Sentencing continued for man convicted of involuntary manslaughter for 2022 New Year’s Day DUI crash

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Adrian Joel Martinez

Tears and frustration filled the courtroom Thursday as a sentencing hearing was postponed for a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a DUI crash on New Year’s Day of 2022.

The man, Adrian Joel Martinez, 39, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty in Douglas County District Court to felony involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and felony aggravated battery while driving under the influence on Jan. 31, 2023. Martinez was originally charged with second-degree murder and an additional aggravated battery charge, but those charges were dismissed as part of his plea agreement with the state, as the Journal-World previously 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.

The sentencing was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and the courtroom was full of Henderson’s friends and family members, as well as friends and family of Martinez. Judge Amy Hanley said at Martinez’s plea hearing in January that Martinez could face more than 11 years in prison with his criminal history.

Martinez’s defense attorney, Branden Smith, made a motion for a downward departure from sentencing guidelines, but due to scheduling conflicts between Smith and Martinez, Smith said he only submitted the motion the day before the sentencing hearing. The last-minute filing led to Hanley’s decision to delay the sentencing.

Hanley said the delay was frustrating because friends and family of the victim came to the hearing seeking closure. It also frustrated the prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden.

“It has been very difficult for the family,” Seiden said. “This has been continued by the defense and by the court, but not the state.”

One woman, Sherry Thomas, who was heard crying before and during the proceedings, stood to speak and walked to the podium using a cane. Thomas was in the vehicle that Martinez struck, as was her daughter, who was Henderson’s girlfriend, she said.

“I have pain from the moment I wake up until I finally fall asleep at night. I don’t even recognize myself anymore,” Thomas said.

Other family members of the victim who were in attendance said they would wait to deliver comments to the court at the sentencing hearing, which is now scheduled for March 22.

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.

photo by: Submitted

James Henderson Jr.


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