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The Fresno Bee
By Pablo Lopez, The Fresno Bee
Published Friday, January 9, 2004, 11:08 AM
A Fresno woman is in jail, held without bail, because she told a former co-worker nearly two years ago she dreamed of killing the bosses who fired her.
Denise Martin, 53, said Thursday she is being unfairly prosecuted for uncovering misconduct at Lockheed Martin IMS and because one of her alleged targets is the husband of a Fresno judge.
Prosecutors contend that Martin owned a revolver and was capable of carrying out her threats.
Martin is charged with five felony counts of making terrorist threats, including against Ken Wiseman, whose wife is Rebecca Wiseman, a judge with the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno.
Martin will appear today in Fresno County Superior Court for a hearing to determine whether she is competent to stand trial. At the time she made the threats, Martin was taking the prescription anti-depressant Paxil to cope with depression she said came on after she lost her job.
Martin has no criminal record and never directly threatened Wiseman or others at Lockheed Martin IMS.
“People all the time say things they don’t mean,” said Martin’s attorney, Margarita Martinez.
Veteran defense attorney Michael Idiart, a former assistant Fresno County district attorney who is not connected with the case, said he would not have filed charges against Martin because “it’s not against the law to dream.”
Many times, people who believe they have been wronged harbor ill feelings. They are encouraged to “get it off their chest” and are not prosecuted for it, Idiart said.
Martin confided in her friend words she believed would be held in confidence, Idiart said. “This falls short of any criminal action.”
During a jailhouse interview this week, Martin recalled the nightmare she had after going to bed one day in May 2002. In it, she confronted her former bosses and accused them of fraud, rudeness, racism and nepotism. “I was going to take the company down with legal action,” she said.
The next day, she said, she called former co-worker Debbie McGowan and told her of her thoughts.
Prosecutors say the dream Martin described to McGowan was more graphic: Martin was going to walk into Lockheed Martin IMS and fire a bullet into Wiseman’s head, kill three other supervisors, reload her revolver and go after two more co-workers.
Martin took a job in March 2001 as a trainer at Lockheed Martin IMS, to which Fresno County paid millions of dollars for training and finding jobs for the unemployed. Four months after she started work, Martin went on stress leave, which she contends was induced by her bosses.
Martin said during her jail interview that she infuriated her bosses when she wrote a 10-page letter that accused Wiseman and other supervisors of modifying documents, showing favoritism and nepotism, breaching confidentiality and lacking professionalism, among other things.
Wiseman said Martin’s allegations were taken seriously, but an investigation revealed he and others had done nothing wrong.
Nearly a year after she left the company, Martin had her dream and confided it in McGowan, whom she has known since high school. The two friends spoke frequently over the years, sometimes about work, sometimes about life. On the morning of May 3, 2002, the two women spoke for nearly 45 minutes on the telephone before the conversation ended with words that would land Martin in a jail.
“Do you know I have a gun?” Martin allegedly said, according to McGowan’s testimony at Martin’s preliminary hearing. Martin then allegedly said she “had thoughts” of going to her former workplace and killing people, McGowan testified. Martin said she would then reload and go after two other co-workers, McGowan testified.
After the two women hung up, McGowan went to work, but waited about two hours before she told her bosses of Martin’s alleged statements. The bosses then called police.
Police took Martin into custody May 5, 2002, and initially she was confined to a psychiatric care unit. She was held for several days, sent home but then arrested again on May 21, 2002, and booked into jail on the charges of making criminal threats. She later posted $100,000 bail.
Her former co-workers — including Wiseman — received a restraining order against Martin on May 28, 2002.
At the hearing, Martin said she was on Paxil, which studies have shown can cause hostility, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
She also explained the comments she made to McGowan: “I told her I can understand clearly why people go postal. I said in my fantasies, I often think about going to that place and putting two bullets in Mary Ann’s face and … you know.”
Martin testified that she told McGowan: “It wouldn’t be worth it because I would be sentenced to San Quentin for the rest of my days or I’d be killed in a shootout.” The two women then chuckled, she testified.
“It wasn’t anything that I meant. Because if I had meant that, I would have done it. But I didn’t mean it. And there’s a lot you say sometimes … under the influence.”
In February 2003, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case against Martin because of “a lack of prosecution.” But a month later, prosecutors refiled the charges. The court record doesn’t explain why.
Prosecutors would not comment, citing a policy that prohibits them from talking about pending cases.
Over the months, Martin was allowed to remain free on her own recognizance, until Dec. 9, when Martinez questioned Martin’s ability to assist in her own defense.
Martin said she is no longer on Paxil. In jail, doctors initially gave her Effexor to treat her depression, but recently her medication was switched to Zyprexa, which can be used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Martin, a former TWA flight attendant who took classes in criminology at California State University, Fresno, said she isn’t about to let the system crush her.
“They are trying to say I’m some sort of psychotic, but all I am is depressed,” she said. “I don’t like people taking advantage of me or of others.”
The reporter can be reached at email@example.com or 441-6434.