Murder trial begins for Washington man accused of stabbing his mother

There is no dispute that Christopher Martin stabbed his mother in the face, chest and neck in May 2010. He placed fabric softener sheets and air fresheners on her body as it decomposed in their Southeast Washington apartment.

Prosecutors argue that Martin, now 27, killed 58-year-old Patricia Ann Martin out of anger and ma­nipu­la­tion and should be found guilty of second-degree murder. But Christopher Martin’s public defender says her client suffered from years of mental illness and should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In the first day of Martin’s murder trial in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors on Monday acknowledged that Christopher Martin has suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But they say he is now “exaggerating” his illness as a result of the murder charge. During numerous hearings leading up to the trial, doctors at St. Elizabeths Hospital testified that they found Martin competent to stand trial.

Prosecutors argue that sometime between May 17 and May 20, 2010, Christopher Martin grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his mother numerous times while she was in her bedroom in her home in the 4200 block of Fourth Street SE. Prosecutors have not disclosed a motive.

Martin was arrested and charged with murder after his younger brother, who also suffers from mental illness, jumped out of his bedroom window and ran to a neighbor’s home for help after Martin allegedly began hitting him. When police arrived at the Martin home, they discovered a body that was so badly decomposed that a positive identification was not possible. Authorities later determined it was Patricia Ann Martin based on documents and identification found in the bedroom.

Patricia Ann Martin (Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office)

Martin, a large man with a cross tattooed on his forehead and tears tattooed under his eye, sat next to his attorneys and often wrote in a notebook during the proceedings before Judge Ronna L. Beck.

Martin’s lead attorney, Dana Page of the District’s Public Defender Service, argued that her client had stopped taking his medication in 2010 and had “lost control.” Page has argued that her client’s family, including the victim, had a history a mental illness.

Page is no stranger to defending individuals charged with murder who have been evaluated for mental illness. Page currently represents Albrecht Muth, 48, the Georgetown man charged with the 2011 fatal beating of his 91-year-old socialite wife, Viola Herms Drath. That trial is scheduled for December. Page also represents Michael Davis, the 20-year-old Petworth man charged with assaulting five people with a hammer last summer, killing a Denver tourist.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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