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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jodi Arias Hung Jury #TrialMoments

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Many people have called a certain piece of video to my attention. They have seen it on CNN, InSession, all the major networks and anywhere video of the final moments of the Jodi Arias trial are shown. I've embedded one example of it below. It occurs at 3:07 within the ABC report on three of the jurors speaking out.

In the foreground of the video at 3:07 are the tearful faces of Samantha Alexander, Hilary Wilcox and  Tanisha Sorenson, all sisters of Travis Alexander. The jury verdict form has just been read out and the news that we had a hung jury is just sinking in.

The person in the background craning her neck and bobbing like a flamingo as the camera slowly pans the defeated and sorrowful sisters is me.

Did I know the camera was on me? Not even the slightest clue.

You may well wonder how that could be.

Let me tell you what the set up is like inside the courtroom and it will become easy to understand. There is one standard television camera mounted on a tall tripod in the center of the very last row of the gallery. This is a court-mandated position. Dennis, the cameraman, is never free to roam about trying different angles. The position is fixed and if he tried to move it, court would have stopped, he would have been ejected and it's not unlikely all the cameras would have been thrown out as well.

I can't say for sure since I am inside the courtroom not watching on TV but I doubt you ever see this camera. You do see the fruits of its labor: straight on shots of the witness on the stand, the judge, wide shots of the overall action.

At the very opposite end of the courtroom are smaller more discreet video cameras mounted on the wall. There is no cameraman standing at them. They are remotely operated by an unseen crew who are not actually in the courtroom.

During the trial I have often tweeted about the "little room behind me," which was referring to the conference room where witnesses waited to be called or the Alexander family used for privacy in their grief and for conferences with prosecutor Juan Martinez. But I haven't mentioned the other little room behind the media section. This one is accessible by a door in the vestibule leading to the courtroom. Inside this room are collected the technical staff of the television team. They have monitors and controls in there. The cameras these guys operate are the ones pointed to the west, the ones that give you closeups of Jodi's face and of her family, of the attorneys facing the witness and of the Alexander family in the gallery.

Sometimes these cameras also capture the rest of us in the gallery. There is no red light flashing on the camera that's live, there is no whir of gears, no swiveling lens to alert us. Courts don't like such things. Cameras must be unobtrusive or most judges won't allow them. Even if you knew some subtle clue to watch for carefully, you would never notice it or you'd miss all the action of the trial itself.

People have asked what I was trying to see with my stretching and weaving. The answer is Jodi herself. There was an object obstructing my view of her and I was trying to get a better look by looking over the top of it, then I tried for an angle around the side of it. I could definitely see Jodi, I just couldn't see that much of her. A large chunk of her head was blocked from view by the object. If you pause the video at this point, behind me you can see Beth Karas of InSession and Grace Wong and Jean Casarez as well. To my right (your left) is Selin Darkalstanian and just to my left you can see the bowed head of Alexis Weed. We are all clumped together because this was the designated media section and we were not allowed to sit anywhere else.

What I'd like to point out to you now is the figure sitting directly in front of me. The camera angle tends to confuse these spatial relationships, but directly in front of me you can see a blue shoulder. The figure is hunched over, hands covering the face, brown hair falling forward to hide the rest. Moments before, this person (who I took particular note of as I sat) was sitting straight-backed as she always did, her quiet dignity always impressive. But when the news of the hung jury sunk in, in a sort of 2 second delay due to the convoluted language of the jury form, I saw the slow-motion rolling of the shoulders in front of me into a silent sob, the shoulders of Deanna Reid.

For me, this video preserves what I could not see no matter what kind of craning I did and that is what the front of what that sob looked like. It touches me very much, her sad elegance, and deep sense of privacy even in the most pubic of settings.

During the trial I sometimes used a hashtag #TrialMoments for little things I noticed. The announcement of the hung jury was a very big moment, it was real news. But it contained many small moments within it. The slow rolling of the blue-clad shoulders in front of me is one I will never forget.

Please leave your comments below. Most of you are wonderful and insightful. Venting is fine, but violent language will be removed.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Foremanhood and Fatherhood -- Jodi Arias Case

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Celeb reporters Selin Darkalstanian and Jane Velez Mitchell cover the Jodi Arias trial 
photo by Camille Kimball

People have strong feelings about William Zervakos, the foreman of the Jodi Arias jury who first spoke out on Good Morning America, in what would be the pre-dawn hours in Arizona. right after the jury caused a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial.

So many commenters have filled up my recent post about him that blogger is having a hard time keeping up and the page seems to fail to display some of the comments, even though I can see them in the administrative section. Even my own replies to people are having a hard time pushing through.

