Jury takes less than an hour to convict Martin of murder

Maranda Martin, 23, sits through the third day of her murder trial on Wednesday. She was convicted of murder and seven other charges on Thursday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.

A jury found Maranda Martin guilty on Thursday of first-degree murder and all other charges brought against her in the death of a 78-year-old disabled veteran, who died in early 2012 after being beaten during a home invasion robbery.

The jury took less than an hour to reach a verdict in the robbery and fatal beating of Paul Quandt in his Blues Creek home on Jan. 9, 2012. Martin, 23, and her cousin, Austin Jones, 24, were accused in Quandt's beating death. Martin's trial started on Monday at the Alachua County Courthouse and ended Thursday afternoon.

Jones' trial date has not yet been set.

Martin was convicted on eight charges in all, including home invasion robbery, kidnapping, grand theft and larceny. Martin's sentencing is set for March 7. She faces life in prison.

"It's a mixed bag. There are no winners today," Quandt's eldest son, Paul Quandt Jr., said about the verdict. "I think justice is served, but both families are suffering today."

Quandt stood in a group with his family outside the courtroom — 14 in all — and tried to express the emotions he felt. The guilty verdict can't replace the loss of his father, he said, but he did feel a small sense of closure.

"There's still a long way to go," he said, in reference to Jones' upcoming trial.

Quandt said the most difficult part of the trial was when he heard the 911 tape of a neighbor who found his father covered in blood at her doorstep, and when he saw the pictures of his dad unconscious in a hospital bed.

He thanked the work of the Gainesville Police Department and the State Attorney's Office for professionalism and compassion when handling the case.

"This is a horrible situation and it can never go away," he said, "but it's been helpful."

In the courtroom, before Judge Mark Moseley read the verdict, Martin stood up and put her hands on a podium. She stood still and squeezed her eyes while the judge read. She wiped her face when he was done and two female bailiffs walked her out, but before they did, she turned and spoke.

"I'm sorry guys," she said. "I really am sorry."

Martin exercised her constitutional right not to testify in the trial, but she confessed to many of the crimes in lengthy interrogation video, played in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Her lawyer, Eric Atria, called no witnesses and conceded to every charge except murder. He argued that because Jones' did the beating, Martin should have gotten a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Assistant State Attorney Sean Brewer delivered closing arguments for the state, and he gave a scathing pronouncement of Martin's guilt.

"(Quandt) had earned the right to meet his final days with dignity," Brewer said. "He met his final day with agony and with torture and with blood. And make no mistake, that was because of Maranda Martin — because of this girl standing right here."

Brewer pointed at Martin, and she lowered her head.

It didn't matter that Martin didn't do any of the beating, Brewer said, because she was the principal in the crime — she put it in motion.

"She knew," he said, "that bad things were going to happen in that house."

After the verdict, Brewer reflected on putting the year-old case away after the countless hours of preparation and effort.

"It's certainly rewarding to have a resolution, and it's a resolution that we were hoping for," Brewer said. He noted, however, that Jones' trial is still to come.

"There is a co-defendant," he said, "so there is more work to be done."

Before the Quandt family walked from the courthouse and to their cars, Quandt's son talked about how his father was a loving man — how he enjoyed meeting people, and how friendly he was. Quandt stood still with his hands folded in front of him when he spoke.

"I miss my father, we all miss my father," he said. "He'll be missed, but he won't be forgotten."

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