 12 hearing in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.
Clancy asked Shaw to dismiss both capital murder charges on Friday. If the judge does not rule in favor of the dismissal Clancy plans to pursue a constitutional case on the legitimacy of indefinitely holding a person who cannot stand trial.
"If the court overrules the motion to dismiss ... then that raises a constitutional issue I would have to address," Clancy said.
Mayfield can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828.