A San Diego appeals court has ordered the release of convicted rapist Steven Martinez, 42 because keeping him in prison costs too much. His estimated yearly cost to California taxpayers is $675,000, and he is expected to live another 10-20 years. According to his attorney, “If he lives another 20 years, without adjusting for inflation, the citizens of California can expect to pay $10 million to continue to incarcerate him.” Under the medical parole program inmates that are too injured or too sick can to escape can be paroled to hospitals or nursing homes, so that their cost is split between the state and the federal government. Technically, it seems that Martinez would still be an inmate, but a new state law eliminates the requirement to guard prisoners who are too injured or too sick to escape.
The parole board initially denied his medical parole stating that even paralyzed he remains a threat to the public. They cited verbal assaults and threats he made against his prison caretakers, and concluded, “Martinez’s mental state remains unchanged. He remains a violent person capable of using others to carry out his threats.” The board’s denial was overturned this week by the court. He will be released pending a 10-day review by the board.
Martinez was originally convicted for a particularly brutal 1998 rape of a girl, 13, whom he hit with his car as she was leaving a nightclub with a friend. “After grabbing the incapacitated woman by the throat and punching her in the face, breaking her nose, Martinez placed her in the back seat of the car and drove to a secluded location, where he forcibly committed various sexual acts upon the battered and bloodied woman.” In other words, he beat her, kidnapped her and raped her repeatedly. Martinez was convicted on charges of force or fear, oral copulation with a minor under 14 years of age, sexual penetration of victim with foreign object by force. He was sentenced to 157 years to life.
In 2001 Martinez was attacked by two inmates and stabbed in the neck. The shiv damaged his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed, a quadriplegic for life. Now the prisoner that court officials have described as “an angry, repulsive person” will no longer be guarded, so those costs are eliminated, and the state will only pay half his medical costs. This decision is undeniably a win for Martinez, but whether it is a win for the public remains to be seen.
Martinez is 48th prisoner to be freed under the medical parole program. So far six applicants have been denied release. There are reportedly about 30 other applicants under consideration for medical parole.