Garland “Butch” Martin

CHARGE
Capital Murder
SENTENCE
Life
COUNTY
Midland

Background

In 1998, Butch Martin’s common-law wife, Marcia Pool, their 20-month-old daughter, and his three-year-old stepson, died in a tragic house fire. Butch was away from the home with a friend at the time that the fire was noticed by a neighbor, and the fire department was called. Due to Butch and Marcia’s tumultuous relationship and inaccurate forensic evidence, Butch was tried and convicted in 1999 on three capital murder charges.

The techniques used to investigate the fire in Butch’s case have since been discredited. During the trial, arson investigators testified that the fire that killed Butch’s family was intentionally set due to the presence of what at the time was considered to be intentionally placed accelerants and the presence of a pour pattern. The alleged accelerants have since been identified as being present in hundreds of everyday household products. Likewise, what arson science once considered pour patterns are now known to be common effects of a fire that can happen spontaneously.

Additionally, forensic experts for the prosecution testified that there were signs of head trauma on the remains of Marcia and her son that were inflicted before their death. A review by an independent medical examiner found that the injuries were consistent with death by fire and, if trauma had been present, there is no scientific way to tell if it was pre or post-mortem. The forensic pathologist in Butch’s case later lost his medical license.

An evidentiary hearing was held on the case in May of 2022. During the hearing, the judge heard evidence from the independent medical examiner, a forensic anthropologist and arson investigators regarding Butch’s innocence. The judge is expected to make a recommendation in the coming months to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on whether Butch should be exonerated.

Media Coverage

Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
Innocent Texans.

The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.

Innocence Project of Texas grey star icon