A man facing the death penalty for the brutal double murder and rape of a mother and daughter has pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors in a separate domestic violence case.
Bryan Clay struck a deal with prosecutors that allowed him to plead guilty to two counts of domestic violence battery and one count of petit larceny for twice beating his ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child.
As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped three felonies against Clay. Had Clay been convicted of the felonies, prosecutors could have used them as aggravating factors to convince a jury to sentence the 23-year-old to death in the double murder case.
State law prevents prosecutors from using misdemeanor convictions as aggravating factors, but they can be used to show a defendant’s prior bad acts.
At a death penalty hearing, a jury decides a convicted defendant’s punishment based on aggravating or mitigating factors. Prosecutors and defense lawyers present as many of these factors as they can to a jury. But the jury determines how much weight to give each factor — meaning one mitigator could outweigh 12 aggravators, or vice-versa.
Judge James Bixler approved the plea deal last month and sentenced Clay to a year in the county jail. With time off for good behavior, Clay is expected to complete his sentence on May 8, jail records show.
Following his arrest in the double murder case, Clay was indicted last year on two counts of child abuse and one count of robbery in the domestic violence case.
Prosecutors had hoped to swiftly convict Clay of the felonies and use them as aggravating factors, but the case took a turn in July when the Nevada Supreme Court tossed one of the child abuse charges.
The high court ruled that prosecutors failed to properly explain the statutory definition of “physical injury” to a grand jury while presenting their case. The justices said the grand jury could have confused the common definition of “physical injury” with the statutory one, which is a permanent or temporary disfigurement or impairment of any bodily function or organ.
The victim told the grand jury Clay slapped her across the face. But the grand jury received no other evidence.
Clay’s attorneys, veteran death penalty trial lawyers Tony Sgro and Chris Oram, would not comment on the case, but said they were pleased with the result.
Chief deputy district attorney Robert Daskas, who is prosecuting Clay on the murder charges and did not handle the domestic violence case, declined to comment.
On April 14, four weeks before to Clay will complete his sentence in the misdemeanor case, he is set to stand trial for the double murder before Judge Jessie Walsh.
Prosecutors said Clay, while drunk and high on drugs, sexually assaulted a 50-year-old woman near the intersection of Vegas and Tonopah drives before going to a home at 1016 Robin St. in April 2012.
Once inside, investigators say, Clay used a claw hammer to pummel Arturo Martinez, then 39, and sexually assault and beat to death both his wife, Ignacia “Yadira” Martinez, 38, and daughter, Karla Martinez, 10.
Arturo Martinez survived the attack.
The couple’s two sons, then 9 and 4 years old, were not attacked.
Prosecutors have a significant amount of DNA evidence to support their case, court documents show.
Clay told investigators he blacked out and has no memory of what happened that night.
It’s unknown if the April trial date will stand or be continued.
Death penalty cases are often delayed for years as lawyers must prepare for the trial and a separate penalty hearing, if the defendant is convicted.
Clay’s capital case was delayed once already, last spring.
He remained at the Clark County Detention Center without bail on the murder charges.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.