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Michael scott martin

Michael Martin

Real Name: Michael Scott Martin
Case: Appeal
Location: Garland, Texas
Date: July 14, 1979


Details: Michael Martin claims he was wrongly convicted of robbing a gas station in Garland, Texas. At 7pm on July 14, 1979, a man entered the gas station's office and drew a gun on Doyle, the eighteen-year-old attendant, who was closing up for the day. When the man first came through the door, he shook the gun at Doyle and threatened to kill him if he did not comply. Doyle realized that what was happening was real. The man struck Doyle with the gun and taped his hands behind his back. He took $400 and then left the station.
The incident took about ten minutes, but Doyle's key eyewitness testimony would eventually put Michael in prison for life. He feels that the traumatic experience will stick with him for the rest of his life. He also does not believe he will ever forget the man who did it. He identified his attacker as Michael, then a twenty-six-year-old welder. Five other witnesses, however, swore that Michael could not have robbed the gas station. They claim he spent the whole day at his home in Lake Worth, Texas, seventy miles away.
Michael considers the whole thing "ridiculous". He maintains that he was at his house in Lake Worth working on a motorcycle and watching TV while the gas station robbery was occurring. He claims he has never robbed anything in his life.
Michael was arrested, tried, and convicted of armed robbery. Because of a previous arrest, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole until 1999. He has already served eight years and still maintains his innocence. He feels like he is about to give up because he has run out of options. He has gone all the way to the Supreme Court to fight his conviction. He hopes and prays that he will be able to prove his innocence someday.
The case against Michael was based entirely on eyewitness identification that placed him at the scene of the crime. There was never any physical evidence connecting him to the robbery. No fingerprints were found. The money was never recovered. And the gun still has not been located. He insists that he has been wrongly imprisoned.
Michael had a clean record until he was twenty-six. In early 1979, seven months before the gas station robbery, he was arrested after an altercation in a supermarket. He and a friend had been drinking and were seen eating Polish sausage and potato chips from the supermarket's shelves. When the manager threatened to call the police, Michael panicked, and the incident escalated into violence.
The manager told Michael and his friend to stay there while he contacted the police. Michael told the manager that they were not going to stay. He then put some money on the counter and said it would cover everything. However, the manager insisted that they wait there. Michael then pulled out a knife and pointed it at the manager and two other employees, saying, "You want some of this?"
Michael is not sure why he pulled the knife. He believes it may have been a desire to get away from the manager and get out of there. He also believes that alcohol impaired his judgment. After he and his friend fled the store, they went to his car. He then pulled out a gun and fired several shots into the air. He claims that he fired the shots over their heads and did not intend to hurt anyone. He claims it was an "adolescent stunt" that he never should have done.
Detective Dennis Wheatley, however, felt that the incident was serious and not a "prank". Former prosecutor Brad Lollar did not understand why Michael got "outrageously" angry when asked to pay for the food. He notes that there was testimony that Michael was intoxicated at the time. However, he still does not understand why Michael would go to such lengths to avoid paying for food.
Michael pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. He was fined and given four years' probation. Then, at 7pm on July 14, 1979, just two weeks after his probation began, the gas station was robbed. The gunman stole over $400 and fled the scene of the crime in Doyle's car. Fifteen minutes later, at 7:15pm, a police unit spotted the stolen car outside of the Willow Apartments, a nearby apartment building where Michael had lived until only a month before.
At approximately 7:25pm, Detective Wheatley, who had investigated the supermarket incident, claims he saw Michael in his blue Camaro, three blocks from the gas station. The two crossed paths at an intersection where Wheatley was making a left turn. He was certain that it was Michael, as he was very close to the Camaro's driver's side window when the sighting occurred.
Detective Wheatley asked to be assigned to the gas station robbery case. He suspected that Michael may have been involved. The following day, he showed Doyle a series of five mugshots. Doyle initially failed to identify anyone. When the photos were reshuffled, he said he "thought" Michael was the gunman. Detective Wheatley asked him, "You think he's the man, or you're sure he's the man?" He then said he was "sure" Michael was the gunman. Detective Wheatley felt that Doyle was a great witness for the case.
