Joe D. Martin
January Spotlight In December 1995, there was a drive-by shooting at a Nashville, TN market. The shooting left Kevin Robinson shot in the leg and 12-year-old Jeremiah Warfield dead. Within 48 hours of the shooting police released the names of three possible suspects, brothers Shaun and LaDonte' Smith and their cousin, Gary Jordan. A "manhunt" for the three suspects ensued. Approximately two weeks later the name of Ms. Vera Ashby was released as a fourth suspect. Ms. Ashby was the girlfriend of Dallas Smith, another Smith brother.
In January, 1996 Gary Jordan turned himself in to police. No more than two weeks later, LaDonte' Smith turned himself into juvenile detention, as he was a minor at that time. Shaun Smith remained at large.
In February 1996, the name of Joe D. Martin, Jr. was released as an additional suspect. Mr. Martin agreed to meet and speak with police about being considered a possible suspect and was subsequently placed under arrest. A five-count indictment had been issued charging him with one count of 1st degree murder, one count of 1st degree felony murder, two counts of attempted 1st degree murder and one count of facilitation.
In June,1996 Shaun Smith was taken into custody.
In August, 1996 only six months after his arrest, Joe Martin goes on trial by jury, with two of the four co-defendants Shaun and LaDonte' Smith. The district attorney filed and was granted a motion for joinder of cases. Vera Ashby and Gary Jordan's cases however were severed. The state brought several witnesses (15-20 approximately), however only two of the witnesses offered any statement connecting Joe Martin to the crimes.
Co-defendant turned state witness, Gary Jordan testified that he, Shaun Smith, LaDonte' Smith, and Joe Martin all fired weapons at Kevin Robinson as he walked into the market. State witness, Arnett Hayes testified that he loaned Shaun Smith the vehicle used in the drive-by shooting. Hayes also testified that he witnessed Shaun Smith, LaDonte' Smith, Gary Jordan, and Joe Martin leave Vera Ashby and Dallas Smith's residence with guns and ski mask.
State witness and victims Kevin Robinson and Tim Miller discrepantly testified that not only had they never met Joe Martin, but that they had never even seen him before. Joe Martin offered an alibi defense to the charges and testified that he was home on the day of the crime and had prepared dinner for his, live-in girlfriend, Angelina Majors. He also testified that he had never met the Smith brothers, Gary Jordan, Arnett Hayes, or the two victims of the attempted murders, Kevin Robinson and Timothy Miller.
Alibi witnesses, Angelina Majors and Eboni McAllister testified that Joe was in fact at home and had prepared dinner when they arrived home from work on that day.
After a week-long trial the jury returned a verdict of guilty in the 1st degree premeditated murder, guilty of attempted 1st degree murder of Kevin Robinson and guilty of attempted 2nd degree murder of Timothy Miller, against Joe Martin. The jury sentenced Joe Martin to LIFE with possibility of parole after 51 years.Later at the sentencing hearing, the court used enhancement factors and sentenced Martin 20 years for the attempted 1st degree murder charges and 10 years for the attempted 2nd degree murder charges, to run concurrent to each other, but consecutive to the LIFE sentence. This left Joe Martin with a LIFE plus 20-year sentence.
Shaun and LaDonte' Smith received convictions for premeditated 1st degree murder and two counts each of attempted 1st degree murder. This left the Smith brothers with LIFE plus 25 years and LIFE plus 17 years, respectively.