Denver lawyer says double standard exists for people of color arguing self-defense

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DENVER (KDVR) — In the early hours of New Year’s Day, Elijah Martinez was with a group of friends at a southwest Denver 7-Eleven when another group approached, according to Jason Flores-Williams, Martinez’s lawyer.

“Around 2 in the morning, there was words exchanged between the two groups,” Flores-Williams said.

Flores-Williams says 18-year-old Martinez was leaving the area of Sheridan Boulevard and West Jewell Avenue when the group started verbally confronting his group, and a fight broke out between his friends and the others.

“Elijah defended his friends by pulling out a knife, and throwing one punch with a knife, and just unfortunately — and it’s just terrible, there was no intent to do it — that kid died in front of the 7-Eleven,” Flores-Williams said. 

That night, 15-year-old Wayli Alvarado-Gonzalez was killed. Martinez later turned himself in and was charged with first-degree murder.

But Flores-Williams argues that race plays a major role in this case, creating a double standard in how law enforcement approaches instances of self-defense.

“If Elijah was white and affluent and this happened in Boulder, or this happened in Cherry Creek, it’s extremely doubtful that we would be facing first-degree murder charges right now,” Flores-Williams said.

He says Martinez has been targeted in the Ruby Hill neighborhood before, even getting robbed and told to strip down before having to run home in his briefs. It’s the reason why he carries a knife, for protection, according to his lawyer.

“People of color do not have, do not seem to have to be able to claim the right of self-defense in this country. In contrast, self-defense seems to be a white affluent right,” Flores-Williams said. “And you will be celebrated if you’re white and affluent, like the RNC and the McCloskeys and other situations, because you were scared, you were just doing what you had to do to protect yourself.”

The Problem Solvers spoke to Alvarado-Gonzalez’s mother, Orvelina Gonzalez after Martinez’s first court appearance, and again before pretrial motions slated for Friday morning at 10 a.m.

“My son for me was my life, and I ask the authorities for justice as I do not want anybody, not anybody to feel the pain that I’m going through,” Gonzalez said through a Spanish translator. “I just ask God to give me strength to bear this pain. Every time I remember him, I see his things, I feel like I died with him.”

Martinez’s trial is set for Nov. 2.

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