Michael was arrested, charged with aggravated armed robbery, and held without bail. He remembers that the experience was depressing. However, he was sure that he would be able to prove his innocence, especially with the witnesses he had that would prove he was not in Garland.
Michael claimed he was in Lake Worth, seventy miles away from Garland, at the time of the robbery. Five separate witnesses, three of whom hardly knew him, substantiated his claim. Their testimony was the crux of his defense. His two housemates said he was home at the time of the robbery. George MacFarlane claims that on the day of the robbery, he was working on his car while Michael worked on his motorcycle. The only time Michael was not there that day was when he left between 2 and 4pm to get parts. According to Yvonne Ansley, Michael was there with her and George at the time of the robbery.
When Jack Grissom left his house that day between 6 and 6:30pm, he saw Michael outside of his own house, working on his motorcycle. They waved to each other, and Jack left. He was surprised to learn that Michael had been arrested since he had seen Michael so close to the time of the robbery. Mike Pettigrew saw Michael in Lake Worth at around 6pm. He claims it would have been impossible for Michael to drive from Lake Worth to Garland within an hour.
George recalls that he wanted to watch Battlestar Galactica that night, which started at 7pm. He, Yvonne, and Michael all watched it together that night. If George and Yvonne were telling the truth, it would be impossible for Michael to be robbing the gas station at the same time.
Michael's trial hinged on the issue of who the jury would believe: the two prosecution eyewitnesses or the five defense eyewitnesses. The trial was held in the same courtroom where he had received his probation two months earlier. The turning point came when his supermarket conviction was admitted into the court record, possibly prejudicing the jury against him.
Prosecutor Brad Lollar is not sure if they would have gotten a guilty verdict in the robbery case if the jury had not known about the supermarket incident. He believes that it influenced the jury. He knows that his witnesses were positive in their testimony. He also knows that the defense witnesses were positive in their testimony. He says it was one of those cases where he simply had to put out all the facts and let the jury make their decision.
It took the jury only fifteen minutes to find Michael guilty of armed robbery. They gave him the maximum sentence possible under the law: life imprisonment. He has to serve twenty years before he can be paroled. He does not believe he received a fair trial or sentence. Lollar notes that if a person is on probation for a felony offense and goes out and commits an aggravated robbery like the one Michael was convicted of, he has no problem with him serving a life sentence -- if he is guilty.
"If he is guilty" -- those words have troubled Lollar for years. Could the jury have put a man behind bars who was innocent? It has always bothered him that they were not able to come up with "the clincher" in the case. None of the fingerprints found at the scene or on the getaway car belonged to Michael. None of the stolen items were ever recovered. There was nothing that conclusively tied Michael to the robbery besides the eyewitness testimony. For that reason, Lollar has always had a bit of doubt left in his mind about the case.
Doyle is still sure that he put the right man in jail. George, however, points out that it would not make sense why five people, three of whom barely knew Michael, would lie in a court of law to protect him. At the time of the trial, Lollar leaned toward believing Michael was guilty. Now, he is not so sure. He thought Doyle was positive in his identification. But also, Michael's witnesses were positive that they were with him at the time of the robbery, seventy miles away. He feels that it is one of those cases that they will never know the true answer.
Michael still has at least eleven more years to serve in prison. The groundswell of doubt about his guilt has had no effect. He has never stopped trying to prove his innocence because he is not sure what else he has to do other than sit in prison. He says that he can really appreciate what freedom is now that it has been taken away from him. He wants that back and hopes that someone can help him prove his innocence.
Michael is running out of hope. He has exhausted all of his appeals and has no legal options left. Yet, he still maintains his innocence and believes that the man who committed the robbery has gotten away scot-free.
Extra Notes:

  • This case originally aired on the February 5, 1988 Special #5 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
  • It was later re-profiled in the Dennis Farina hosted series on the August 14, 2009 episode.
  • It was titled "Sixty Miles" in reference to the distance between Lake Worth and Garland, Texas.
  • Doyle appeared in silhouette for the broadcast and his full name was not revealed.
  • According to Prosecutor Brad Lollar, Michael's five witnesses all failed polygraph tests.

Results: Unresolved - In 1999, Michael was released from prison after serving twenty years. However, he will remain on parole for the rest of his life. He still hopes to prove his innocence.