Superior Court judge Ralph Van Pelt presided over the trial.
After a day and a half of testimony regarding 10 total charges, the case was turned over to a jury, which returned a verdict following a deliberation of approximately an hour and a half.
Eastland, 20, was found not guilty on four counts of aggravated assault and on four counts of aggressive driving. He was found guilty on charges of violating a limited driving permit and of interfering with government property.
The two guilty verdicts on the misdemeanor charges came as no surprise, as Eastland openly admitted guilt to both crimes during the trial.
The two-day trial stemmed from an incident that took place on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in which the state alleged that Eastland aggressively pursued four men and intentionally rammed into the truck they were traveling in with his 1996 Jeep Cherokee following a shouting match and confrontation at a gas station, which saw both sides engage in profanity and racial slurs against each other.
The initial encounter occurred at the Mapco Express at the corner of U.S. 41 and Graysville Road in Ringgold.
Mapco employees stated that Eastland had been in the store during the early morning hours, then returned between 6:30 and 7 a.m. demanding to see video surveillance footage from his earlier visit, claiming that $1,000 in cash was stolen from his vehicle during that time.
Both Eastland and a roofer named Roy Lewis testified in court that the two exchanged words and racial slurs before almost getting into a fight in the parking lot.
"He was in a rage, he wanted to see the video of the parking lot," Lewis said in court Thursday. "He was cussing the clerks and complaining that it was a junky store because they didn't have video of the parking lot. He said, ‘I will beat your (expletive) if you walk out this door, cracker."
Lewis did admit to speaking to Eastland first while he was standing in line with his uncle Stacy Roach as the two were waiting in line before heading to work with two other men who were waiting for them in a truck outside.
Lewis says he criticized Eastland for leaving such a large amount of cash in his car unattended.
Eastland testified that not only did Lewis initiate dialogue, but he opened the communication with a racial slur.
"He said that I was stupid for leaving my money in the car, and called me a nigger," Eastland said when he took the stand Friday morning. "We were going to go outside and fight, but when we got out there, I retreated back to my car because I knew I couldn't take on all four men."
Moments later is when police became involved in the matter.
Officers arrived on the scene of a two-car accident near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Three Notch Road at approximately 7 a.m. that July morning in which the four roofers, Stacy Roach, Roy Lewis, Timothy Knight, and Quinton Johnson, were standing near their work truck while Eastland was standing near his Jeep.
The men alleged that day, and in last week's testimony that Eastland blocked them in at the Mapco Express with his Jeep, and then followed them down U.S. 41, nearly running them off the road in a rage before ultimately crashing into them from behind.
Although Eastland disputed the roofing quartet's account of what happened, he could not dispute the two charges he garnered that day that resulted in a guilty verdict Friday afternoon.
After Catoosa County sheriff's deputy Bobby Persinger discovered that Eastland's license was suspended and that he didn't have his temporary permit in his possession, he placed Eastland under arrest.
"They were yammering and yakking at each other, so I told them all to shut up so that I could start working the wreck that had taken place," Persinger said. "When I put him in the back of the car, the only thing he was under arrest for was the suspended license."
Persinger then stated that Eastland became irate and kicked out the back window of his patrol car after cursing and yelling racial slurs at Persinger and the other deputies that had arrived on the scene.
Persinger's dash cam video surveillance tape was played as evidence during the trial, where Eastland is overheard yelling and cussing at police officers.
Separate deputies testified that Eastland made derogatory comments such as "Cracker-(expletive) cops ain't even doing their jobs right," and called Deputy Persinger a "fat, bald mother (expletive)."
Eastland's defense attorney, Charles Wright, insisted throughout the trial that Eastland didn't intentionally chase and ram into the truck carrying the other four men, but that the wreck was instead an accident that occurred as a result of Eastland reaching down in the floor board for a water bottle that struck him in the head after one of the men threw it through the window at him while the two vehicles were driving side by side down U.S. 41.
Wright also repeatedly worked the angle that Eastland's side of the story was never taken into consideration by officers during the whole ordeal.
"All four of the men in this case who were labeled as 'victims' got to tell their side of the story, but nowhere in any of the reports did anyone take the time to gather a written or verbal statement from Martez," Wright said Friday morning during his closing argument.
Assistant district attorney Jennifer Hartline's case for the state centered around Eastland's unpredictability and episodes of rage that were documented through multiple arrests that have taken place since the once promising running back graduated from Ringgold High School in 2010.
"Martez Eastland is a ticking time-bomb...when things don't go his way, he snaps and flies off the handle," Hartline said.
Hartline also pointed out and included testimony from witnesses regarding a March 2011 incident in which Eastland pleaded guilty to battery charge following a fight with a woman over marijuana.
During that incident, Eastland slapped a woman riding in his car, who then got out and threw a brick at his Jeep. That prompted Eastland to then chase the woman and began punching and kicking here before neighbors on Guyler Street called 911.
Four months later, the alleged aggravated assault occurred that brought on the trial, followed by Eastland's most recent arrest recently at the Ringgold vs. Dalton football game, in which he allegedly showed up under the influence of alcohol and began yelling, cursing, and causing a scene in front of families and small children attending the game.
"Martez is a man full of rage," Hartline said. "He always cries racism whenever things happen in his life, and that only diminishes real acts of racism that occur in the world. It's despicable for someone to continuously play that card when it isn't true. This case is about rage, not race."
Conflicting statements from Roach and Lewis, in addition to the inability to locate Johnson and Knight for testimony, ultimately strengthened the case for the defense.
"Two of the men from that day didn't even show up here," Wright said. "Mr. Lewis didn't corroborate Mr. Roach's story. This case is a logical accident, that's all. After the wreck, Martez doesn't leave the scene, he isn't fighting with four men when the police arrive. He stops after the wreck and waits for police the way you're supposed to do in that situation."
Wright closed by telling the jury that although some of Eastland's actions were out of line, that he was not guilty of what he described to be excessive charges added after the fact.
"When provoked, admittedly, he (Martez) becomes hostile," Wright said. "When you're a minority, defensive thinking is rational...everywhere minorities turn, the rules are made by the majority. Martez felt that he wasn't being treated fairly, he felt that the four white men on the other side of the incident were being heard and given the opportunity to tell their side because only white officers were on the scene."
Although he was acquitted of the more severe charges, Eastland was sent back to Catoosa County jail Friday afternoon.
He is currently incarcerated as a result of his most recent probation violation on Aug. 24 following his arrest at the aforementioned Ringgold High School football game.
After the verdict was read, judge Van Pelt stated that sentencing would be determined during Eastland's upcoming probation revocation hearing.
Eastland's mother, Maddie Ransom, was extremely overjoyed with the outcome of the trial.
"I thank God for them finding him innocent," Ransom said in tears as she left the courtroom. "God is good!"
Friday's verdict was returned by an all-white jury of six men and six women.