Things That Matter

Ruben Martinez Jr. Exonerated After 11 Years In Los Angeles Prison

In 2008, Ruben Martinez Jr. was sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison for crimes he never committed. Nearly 13 years after his arrest, Martinez walked out of the Los Angeles Superior Court a free man, exonerated from his wrongful conviction. “I did not do this time by myself,” Martinez said on the court steps. “My family did time. My wife did time with me, did the 11 years with me. I couldn’t do it on my own, by my own strength. It was God’s strength that got me through this.” His wife, Maria Martinez, a secretary for the sheriff’s department, appealed the conviction five times only to be rejected each time.

Ruben may have never experienced freedom if Maria didn’t pull some strings to convince prosecutors to look at his case, a sobering detail for innocent inmates without connections.

Ruben and Maria were all smiles as their unjust chapter came to a close.

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

“All my husband wanted was for the truth to be revealed. Well, the truth has been revealed, and he’s a free man,” Maria Martinez said. Ruben had never wavered in his innocence and even turned down a plea deal that would have given him a two and a half year prison sentence. “I am sorry for this injustice and I am so happy that you did not give up on us and allowed us to share this moment,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey, pictured in the blazer, told the Martinez family. 

“Mr. Martinez and his wife proved to be unstoppable in their pursuit of his freedom,” DA Lacey told reporters. “Throughout this terrible experience, the two were never deterred by setbacks and instead demonstrated remarkable strength and dignity through what I imagine must have been a dark time in their lives.”

Ruben Martinez Jr. was convicted, even though he was working when the crimes were committed.

Credit: @oborraez / Twitter

All it took was one witness to identify Ruben as the armed robber who held up the same auto body shop five times. During the 2005 to 2007 sprees, Ruben was employed at a temporary employment agency and has proof that he was working during two of the robberies. In fact, Ruben had to endure two trials that failed to prove his innocence. The first trial ended as a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked. During the second trial, two key witnesses to his innocence were not called by either the defense or the prosecution. He was convicted and sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison on nine counts of armed robbery.

But Maria was relentless in proving his innocence.

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

After five rejected appeals, Maria leaned on close family friend and retired homicide detective, Catherine Wills. Wills and her husband were so close with the Martinez’s that Wills’s husband walked Maria down the aisle and gave her hand to Ruben. Wills and Maria compiled six months of research into a binder to give to DA Lacey. Wills’ credibility and persistence went a long way. “I told them, ‘Look, I’m 82 years old now, and I’m not going to die until Ruben Martinez is out of prison,'” Wills reportedly said.

In 2015, DA Lacey’s office created a unit dedicated to reviewing wrongful conviction claims, but Ruben’s case is only the third case supported in four years. Still, it was DA Lacey’s unit that “painstakingly tracked down witnesses and uncovered employment records and pay stubs that confirmed that Mr. Martinez could not have committed two of the crimes that were clearly the work of the same serial robber,” CNN reports Lacey to have said.

Ruben says that he has “no grudges.”

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

Ruben is the first person that DA Lacey exonerated without any legal representation. “Although the vast majority of convictions are correctly upheld, I knew that, at times, the pursuit of justice, which depends on human beings, is not perfect,” Lacey told reporters. “And Mr. Martinez’s case serves as a stark reminder to all of us: Despite our best efforts, we don’t always get it right.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ is a part of my life, and there’s no grudges.” Ruben told the crowd. “People are human people do make mistakes. But what touches me is when the DA got behind me and stamped me … and proved me innocent — so what grudge?” What’s next for Ruben? Right now, he’s just excited to get his driver’s license and get a job.

READ: Eight New Witnesses Implicate Stites’ Fiancé, A Former Cop, Pointing To Rodney Reed’s Innocence

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How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Fierce

How ‘Latinx With Plants’ Bloomed From Instagram To An L.A. Shop Reconnecting The Gente To Plant Healing Properties

Growing up, Andi Xoch’s aunt encouraged her to speak to plants. Her relatives usually laughed at the sight of a woman talking to her in-house flowers, but Xoch was intrigued. As a little girl, she acknowledged that there was life inside the pots, so conversing with them seemed standard. More than two decades later, that seed of curiosity about flora bloomed into Latinx with Plants, a digital community and IRL Los Angeles-based shop that teaches Latinxs of their ancestral relationship with herbage.

Sprouted in the spring of 2019, Latinx with Plants started as an account on Instagram. Through the page, Xoch wanted to provide representation of Latinx plant parents that she felt was lacking despite the community’s deep and vast connection with herbs and gardening.

“We’ve had a long connection with plants even before the trend started,” Xoch, a Mexico City-born, L.A.-raised organizer and artist, tells FIERCE.

“I wanted to represent that, to show that we’ve been part of this world even if it’s not presented in an Instagrammable form.”

