Voice of the people: Donna Smith




Setting the record straight


On Thursday of last week I was interviewed by local media outlets after Christina Martinez pleaded guilty to second degree murder. I most often refuse media requests for comment, but I was still caught up in that moment and agreed. Ultimately, I failed to give credit where it is due. I want to set the record straight.


Attorney Jay Hurdle, of Starkville, has been lead counsel on this case for almost two years. Jay has invested hundreds -- if not thousands -- of hours in this case over those years, and is more intimately familiar with it than anyone. He has lugged around tens of thousands of pages of discovery supplied by the State, indexed that discovery, and collated into a format which made it much easier to become immersed in this case. His dedication to this case, and his critical organization of over 60,000 pages of information, are the only reasons I was able to quickly familiarize myself with the in's and out's of the Martinez case.



Jay had developed a strong, trusting relationship with Mrs. Martinez long before I was appointed to assist him about four months ago. She relies heavily on his legal expertise and knowledge of this very, very complex case. Although Mrs. Martinez seemed to respond more openly to my questions than either Jay or I expected, that was most likely because of the new perspectives I, as a woman and a lawyer, brought to her defense team.


In over three decades in criminal defense, I have learned that timing can be everything. Recent changes in staffing at the DA's office and new statements from witnesses, among other things, made last week ripe for movement in this case. After almost daily meetings between Jay, Mrs. Martinez, and myself over the last three weeks, Christina made the difficult, wrenching decision to plead guilty. This was due, in no small part, to Jay Hurdle's extensive knowledge of the facts and minutia of the case.


It was never my intention to infer or imply Christina Martinez pleaded guilty only because she connected with me as a female. That connection was important but it was by no means the only reason she pleaded. Jay Hurdle's representation of Mrs. Martinez was -- and continues to be -- exemplary.


I apologize to Jay for not giving him the credit he is due in this case, and for unintentionally inferring that Mrs. Martinez pleaded guilty because a woman was appointed to her defense team. Without Jay Hurdle's expertise and familiarity with the case, we would still be preparing for a two-week trial, and Mrs. Martinez would still be facing life in prison, a much worse outcome than she can now expect.


Jay, I'm sorry, and I hope that I've accurately set this record straight.


Donna S. Smith







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