Giving the defense a boost, one of the accused killers of John Laubach took the stand and testified that the 57-year-old was accidently choked to death during sex.
“I thought Edwin killed him accidently,” Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera told a Manhattan jury on October 16.
Allegedly, Martinez-Herrera, 30, and Edwin Faulkner, 33, bound Laubach and covered his face with the duct tape that caused him to choke to death. He was found dead in his Chelsea apartment in March 2012. The couple, who had been having sex in exchange for money with Laubach for some time, robbed his apartment and fled to Florida where they were arrested roughly two weeks after Laubach’s body was discovered. They were brought back to New York City.
Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera says victim asked Edwin Faulkner to choke him and was bound, face covered with tape postmortem
In Martinez-Herrera’s recounting, Laubach confronted them after he discovered that Faulkner had been stealing from him. During the fight, Laubach held a knife to the younger man’s throat while demanding that they return the property. The property was returned and days later they were back to having sex with Laubach, who they called Jack.
On March 2, they arrived at Laubach’s home early in the morning. Martinez-Herrera was showering, and Faulkner was shaving. Laubach was watching Martinez-Herrera. They moved to the living room where Laubach asked Faulkner to choke him while he performed oral sex on the younger man.
“Mens like different things,” Martinez-Herrera said. “Jack liked to get choked when he sucked my dick.”
Exhausted from little sleep for three days, Martinez-Herrera closed his eyes and only opened them when he felt Laubach’s teeth on his penis.
“I opened my eyes and Jack looked purple and blue,” Martinez-Herrera said, adding that he said to Faulkner. “Edwin, Edwin, something is wrong with Jack.”
Martinez-Herrera said he checked Laubach’s pulse and could not find one. He tried to revive him by holding a rag soaked with alcohol and then another soaked with bleach under Laubach’s nose. He told Faulkner they had to call the police.
“Jack don’t got no pulse,” Martinez-Herrera said he told Faulkner. “I started crying. I said ‘Edwin, we got to call the police.’”
Faulkner, who is a convicted felon and was on parole at the time, responded that the police would not believe the death was an accident.
“Mommy, I’m black and I’m on parole,” Martinez-Herrera said Faulkner replied. “The police aren’t going to believe me.”
While the testimony will allow the defense to argue that the death was an accident, and not murder, the defense was barred by Bonnie Wittner, the judge in the case, from arguing that Laubach died during kinky sex, which is what Faulkner asserted in a long statement that he gave to police after his arrest. The prosecution is not using the statement, and no other evidence has come in to support the kinky sex theory.
The couple bound Laubach’s hands and feet, moving so quickly that Martinez-Herrera cut a lamp’s electrical cord with power running through it leaving a burn mark on the knife. The cord was used to tie Laubach’s hands. They wrapped duct tape around Laubach’s face. Faulkner grabbed two suitcases from Laubach’s closet, and they filled them with the dead man’s possessions. Because the defense cannot ask about kinky sex, the jury heard no explanation from Martinez-Herrera as to why they tied up Laubach.
“You want us to believe that you were tying up a dead man?” Lanita Hobbs, the assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case (with Juan Abreu, also an assistant district attorney), asked Martinez-Herrera, who said, “Yes.”
The two are charged with second-degree murder in that they acted with depraved indifference, but did not intend to kill Laubach; felony murder, based on causing Laubach’s death in the course of committing another felony; and kidnapping and robbery, the charges that form the basis for the felony murder charge.
The defense theory, and the lawyers for the two men may ultimately assert more than one theory, is that Laubach was dead before the couple bound him and robbed him. Legally, it is not possible to rob or kidnap a dead person so those charges and the felony murder charge would not stand. The defense has asked that the depraved indifference murder charge be dismissed, a request that has a reasonable basis in New York law, where there is precedent for finding that depraved indifference does not apply when there is only one victim.
On October 19, the defense will call an expert to the stand who is expected to challenge testimony from the prosecution’s expert, Dr. Jason Graham, the first deputy chief in the city medical examiner’s office.
Graham asserted that Laubach died from asphyxiation that was caused by the tape placed on his face. Laubach had “recent injuries” to his head and an elbow that could have occurred during a struggle and his body showed no evidence of a heart attack or being strangled or choked.
In advance of that testimony, the defense submitted a report from the expert that described eight causes that could have led to Laubach’s death, including a possible heart attack.
“He’s going to say that the cause of death is a cardio-arrhythmia event and the manner is undetermined,” said Daniel Parker, Martinez-Herrera’s attorney, after the jury was dismissed for the day. The cause of death is what killed a person and the manner of death is categorized as homicide, suicide, accident, or natural.
Over Parker’s objections, Wittner limited the expert’s testimony to just that and said the doctor could not discuss Laubach’s treatment for depression, two earlier suicide attempts, matters related to paraphilias, which are sexual attractions involving kinky or violent behavior, and his HIV status.
“He’s making up eight different scenarios,” Wittner said. “It’s not consistent with anything in this case.”