After delivering a poetic, Scripture-laced denunciation of the Arlington County prosecutors who secured his first-degree murder conviction, Javon Martin was sentenced to 27 years in prison Thursday for fatally stabbing Arlington resident Carl Diener.
“The evil that you do comes to light, so I’m bringing that to light now,” he said. “It takes a coward to hide behind the government, hide behind the law.”
Martin, 26, has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 2011. His cousin Roger Clark III pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last year in the 2009 slaying and testified to Martin’s involvement in exchange for a sentence capped at 25 years.
“This is my test of faith,” Martin told his family, who gathered for his sentencing. To the prosecutors, he said, “Learn from this and get attuned to your higher self.”
Martin, of Northwest Washington, was found guilty in February. Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo imposed the jury’s recommended sentence, which was at the low end of the sentencing guidelines for the robbery and murder. Martin was also ordered to serve six years of supervised release after he leaves prison.
The killing occurred in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 29, 2009. The two cousins, who had been out with friends, lost money gambling and wanted to make up for it with some fast cash, prosecutors said at the trial.
They drove into Arlington and spotted someone who they thought was an easy target — Diener, who was on his way to his job at a local gym, prosecutors said. But when Clark tried to grab Diener’s gym bag, the athletic 57-year-old fought back, and Martin got out of their car and intervened, fatally stabbing Diener, Clark testified.
Clark then went through Diener’s pockets and Martin grabbed the bag, which contained $50, prosecutors said.
About three months before Diener’s slaying, Clark was arrested in a robbery and assault in Annapolis, according to online court records. Investigators matched DNA found in the pockets of Diener’s sweatpants to a sample from Clark collected by police in Maryland.
Martin’s attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case rested solely on Clark’s testimony, noting that there was no direct evidence tying Martin to the killing. In seeking a shorter sentence for their client, they pointed to Martin's volunteer work at Maya Angelou Public Charter School, his attendance at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, his work history and his talent as a rapper.
Diener was a neighborhood fixture, a gregarious man who exercised regularly and enjoyed a circle of friends at the gym. He walked to work before sunrise, greeting the early birds who worked out every morning.
A bench and a tennis backboard in Lyon Village Park are inscribed in Diener’s memory. The backboard was paid for with money raised by Girl Scout Addison Snidle, who lived two blocks from where Diener was killed.