Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Allan J. Webster described the scene for jurors: a defendant sitting outside a prosecutor's house, taking notes about the home, its entrances and even the family dog.
"That is a prosecutor's worst nightmare," he said yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court. " ... For most people we deal with, it's a job. They look at it as a job. End of story. Michael Martin doesn't believe that."
Martin, 46, of Lutherville, is charged with trying to hire an inmate in the Baltimore County jail to kill the prosecutor who handled a 2005 sex-abuse case against him, injure another prosecutor, break the knees of a police detective and set fire to the home of an elderly woman who had told people at Martin's church about the abuse case.
Witness intimidation has been identified as a problem in Baltimore County, and Martin was sentenced to 12 years in prison after a civilian Police Department employee involved in the abuse investigation received a chilling e-mail. But the case being heard yesterday in Towson closely resembled one from six years ago when a robber was accused of targeting a prosecutor and judge.
In that case, a man awaiting sentencing for three armed robberies was convicted of soliciting the murder of the judge in the case. That judge, Dana M. Levitz, is presiding over Martin's current trial.
In addition to being accused of plotting against the prosecutors, police and others involved in his prior cases, Martin is also charged with soliciting the murder of a developer who had proposed building a child learning center.
If convicted of the murder solicitation charges, he could face a sentence of up to life in prison.
Defense attorney Steven J. Scheinin told jurors in his opening statement yesterday that the alleged murder solicitations were the unintended consequence of one man complaining in jail to another. He described the inmate who agreed to wear a wire to record a conversation with Martin as a career criminal who was trying to get out of jail.
Martin, who has worked as an information technology specialist, pleaded guilty in January 2006 to a fourth-degree sex offense against a girl when she was 9 and 10 years old. The girl told authorities that Martin inappropriately touched her and showed her pictures of scantily clad children on his computer, according to court documents. A Police Department civilian computer expert found pictures on Martin's computer similar to those the girl described.
Shortly after Martin's guilty plea in the sex-abuse case, the computer expert got two threatening e-mails from an untraceable source that made reference to his sister, a Towson University employee, court records show. One read, "u admit to tampering with evidence and [the sister] makes it through the semester. U don't and bets are off," according to the documents.
Also, a woman who told members of Martin's church that he was a sex offender, got an anonymous call from a person who said in part, "I didn't know you had grandbabies," court records show.
On Feb. 1, 2006, police searched Martin's car and found a loaded shotgun, a large combat knife and directions to the homes of the computer expert and a relative of the woman who had received the call about her grandchildren.
Martin pleaded guilty last December to obstruction of justice and related charges and was sentenced a month later to one year in prison for the sexual offense and 12 more years in the obstruction of justice case.
But before the sentencing, Timothy Bryce, an inmate at the Baltimore County Detention Center, called county police about Martin, his cellmate at the jail. Police fit Bryce with microphones and a digital recorder that he could wear under his jumpsuit, Craig Schrott, a county homicide detective, testified yesterday. Bryce returned to the jail's administrative offices with a scrap of paper with three names and locations scrawled on it, the detective said.
The list included Jason League, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the abuse case against Martin, a developer who wanted to build a KinderCare learning center in Martin's neighborhood and the 72-year-old woman who told parishioners at Martin's church about the allegations in the abuse case, according to court records and Webster's opening statement yesterday to jurors.
On the recording of the two-hour conversation between the cellmates, Martin agreed that the best way "to do" the developer would be in "an armed robbery gone bad," according to charging documents in the case.
Martin said, "It'd be great if something happened" to the elderly woman - whom he described as "a meddling old [expletive] who's going to die in a few years anyway" - before his Jan. 25 sentencing hearing, according to the charging document. He made clear that he wanted to scare the woman but did not want her to die, according to the charging documents.
And he described the area around League's home, including "what he considered a 'good vantage' point for Bryce," according to the charging documents.
Investigators found evidence on Martin's computers that the defendant had searched the Internet for information about some of his alleged targets as well as directions to their homes, a forensic computer examiner with the county Police Department testified. Police also found on the computers photographs of the elderly woman's house and of the building where Baltimore County police Detective Judy Duncan worked, the computer examiner said.
Martin wanted Duncan's knees broken and prosecutor John Cox castrated - although he told Bryce that he would take care of them himself "at some point," according to charging documents.
"The efforts that the defendant went through are frightening," Webster told jurors during his opening statement.
But the defense attorney asked jurors to listen carefully to the recording made in the jail cell shared by his client and Bryce, a man who has used at least 18 different aliases while racking up a lengthy criminal record.
"You hear Michael Martin saying, 'Yeah, yeah. Oh, that sounds good,'" Scheinin quoted his client as saying, rather than Martin making specific requests for people to be killed or hurt.
The defense also asked jurors to pay attention to the moment when he said Martin tells his cellmate, "This is all hypothetical. I really don't want anyone hurt."
Webster, the prosecutor, acknowledged in his opening statement that Bryce is not someone he would invite to Thanksgiving dinner. He also told jurors that the jailhouse informant won't take the witness stand during the trial.
"Most criminals will behave like criminals," Webster told the jury. "He was released on bail pending this case -and he's gone. We've looked for him."
Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.