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Martín Rodriguez: Tortured in the San Jose Main Jail
by Peter Maiden (pmaiden [at]
Saturday Jan 15th, 2005 6:21 PM
Martín Rodriguez, pictured below with his wife and two youngest children, says he was tortured in the San Jose Main Jail while spending 115 days there on dubious drug charges. His public defender demanded he plead guilty and he is seeking adequate representation for a plea of innocent. His cause has been taken up by the Barrio Defense Committee of San Jose.
The Barrio Defense Committee in San Jose passes out cards in the community urging people to know their rights if they come in contact with the police. Martín Rodriguez got one of those cards. He contacted the committee and they began to publicize what had happened to him in the San Jose Main Jail after his questionable arrest last summer in East San Jose. Under the auspices of the Committee, Martín told the following story, in Spanish, to indybay.

Martín’s twelve year-old son had gotten involved in some gang activities. Late in the evening of Saturday, July 10, 2004, Martín was drinking beer when he heard on the grapevine that there would soon be a gang fight and his son could be involved. Martín’s nephew, who was sober, offered to drive him, and they went to a gang hangout where Martín found his son. Shortly afterwards two police cars arrived and the gang kids scattered. Martín said the youths were escaping because they held drugs. “As that is their life,” he noted.

Martín said he and his son did not run. The officers detained them, but were on the verge of letting them go when another police car pulled up. The Sergeant in that car, from the middle of the dark street, claimed he saw Martín empty a small rose-colored packet of white powder onto the sidewalk. Martín insists the packet was on the ground already, left by one of the fleeing kids. He said it would have been impossible for him to empty the packet with one hand, as it was alleged he did. He added that two officers standing next to him did not see him emptying or dropping anything from his hand.

Martín was arrested on methamphetamine charges: possession, possession for sale, being under the influence, and supplying his son with the drug. Two of these charges were later dropped. His son tested negative for drugs so the charge that he supplied his son with meth was dropped. The sales charge was based in his carrying $1,925 in cash. He provided receipts for the cash, which came from the sale of a car and a money transfer from Mexico, and that charge was dropped. But Martín said he is still charged with possession and being under the influence. He tested positive for amphetamine, something he disputes. That test result was produced in court for the first time four months after his arrest, and was said to be from a blood test, while Martín said he was only given a urine test. The prosecution then said it was a mistake to say blood, and the test was in fact urine, but still gave the result as positive. He believes the test was bungled. Or fabricated as a way of backing up the cops’ unfounded assertions regarding his arrest, and covering up the violence against him that followed in the San Jose Main Jail.

In booking, Martín was given a form to sign saying he had given the police the $1,925 that was in his wallet. He put a dot between the one and the nine on the form, using an old-styled Mexican form of punctuation he thought clarified the amount. The booking Sergeant questioned why Martín did that, and Martín explained. The Sergeant then asked, “What are you going to show me next, how to use drugs like you showed your son?” Martín said, “He got very angry when I said it wasn’t like that, that he would have to prove it. Barking the command ‘Break it! Break it!’ he ordered the officers who were there to start beating me … [When they did] I didn’t want to say anything, I closed my eyes, and I told myself ‘It doesn’t hurt! It doesn’t hurt! It’ll be over soon!’”

Martín soiled himself. The officers called him “asshole” for that, and then they dragged him forty feet to a chair, where they chained him down. A very large officer—Martín said he was over six feet tall and over 300 pounds—then tortured Martín by pulling his head down to his chest and bearing down with his full weight. “I couldn’t breathe,” Martín said. “I felt they were killing me, breaking me.” After a good while of this mistreatment he was processed and brought into the jail.

In his cell, Martín said, he was given painkillers for the injuries caused by his beating and torture. Then after a couple of weeks they took him off the pills and he had a bad reaction. He could no longer sleep or eat, and he began talking incessantly. He began to hallucinate. “I lost touch with reality,” he said. “I had read the bible a lot, and I thought I was David. I thought I was Cuauhtemoc, whose history I had read, and I thought I was Montezuma.”

Martín was taken to the eighth floor of the jail, to the mental ward. His family could no longer see him. He continued to refuse food, and medicine; he had come to believe he was going to be poisoned. The staff must have decided he needed to be controlled and on August 22, he said, he was again beaten and tortured.

According to Martín, he was pulled out of his padded cell by six guards who immediately attacked him. He was hit on the head and body with batons. They tore off his clothes with such force he was afraid he would be raped. They took him to a wooden bed, where he was held down with straps on his wrists and ankles. At least one officer humiliated him by handling his penis. They had shields, which they pressed against his head, forcing it against the wooden bed, until he thought it would burst. There were moments when he felt that if he did not maintain pressure back against the pressure from the shields, his neck would snap.

The abuse went on for fifteen or twenty minutes. Martín said there were a lot of people around. No one took his side. There was a female dressed in civilian clothes present, whom Martín said laughed at his predicament. Others made jokes, he said, including a gay male nurse. “They break your body and your soul,” said Martín.

Martín now wonders if his madness was caused by the pain medication or by the blows he received in booking. He also wonders why they couldn’t find any humane way of subduing him, such as a tranquilizer dart or a taser. [Note: tranquilizer darts can be lethal, and Amnesty International considers tasers dangerous]. “There are many forms of corruption in the jail system, affecting many people,” he said in retrospect. “They are very cruel there; they have no heart.”

“Psychologically,” Martín concluded, “I will never be entirely well.”

Altogether Martín spent around 115 days in the San Jose Main Jail. He is now out on bail awaiting trial on the two charges remaining, possession of meth and being under the influence. Because of his injuries he is in constant back and head pain, and for that reason he cannot go back to his job in construction. He now fixes old cars and sells them to eke out a living. His first public defender would not allow him to plead innocent, and he is trying a new one. But he doesn’t trust the public defenders and hopes someone will help him get pro bono representation by a private attorney. He also hopes he can get a decent psychological evaluation, which he cannot currently afford.

To support Martín, contact Quetza at the Barrio Defense Committee: barriodefens [at]

Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Martin Rodriguez: Tortured . . .Peter MaidenMonday Aug 22nd, 2005 12:49 AM
It's pretty sadJay XThursday Mar 10th, 2005 10:36 AM
BASTILLE DAY......Friday Jan 21st, 2005 11:09 PM
More good investigative reportingGlenSunday Jan 16th, 2005 6:50 AM

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