Tuesday, April 24, 2007

9 Days In The Slammer For A Traffic Violation

"Nine days ago, Luis Martinez was picked up in Queens on a traffic violation.

He pleaded guilty, and agreed to spend two days in jail. That's when the trouble started.

Authorities linked him to an armed robbery and car theft in the Bronx, crimes committed in the 1980s by Luis Martinez.

A different Luis Martinez.

Thus began a horrible odyssey through the city's penal system, as Martinez spent nine days behind bars while authorities sorted out one Martinez from another.

The soft-spoken truck mechanic from Queens finally emerged yesterday from Bronx Criminal Court, haggard and teary-eyed, and not terribly in a forgiving mood.

"The food was no good and I was sick with a fever," said Martinez, 42. "I didn't get any sleep. I cried all night. Jail is not a good place."

He said the first thing he intended to do was "go home, take a shower and call my family."

But his lawyers said their first priority will be to file a wrongful imprisonment suit against authorities.

Martinez was busted April 15 - a day he will forever remember, and not just for tax purposes - for driving with a suspended license. But just when he was to be released, authorities sent him off to the Bronx to answer an old warrant for the other Martinez.

Attorneys William Rita and Gene Anton said all along there was no way their client could have committed the crimes because he didn't live in the country at that time.

"We did everything to get him out, but the system failed him," Anton said. "The evidence was right there in front of their faces and they still wouldn't let him out."

The Martinez wanted by authorities is a light-skinned Puerto Rican, two years older than this Martinez, a dark-skinned Dominican who bears no resemblance to the still-wanted suspect, his lawyers said.

"This is a case of mistaken identity and it is unfortunate that my client remained behind bars all this time," Rita said. "The evidence was there the whole time. The birth dates were different and they don't look alike."

Rita and Anton said they went to court last week to clear up the case of mistaken identity and were taken aback when Bronx Criminal Court Judge Raymond Bruce remanded Martinez and ordered fingerprints. Martinez had no prior arrests.

The attorneys said they were outraged when they returned to court last Friday and found out the prints were inconclusive...

Remember that the next time someone on any of the CSI's or Law & Orders lifts a latent smudge then has some computer geek enhance it in order to crack a big case. All you need know about how accurate fingerprinting techniques and identifications are is to is ask the legions of folks who've applied for a CCW and were mistakenly turned down. Sloppy is as sloppy does and at any given point in time there are hundreds of folks incarcerated because of "inconclusive" prints.

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