So people have strong feelings about the things that William Zervakos has been revealing about his thinking as he came to the decision to vote "deadlock" in the last phase of the trial. This vote forced Maricopa County to make the decision of whether to re-try the penalty phase with a new jury. It was an expensive decision and at this time it's a yes. So the County Attorney undoubtedly has some feelings about Zervakos, too.

But one of the people with the strongest feelings is Richard Zervakos, son to the jury foreman. He has written a blog post in defense of his father.

It is very honorable to defend one's father during a hailstorm of public criticism and I respect Zervakos fils for doing so. In fact, I want to tread carefully here because his sense of loyalty and love are good things and they are tender things.

But the jury foreman has made himself a public figure by going on one of the nation's biggest media venues at the earliest opportunity and continuing to grant interviews afterward. His son, Richard, has also made himself a public figure by jumping into the maelstrom amidst the backdrop of his own prodigious use of twitter, instagram, blogging and so forth. In his post about his father Richard even declares that he, the son, is a media whore.

So it's within all reasonable ethics to respond to him publicly myself.

Richard, the son, says that a trial "like this" comes along "once or twice in a generation." He wishes his dad could "decompress over cocktails" with the "one or two people per generation" who know what his dad is going through.

Once again, I find myself shaking my head, blowing a sigh through my teeth. How is it that so many can only remember one trial at a time? I guarantee you that the next big trial, which should bubble up in the next 10 minutes or so, will instantly become the "once or twice in a generation" trial that flabbergasts its assigned judge, incenses the defense attorneys, and "victimizes" interested third parties such as Zervakos and son.

The hit musical film Chicago puts a spotlight, quite a literal one, on this phenomenon. When her character first arrives in jail for the murder of her lover, Renee Zellwegger is awed by the famous inmate already there portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Soon, however, Zellwegger's character takes over the public imagination. But Zellwegger and Zeta-Jones both find the lights and attention suddenly re-focused on incoming murder defendant Lucy Liu. They both struggle to gain it back. At the end of the film, the sparkle of public attention enjoyed by Zellwegger on her day of triumph in court is quickly extinguished by a murder committed on the courthouse steps as all the assembled reporters and microphones dash outside to follow the new case.

In Jodi's case, the Chicago plot point "new case" occurred on Monday, May 6th, the first full day of deliberations in the guilt phase in Arizona. So real life actually was quite a bit more swift than the movie scenario. On May 6, three young women miraculously escaped an evil captor in Cleveland while Jodi cooled her heels in a courthouse holding cell and before she learned if she'd be deemed guilty or not.

That's just the crime portion of the screenplay of real life. The next big trial will start in a few days when HOA wannabe sentinel George Zimmerman defends his version of how he killed teen Trayvon Martin. If you thought the Jodi jurors had pressure, wait till that jury gets seated....

At least the Jodi jurors had the bliss of not knowing what they were in for when they went through jury selection process and promised to proceed with their civic duty. There will hardly be a person in the Zimmerman jury pool who can be unaware they are being selected for a racially charged case with national significance.

While writing this post I could easily think of 2 dozen other cases of extreme high profile that played out in the last 20 or 30 years. I don't know how Zervakos the younger defines a "generation" but just my idle memory without even doing any research works out statistically to one big case every 12-14 months, not one per generation.

My memory banks tilt toward the west coast, so I'm sure I'm missing quite a few, but here are the first dozen or so of the cases I came up with that had comparable attention: Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, Drew Peterson, Scott Peterson, the Cleveland case, George Zimmerman, Warren Jeffs, Andrea Yates, Conrad Murray, Amy Fisher, Clark "Rockefeller,"  Menendez brothers,  Elizabeth Johnson (Baby Gabriel), Sandy Murphy (Ted Binion), Mary Kay LeTourneau, Daniel Pelosi, Andrew Luster and, well, a whole lot more. I didn't even get into the defendants whose celebrity status preceded their arrests.*

The good news for the foreman's son then is that there are way more people to commiserate with his dad than he thought. "Over cocktails" is going to be more like a cocktail party...in a convention hall.

Zervakos the son tells us how the media works and paints a picture of predatory ABC minions overtaking his dad's home and staying there overnight. I know how the media works, too, having been a part of it all my adult life. They don't carry bayonets and wear red coats, billeting themselves by force in the homes of hapless citizens. They had to be invited in. At any time in the process, Zervakos the foreman could have said no. Far from bayonets, most producers, bookers, and reporters carry a polished smile and a friendly voice in their back pocket arsenal. We already know about the foreman's level of immunity toward such overtures. At least he's consistent.

