Lawrence man pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2022 New Year’s Day crash; blood test showed he was 3 times legal limit

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Adrian Joel Martinez

A Lawrence man pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Douglas County District Court to involuntary manslaughter for causing a crash while driving under the influence on New Year’s Day 2022, killing a 20-year-old man and seriously injuring another.

The man, Adrian Joel Martinez, 39, entered his plea for one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of aggravated battery. He was originally charged with the alternative of murder in the second degree and two counts of aggravated battery for each of the two surviving people in the car that he crashed into.

As the Journal-World reported, the charges relate to an incident around 12:15 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2022, when Martinez was driving under the influence and was involved in a crash that killed James Henderson Jr., 20, and seriously injured two other people, according to charging documents.

During the plea hearing, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden said an officer was traveling in the 2500 block of West Sixth Street when he saw a vehicle coming at him head-on traveling about 50 mph. The officer swerved to miss the vehicle and immediately afterward he heard the “unmistakable sound” of a car crash. The officer turned to look and saw that the vehicle, a GMC Denali, had hit a Volkswagen Passat.

The officer went to the vehicle to discover the driver pinned by the steering wheel, the passenger also stuck in their seat, and Henderson lying “motionless” in the back seat, Seiden said. The surviving driver and passenger were taken to an area hospital and Henderson was declared dead at the scene by medics.

The officer attempted to question Martinez, who was unconscious in the driver’s seat of the Denali. When Martinez came to, the officer reported that Martinez’s speech was slurred, Seiden said. Later Martinez was taken to LMH Health for injuries and had his blood drawn; lab results showed that he had a .26 blood alcohol level after the crash, more than three times the legal driving limit of .08.

Judge Amy Hanley said that Martinez faces as much as 172 months, or more than 14 years, for the manslaughter charge and 136 months, or more than 11 years, for the aggravated battery charge but that he would be sentenced in accordance with Kansas’ sentencing guidelines based on his criminal history.

The state recommended that he be sentenced to consecutively serve 75 months for the manslaughter charge and 60 months for the battery charge for a possible total of 135 months, or more than 11 years.

Martinez is currently out of custody on a $50,000 bond. Hanley scheduled a sentencing date for March 9 to give defense attorney Branden Smith time to argue any downward departure motions he may file on Martinez’s behalf and to give the victim’s family time to speak.

Martinez has convictions in Douglas County from 2003, for felony burglary, felony drug possession and misdemeanor theft, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

Henderson grew up in Tonganoxie but lived in Lawrence at the time of his death. His grandmother, calling him JJ, described him to the Journal-World a few days after his death as a “happy-go-lucky” young man who loved video games and technology.

“He made everyone around him happy,” she said. “He was just one of the guys who brought light into everybody’s world.”

photo by: Submitted

James Henderson Jr.


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