For the past few years, so-called plant porn has dominated Instagram content. With hashtags like #plantgang and #urbanjungles, the growing trend has helped produce a new generation of young people with green fingers that are boosting sales of houseplants and inspiring even the basement recluse to be a plant parent. In fact, a National Gardening report found that 83 percent of the people in the U.S. who took up gardening in 2016 were between the ages of 18 and 34. Even more, it reported that 37 percent of millennials grow herbs and plants indoors, more than the 28 percent of baby boomers who do the same.

However, with the exception of a few accounts, including Xoch’s friend D’Real who created @blackwithplants and inspired her to make a similar account, many of these digital spaces are overwhelmingly white. This, Xoch says, ignores the history Latinxs have with plants and the sustainable practices they developed while gardening for decades.

“You walk onto our people’s front yards and you see their food: plantains, avocados [and] chayotes. And it’s all sustainable; they use pots made out of buckets and cans. It’s beautiful,” the 32-year-old says. “This is who we are. This is our culture.”

As Latinxs, Xoch says that our Indigenous roots have been forgotten or intentionally kept from us but that we can reconnect to our origins through inherited practices. Among them is ancestral medicines. At her shop, several elders come in and casually inform Xoch about the healing properties of her different plants. While the whitewashed mainstream plant blogosphere has co-opted much of the everyday traditions practiced within low-income communities of color, she finds comfort in knowing that these remedies are being passed down across generations through word of mouth and are not being commodified. 

These informal educational encounters is one of the reasons why Xoch established her brick and mortar in August. Aside from selling an array of plants at the Boyle Heights-located shop, she wanted to create a space where new plant parents and señora gardeners can enter and feel welcomed, experience the joyous power of verdure and learn from one another. 

She says that her mission is to build community and help people who feel depressed, anxious and alone, particularly amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experience the healing power of plants.

“Plants can be an asset to you because, whether you think it’s just for the plant’s sake to be alive, you are actually participating in a self-care act by nurturing your plant,” Xoch says. “They force you to get up every day and help you realize a lot of beautiful things about yourself that you forget to acknowledge: the caregiving, the attention, the love, the dancing, the singing — all the things that make it bloom are also exercises in self-love, self-care and self-preservation.” 

A newbie business owner, Xoch says she now has another objective, though: to offer a non-traditional example of success and to be honest about the struggles of entrepreneurship. 

On paper, Xoch’s road to becoming a boss seems swift and simple: She learned the location of a potential property on a Sunday, visited it on Monday, signed her lease on Wednesday and opened up shop the following weekend. However, the reality is much more complicated. A high school dropout, her lifelong dream to open a business was halted because she lacked the confidence, capital and connections to get started. Even when she did launch the store, the experience was far from easy. Xoch opened her small business from the ground up on a tight budget amid a pandemic and while her father sat ill at a hospital where doctors thought he would die.

“I want people to know this is real shit that people go through. We have the load of the world on us, we are caring for our relatives and we are trying to make sure our business is doing well,” she says. “I walk in [my store] and that alone is defying the odds.”


Follow Latinx with Plants on Instagram. For those in Los Angeles, visit the shop, which is complying with Covid-19 regulations and operating by appointment only, at 2117 E Cesar Chavez Ave.

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Young Boy In Los Angeles Turns Entrepreneur To Help Mother During Ongoing Pandemic

Culture

Young Boy In Los Angeles Turns Entrepreneur To Help Mother During Ongoing Pandemic

aaronsgarden / Instagram

Covid-19 has forced families to figure out the best way to make enough to take care of things. Some have had to find new jobs after being laid off and having to make up enough to save their families. A young boy in Los Angeles is doing that to help his mom makes ends meet.

Meet Aaron and his garden.

The young boy and his mother were on their last $12 when he had an idea of creating a business. According to a GoFundMe account, the young boy convinced his undocumented mother to start a business selling plants to help them make it through the pandemic.

Aaron’s Garden was the business he and his mom created to make some money.

“Aaron and mom have been struggling from being homeless to shelters and bouncing from house to house and now live in a shed,” reads a GoFundMe account. “He came out with the idea of selling plants and starting a business in his yard to be a provider and buy his own hot Cheetos with cheese without having to ask his mom for money.”

Aaron advertises his plants and when you can buy them on his Instagram.

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Sensitive plant available limited supplies

A post shared by Aaron M. (@aaronsgarden) on

The LA entrepreneur is creating a lot of buzz with people celebrating his efforts. People in the U.S. are struggling as the additional $600 in unemployment has disappeared and a second Covid-19 stimulus is stuck in Congress. Aaron’s plant selling is helping his family during one of the most difficult times in modern U.S. history.

Way to go, Aaron.

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We love puppies

A post shared by Aaron M. (@aaronsgarden) on

We are all so proud to see you doing your best to make it through this time. Check his Instagram to see what he has and when and where he is selling the plants. Keep going, mijo!

READ: These Female Entrepreneurs Want You To Wear A Wig That Is Snatched

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