But none of this is to say that Mr. Zervakos pere did anything wrong by not voting to send Jodi Arias to execution. There are many good reasons not to give a death sentence. Jodi is young. People seem to find it easier to say your life is toast to a 52 year old than to a 32 year old. Even a death penalty supporter could make such a decision. Jodi did not come into court overtly glorying in bloodlust by displaying hand drawn images of stabbings or other gory acts. Her drawings may be offensive to many but you can find far worse stuff by some inmates.** A truly death-qualified juror can decide that is his or her own personal criterion for whether or not they will vote for Death Row.  These are two examples of defensible benchmarks for when a death-qualified juror might feel he could not deliver the ultimate verdict.

Marjorie Orbin, the defendant in my book WHAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED (see bookstore tab above), was spared the death penalty not because she was a busty blonde who looked hot in a french cut panty. Jurors stated she was given a life sentence out of deference to the grown man her child would one day become. They did not want to martyr her in his eyes nor deprive him of the chance to unload his feelings directly some day. Now that is a very excellent reason to stay the hand from the noose.

But what the Zervakos family is feeling the backlash of is not that the death penalty wasn't given snip-snap no questions asked, although some commenters in their venting of their feelings may sound like it. The backlash is from the stated reasons for causing a mistrial.  The defendant looks like my daughter/lost love/waitress-I'm-crushing-on not a murderer, although she admitted to the very acts we saw such terrible evidence of, is not a defensible reason.

Following it up with a raid on the character of the young man whose throat was sawed down to a "hinge" about as slender as Jodi's lethally supple wrist, is to throw out a challenge, a dare, a sortie that must be met by those who also have opinions on the case. And, as Mr. Foreman should have known by the network television foot soldiers scouting him out, they are legion.

Another way to avoid the tough time he is having now would have been if the foreman would have revealed during jury questioning that he felt influenced by the appearance of the defendant. He would have been excused well before opening arguments and would currently be happily enjoying public neutrality and obscurity, maybe barbecuing over the holiday with his loyal son, making conversation about how he was almost on that jury that's all up in the news right now.

That sounds kind of nice, jawing with your son about the news and sharing tales of your life over barbecue. Richard Zervakos, the foreman's son, closes his own column by invoking a vision of his sleeping four year old son and stating a message of love and loyalty to his father. It's lovely. I appreciate it.

It's so lovely that it reminds me that Travis Alexander had already lost his own father and that on June 4, 2008, he lost the chance to ever have a son.

If Zervakos, father or son, ever visits this blog, that line will evoke a strong emotional reaction. I actually do not mean to taunt them in any way. I strongly condemn any harassment of them. But perhaps they might be called upon to understand that the foreman's comments similarly provoked a deep emotional response in others. This is not because people are blood thirsty or sordid. It is because they are human.  The need to process grief is deep in the marrow. So very many of the people who send me messages on twitter, post comments on this blog, or meet me at book signings reveal some personal sorrow of their own. I believe this, more than anything, explains the magnetic attraction to trials and to true crime shows and books. It is not a phenomenon of social media, television, or even the printing press. It is a phenomenon of being human.

In the very ancient Greek story of the Iliad, Homer tells us about the woman Briseis who discovers her friend and protector Patroklos has been killed in battle. She sings a heart-wrenching lament about her friend and is joined by the other women of the community, women who did not have such a personal connection to the deceased. At the very end of her solo, Homer has a special message for us about the women behind Briseis, in the chorus:

"So now I cannot stop crying for you, now that you are dead, you who were always so sweet and gentle."  

So she spoke, weeping, and the women kept on mourning in response. 

They mourned for Patroklos, that was their pretext, but they were all mourning, each and every one of them, for what they really cared for in their sorrow.

                                             (Iliad translation by Professor Gregory Nagy)

Grief is personal. Grief is universal. Grief is heavy and it needs sharing. The Greeks of thousands of years ago knew it. For all our TV and web and mobile technology, we are still made of the same ancient stuff and must cry together.


* Some more of the random big case names from the last 20-30 years: Aileen Wournos, Susan Smith, Betty Broderick, Phil Spectre, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, Karla Hmolka, Tonya Harding, OJ Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith (Howard Stern criminal case as well as custody case). Oh, my goodness, how could I forget? The arrests and trials of the captors of Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, that super-creep in Austria, what other painfully obvious case am I forgetting still?!

**Think of school shooter TJ Lane who, during a court appearance that took place in Ohio while Jodi's case was underway in Arizona, unveiled a hand made "KILLER" T shirt, flipped off the families, and bragged he used the same hand to pleasure himself that he used to kill their children.

