Real Name: Michael Scott Martin
Case: Final Appeal
Date: July 14, 1979
Location: Garland, Texas
Details: At 7 pm on July 14, 1979, an unidentified man entered a Garland, Texas gas station office and drew a gun on "Doyle" the gas station attendant. The assailant robbed the gas station and left within about ten minutes. Doyle identified the assailant as Michael Scott Martin, a twenty-six-year-old welder. Michael was arrested, tried and convicted of armed robbery. Because of a previous arrest, Michael was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until 1999. However, the case against Michael Martin was based entirely on eyewitness testimony. There was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime: no fingerprints were found, the money was not located, and the gun has never been recovered. Michael insists that he has been wrongfully imprisoned.
Michael Scott Martin had a clean record until he was twenty-six. In 1979, seven months before the gas station robbery, he was arrested after an altercation in a supermarket. Michael and a friend had been drinking; they had been seen eating polish sausage and potato chips from the supermarket shelves. When the manager threatened to call the police, Michael panicked. After throwing money at the manager, he threatened him and the bag boys with a knife. Michael and his friend ran to his car; Michael then pulled out a gun and fired several shots into the air. Michael pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. He was fined and given four years probation.
Then, on July 14, 1979, just two weeks after Michael's probation began, the gas station was robbed. The gunman stole $400 and fled from the scene in Doyle's car. Fifteen minutes later, at 7:15 pm, a police unit spotted the stolen car outside of an apartment building; Michael had lived in this building until a month earlier. At approximately 7:25 pm, Detective Wheatley, who had investigated the supermarket incident, reportedly saw Michael driving his Blue Camero just three blocks from the gas station.
Wheatley asked to be assigned to the robbery case. The next day, he showed Doyle a series of mugshots; he almost immediately identified Michael as the assailant. Michael was arrested and charged with aggravated armed robbery. Michael, however, claimed that he was at Lake Worth, seventy miles away from Garland, at the time of the robbery. Five separate eyewitnesses, three of whom barely knew Michael, corroborated his story. Their testimony was the crux of Michael's defense.
One of the witnesses, George MacFarlane, claimed that Michael was working on his motorcycle while he was working on his car. According to George, Michael left only once, between 2 and 4 pm, making it impossible for him to have committed the robbery. Yvonne Ansley also confirmed Michael's story, along with Jack Grissom. Jack stated that he saw Michael outside of his house sometime between 6 and 6:30 pm. Michael Pettigrew stated that he saw Michael around 6 pm and that it would have been impossible for him to have driven to Garland, Texas, within an hour. George was certain about the time that he had seen Michael because the two watched the TV show "Battlestar Gallactica" together; the show aired at 7 pm.
Michael's trial seemed to be about who the jury would believe, the two prosecution eyewitnesses or the five defense eyewitnesses. Then, Michael's previous incident at the supermarket was entered into evidence, possibly prejudicing the jury against him. The prosecutor at Michael's trial, Brad Lollar, is not certain if he would have gotten a conviction had it not been for the previous incident being allowed as evidence. Lollar believes that his eyewitnesses were positive, but he also believes that the defense eyewitnesses were positive at what they had seen.
In the end, it took the jury only fifteen minutes to find Michael guilty. He was given the maximum sentence: life in prison without parole for twenty years. However, many are convinced that Michael is innocent, especially the five eyewitnesses that placed him seventy miles away. Even the prosecutor, Lollar, is uncertain if he is guilty or not. Doyle, however, is convinced that the right man is behind bars.
Michael is still trying to appeal his case from prison; he is determined to prove his innocence.
Notes: This case appeared first in Special #5, which aired on February 5, 1988.
Results: Unresolved. Michael Martin was released from prison in 1999, but will remain on parole for the rest of his life. He is still determined to clear his name.
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