Judge scolds homicide suspect for lack of effort at retaining a defense lawyer

Nov. 21—WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas is known for keeping trial dates, rarely continuing the venue to a later time despite requests from defense attorneys and prosecutors.

One such trial set for the end of January 2024 is penciled in for homicide suspect Natanihel Sanmartin, 41, who, as of Tuesday, was lawyerless.

Lupas on Nov. 2 permitted the Luzerne County Public Defender's Office to leave their representation of Sanmartin who reportedly failed to disclose he owned rental property in West Pittston when he applied for a public defender. The rental property that made Sanmartin an income made Sanmartin ineligible for representation from the Public Defender's Office.

When Lupas permitted the Public Defender's Office to end their professional relationship with Sanmartin, the judge did not reschedule a status conference that was held Tuesday.

Sanmartin, who is jailed without bail, appeared without an attorney.

Sanmartin said he has "no money" and wants an attorney as the charges against him are a "serious case."

Lupas quizzed Sanmartin on his efforts, or lack thereof, at retaining an attorney.

"What have you been doing for the last two weeks?" Lupas asked, referring to the Nov. 2 order releasing the Public Defender's Office.

Sanmartin said being jailed makes it difficult to find an attorney.

Lupas countered saying other incarcerated inmates seem to privately retain defense lawyers, reminding Sanmartin his trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 29.

Lupas scheduled another status conference for Sanmartin on Dec. 22.

Wilkes-Barre police detectives charged Sanmartin with fatally shooting his girlfriend, Carla Pina, inside their shared residence at 42 Darling St. on Feb. 12.

Previously, Sanmartin had a private attorney for his preliminary hearing but afterwards, the Public Defender's Office represented him at other court proceedings.