  • You can find the blog that inspired this essay by googling the term SamirsDad. It is a tumblr blog. 

  • Also, click here << for a post about a similar mis-statement about big trials made by Casey Anthony judge Belvin Perry 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jury Foreman for Jodi Arias - Crime Writer Inside the Courtroom

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Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

--Friday, May 24, 2013

The courtroom for the Jodi Arias trial is a large one, almost cavernous, with an extra pair of tables behind the attorneys making the "well" area extra grand. This has the effect of putting those of us sitting in the rows of the gallery at a gaping distance from the players. Viewers on TV often have a better view of Juan Martinez, Kirk Nurmi, and of Jodi Arias herself than we do. 

But one thing the TV viewers never could see was the jury.  

That is, until this morning. When I went to bed last night after a long day, ending with an appearance with Jordan Rose and Mark Victor on KPNX at the top of the 10:00 news, I knew the faces and demeanor of the Jodi Arias jurors well but not their names. 

When I got up this morning, large as life there was William Zervakos outed by ABC and telling Good Morning America's (and former Phoenix reporter) Elizabeth Vargas what he, as jury foreman, thought of Jodi Ann Arias.

Zervakos said he felt Travis Alexander had "mentally and verbally abused" Jodi. He was "sure in his mind," he said firmly.  

Although I didn't know his name until this morning, Zervakos was quite familiar to me. In that walloping open plain of a courtroom well he sat in one of the closest seats to us every day. Picture the courtroom you have seen on TV. The judge's bench backs onto the east wall. We in the gallery are stacked up on the west wall. The jury box is on the north wall. Juror number one, a woman, sat in the front row of the jury box at the east end, a short skip from the witness box. Juror number eighteen, who turns out to be William Zervakos, sat in the back row at the west end of the jury box and therefore near us in the gallery. 

The day of the 1st deadlock note, southeast corner of the Jodi Arias courthouse
I had often watched Zervakos during the trial. It was natural, since I could see him clearly unlike so many of the other actors in the drama. He is a very solidly built guy who usually wore golf shirts. Sometimes at lunch time I would see him in the courthouse's small cafeteria dining room. He always had a book with him and kept to himself. Whenever I spotted him there, I had a kneejerk reaction of instantly reviewing in my mind any conversation I'd had in the last 30 minutes or double checking the positioning of my laptop screen for visibility to others. 

Like most of his fellow jurors, Zervakos resembled a statue most of the time during testimony. But one day I tweeted to my followers that I saw a juror nodding in agreement with a witness. I can now disclose that the juror I watched nod his head positively in concurrence with a witness was number 18, William Zervakis. It came when one of the trial's psychologists was saying that what happens to us as children, especially abuse, shapes who we become as adults. 

He did it in a most definite way, not just one vague dip of the chin but a clear series of nods to several statements from the stand. My twittles were instantly panicked, engaging with my tweet, feeling it meant he "bought" the defense theory that Travis was abusive to Jodi. 

After spending several hours searching my old tweets, I discover twitter won't let me go back further than April 17 so I am unable to access those tweets to post them here. If there are any twitter wranglers out there who know how to access the full archive, please contact me.

To those panicked twittles on that day, I responded that the juror nodding his head to this testimony didn't necessarily mean what they feared it meant. Maybe he just recognized the phenomenon, maybe it resonated with his own life.

Now that William Zervakos has spoken out, we know that I was in the wrong and the instincts of my twittles were right on target. He believes, "sure" in his mind, that Travis was "mentally and verbally abusive" to Jodi.

In his first interview, Zervakos also told how Jodi "didn't look like a murderer." In this statement, Zervakos clearly revealed a gender bias. If the facts of the case had been the same but the deceased was the woman and the defendant was the man, few can reasonably doubt that an Arizona jury would send him anywhere but death row. In fact, one day while waiting for the Jodi Arias trial day to begin I watched Judge Sherry Stephens wrap up the case of Dzevad Selimovic. My twittles rapidly became interested in the case, so I wrote about it and you can click here<< to find it and his pic. Selimovic viciously killed his ex-girlfriend. From What Zervakos has said, Selimovic would "look like a killer" to him. Selimovic didn't want to face a jury full of William Zervakoses. He pled out and got life. 

But the facts of the two cases have many parallels. A breakup of lovers, jealousy, an inability to let go, a long trip, and a horrific and fatal head wound with the victim left to die in their own home. It's even eerily true that both murders began in the bathroom, with the injured victim trying to escape to the hall. Selimovic, like Jodi, depicted his victim as previously abusive to him. In Selimovic's case, his allegation involved finances but also matters of the heart. Two similar sets of facts, but nobody is much interested in the brawny man's excuses for doing what he did to another human being. Interestingly, Selimovic actually inflicted fewer wounds than did the slender girl with the soft voice. 

