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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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10/13/2013 6:00:00 AM
Man who killed neighbor for trespassing faces 10-25 years
Philip John Martin
Philip John Martin
Special to the Courier

KINGMAN - State laws allow Arizonans to defend themselves and their property. It does not, however, give Arizonans the right to use lethal force when an unarmed neighbor simply walks past your "no trespassing" sign.

That's the message a Mohave County jury sent on Thursday when it found Philip John Martin, 61, guilty of second-degree murder in the Oct. 18, 2012, shotgun shooting of Steven Schwartz, 55.

"We're not talking about something insignificant here," said prosecutor James Schoppmann in his closing argument. "We're talking about the right to kill."

Schoppmann pointed out inconsistent testimony between what Martin said at his trial and what he told an investigator with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office the night of the killing.

Martin told jurors he was in fear for his life the day he shot Schwartz, but Schoppmann said the victim gave him no reason to think that was the case.

Martin, who lives in a trailer on Elgin Road in Golden Valley, did not like people driving past his property to get to a wash that was popular with people who operate all-terrain vehicles.

He would place railroad ties and debris in the road to block it or at least force motorists to drive around the obstacles.

Schwartz had just removed the debris and told his friend he was going to go talk to Martin about the obstructions in the road.

As Schwartz approached Martin's house, he made it about 60 feet from the road when Martin shot him in the torso with a 12-guage shotgun loaded with double-ought buckshot.

The dying man told a sheriff's deputy that Martin was the shooter.

Martin told a deputy, his sister and others that he fired a warning shot before he shot Schwartz, who kept coming up the driveway. Schwartz was about 45 feet from Martin's trailer when Martin, who was standing in his living room, fired through the window.

Martin later recanted the statement, saying he gave Schwartz "his warning shot" about a month earlier.

But if Schwartz and Martin were in a feud, nobody told Schwartz. He left his partially loaded .45-caliber handgun in his Jeep.

He even left the Leatherman knife he kept in a scabbard on his belt in the Jeep when he approached Martin's home.

Martin seemed to put great stock in a "no trespassing" sign he placed on the property, a point Schoppmann picked up in his closing. Holding the sign up for jurors to see, Schoppman said, "This is not a license to kill."

While Schoppmann sought a conviction of first-degree murder, the jury did not think the killing was premeditated.

Jurors did find, however, that Martin's crime was aggravated by the fact he used a deadly weapon. There's also the emotional harm the killing had on Schwartz's children, Steven, 28, and Victoria, 22.

Those aggravating factors could play a role when Judge Derek Carlisle sentences Martin at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 8.

As things stand now, Martin, who has no criminal record, will serve between 10 and 25 years in prison. Because the crime is considered a dangerous crime under Arizona law, Martin must serve all of his sentence.

"Pretty dang worried," said Schoppman when asked if he was afraid the jury would not reach a verdict, given Martin's self-protection defense.

"This was the case where we could say in Arizona we have these rights, but in this case, with these facts - this was the case to say, 'This in not who we are.'"

Doug McMurdo is a reporter with the Kingman Daily Miner.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Article comment by: Give'm Hell Harry

Sorry Doug, where is the law that restricts gun ownership to SANE and RESPONSIBLE people? Where is the law that stops the crazy people from going to a gun show and buying any gun they want without a background check? Where is the law that requires a mental health evaluation for gun ownership? The current laws won't even allow the terrorist watch list to be used in background checks! Since you said "I prefer to place the guilt on the actor and not the tool", then you MUST agree with everything I just said. Restrict the person pulling the trigger and not the gun! Now that's just common sense!

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013
Article comment by: Doug Graham

Actually Give 'em Hell, there are plenty of laws already on the books against willful homicide, In this case, they succeeded in convicting the killer. You seem to want to blame the firearm for the crime, while I prefer to place the guilt on the actor and not the tool. That is "common sense".

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013
Article comment by: Give'm Hell Harry

Another senseless gun death by a paranoid and deranged gun owner is the norm these days. And yet you act so sensitive! Get used to it, as long as you insist that there is no reason to enact common sense gun and mental health legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of the nuts like Phillip Martin it is going to continue.

Alan, if you think he is a Democrat, you are as crazy as he is!

And Typical: I think the family of the victim is more concerned with a gun culture politics that puts guns in the hands of crazy people like Martin. That's why I know its wrong and you don't! Common sense isn't very common for people like you!

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

No Alan, when something is funny I know like saying that Retired LEO's should stick to rating donut shops.

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Gus Patrick posted:

"Yes Alan Whitney, because we all know that Republicans are vastly superior to anyone or anything else on the planet!"

Well shucks, Gus... Were ya BORN without a senseayuma, or did you somehow loose it along the way?

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Rob S

Looks like he was just following vice-president Joe Biden's advice “If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun,”
Biden said in an interview with Parents Magazine back in February.

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Typical !

Stay classy Give'm Hell Harry. I am sure the family of the victim will be thrilled you can use their misery for a cheap political shot. One more reason I'm not a liberal, my parents actually taught me right from wrong.

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Confused

He was trying to protect himself from an unarmed man because he was afraid. Now that is what I call fear!

He stood his ground...and he will never touch a gun again.

At least he is safe prison.

Hey Doug Mcmurdo, did he pass background check?

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

Yes Alan Whitney, because we all know that Republicans are vastly superior to anyone or anything else on the planet!

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Life In Prison

10-25 years is all a life is worth? How disgusting.

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: @ Give'm Hell Harry

Another touchy feely comment. I'm glad you are non judgmental. Such a nice comment considering someone died.


Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Dear Give 'em Hell Harry,

Martin is obviously a Democrat...

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Give'm Hell Harry

The new poster child for a "Law Abiding Gun Owner"

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Article comment by: Balance !

Agree that the right to subdue a threat that poses serious injury shouldn’t be an excuses for hyper-vigilant fear. Actually, have one neighbor with a similar attitudes, that hangs a no trespassing sign on their gate and practice shooting at it from their homes.

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