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Fitness hearing delayed after defendant removed from courtroom

A fitness hearing for a man in custody for more than 6 ½ years on rape charges was postponed on Thursday after the defendant refused to stop yelling at the judge about his intention to fire his lawyer.

Jeffrey Martin, 57, of Normal was removed from the courtroom by Judge William Yoder following his outburst about his lawyer, Gigi Gilbert, of Chicago.

Martin was accused in January 2016 of sexually assaulting an elderly woman during the time he stayed at her home. The two met after she hired Martin to work on a computer. The alleged victim, now 86, told police Martin forced her to engage in sexual activity at least 52 times and threatened her.

During a search of the woman’s home, police located a computer containing illegal images of children, according to charges. Child pornography counts were filed in 2017.

Gilbert told Yoder that Martin “has relieved me of my services” as legal counsel. She said Martin has hired another lawyer, but she did not have the lawyer’s name.

On his way out of the courtroom accompanied by two deputies, Martin yelled back to the judge, “you’re violating my constitutional rights. You can’t do that.”

Yoder did not disclose the opinion reached by psychiatrist Dr. Terry Killian as to Martin’s mental fitness to stand trial, but in her comments during the hearing, Gilbert said, “I have a bona fide doubt as to his fitness, although Killian and Associates felt otherwise.”

Prosecutor Mary Lawson confirmed after the hearing that Martin has been deemed fit to stand trial.

Yoder noted that he has had experience with Martin’s conduct at previous hearings “but I’ve not seen him as aggressive as he is now.”

Gilbert said she also had concerns about Martin being in the courtroom and “even for the sheriffs being able to handle him.”

During his incarceration, Martin’s case has been handled by multiple judges and defense lawyers. For large amounts of time, Martin chose to serve as his own lawyer.

Martin’s most recent former attorney joined the case in November 2021. Gilbert sought the psychological evaluation of Martin.

Over the years, Martin’s courtroom demeanor has been disruptive, sometimes leading to his removal from the courtroom. He has threatened physical violence against his lawyers and refused to cooperate with counsel working on his case, according to court records.

In April 2021, Bloomington defense lawyer Steve Skelton asked to withdraw as Martin’s lawyer. Skelton noted that Martin’s input included opinions “that are inadmissible at trial or are of such nature as to verge on being fantasies.”

Skelton asked to leave the case rather than face a jury in Martin’s case with nothing “other than the paranoid ramblings and conspiracy theories” produced by Martin.

The state has opted to move forward with the child pornography case ahead of the sex assault charges pending against Martin. A May trial was cancelled after the fitness issue was raised.

Yoder set an Aug. 26 hearing to continue the fitness hearing.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.