Speaking of that soft voice, in one of the many TV interviews I did on the day of the deadlock mistrial, I told ABC15 reporter Amy Murphy that I found it to be the scariest thing about Jodi Arias. With someone like Selimovic, if he randomly met him on the street a William Zervakos would keep his guard up. Even with convicted dismemberment killer Marjorie Orbin, whom I have interviewed personally in a small cell, not knowing what she did Zervakos would keep his guard up at least as much as one does with any strong adult personality.

Photogs aimed at courthouse doors as I step out, the day of the mistrial, but jurors  were elusive
But what is the impact of Jodi's stinginess with the decibels? The whisper-soft tones cause the other person to lean in. And to come close is to become vulnerable. It was reported to me that one of the reporters who went to interview Jodi Arias remarked that, far from being creeped out by Jodi's presence, felt like "giving her a hug" afterward. I did not take this to mean the reporter became a fan of the convicted first degree murderer, but that the reporter acknowledged the insidious nature of Jodi's personality. To me, this is exactly what the jury foreman fell prey to, Jodi's well-polished technique of getting people to lower their guard, to pull them in close, to make them more vulnerable than she is. 

This external softness, sadly, had a lot to do with how Travis let his guard down and leaned in too close to Jodi Arias. Did Travis have angry words for Jodi at times? Certainly he did. They are memorialized in electronic messages. But prosecution psychologist Dr. Janeen DeMarte testified Travis burst out in angry language when he had a reason to and reasonable people could relate to the reasons she listed, as memorialized in these tweets of mine from inside the courthouse as she was speaking:
Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer captured part of this testimony in this tweet:
What were some of the ways in which Jodi lied to, betrayed, or invaded the privacy of Travis to make him so angry?  Jodi did all of the following things to Travis:

  • stole an engagement ring he had purchased for a girlfriend before he ever met Jodi
  • slashed his tires, more than once
  • snuck into his home repeatedly, even hiding behind the Christmas tree
  • manipulated his social media accounts with his stolen passwords
  • sent harassing anonymous emails to his romantic interests
  • lied to his best friends about him
  • disrupted his relationships with other women and with his friends
Who wouldn't have angry words burning on the tongue after such incidents?  By discounting Dr. DeMarte's testimony that Travis's anger was not an abnormal response to the provocation of betrayal and deception, and instead characterizing Travis as "abusive" to Jodi, the jury foreman is telling us that men don't have a right to be angry with women. Or, rather, they don't have a right to be angry with young, slim women with long hair and full lips. And soft voices.

When the final deadlock came, I personally observed three women on the jury crying, jurors #3, #6, and #16. That tells me that these women were less susceptible to the poor little waif persona spun by the defendant. She even tried it on ABC reporter Ryan Owens whom she called "a hater" when he did nothing more than speak plainly to her. Poor little Jodi, all beat up by the abuser from ABC.

The Zervakos comments contrasted with the crying women in the jury box remind me of an interview I once saw with actress Megan Fox, who was preparing to play a villainess in a horror film. Fox talked about choosing to use a soft and appealing voice for the character, a voice she said some little girls first learn to use on their fathers to get out of trouble. The actress felt it was the perfect touch, she said, to make her villain truly terrifying. As Fox pointed out, some things create a sense of protectiveness in men but do not fool other women.

Which isn't to say that they fool all or even most men. If we are to believe the 8-4 split reported, several men on the jury wanted to put Jodi Arias on Death Row. Here I must state that it is not a given that execution is the assumed proper sentence and anything else is a failure. But we are not discussing the death penalty itself right now. What I am focusing on are the statements from the jury foreman that he was "sure" in his mind that Travis "abused" Jodi and that this must be "taken into account" during the sentencing deliberations. 

Zervakos discounted more of the testimony of Dr. DeMarte, captured again by Michael Kiefer:

Dr. DeMarte did not characterize Travis's angry outbursts in response to provocation as abuse but Zervakos did. Since Jodi was in no way dependent on Travis financially or legally or for shelter and did not share a child with him, she could have "escaped" this alleged abuse at any time without suffering the slightest consequence. Yet time and again, she did everything in her power to get closer to Travis, even moving to Arizona after their official breakup.

Travis continued to have a sexual relationship with Jodi and kept it private. One could equally say Jodi continued a sexual relationship with Travis and kept it private. Was Elvis abusing the ladies who threw their panties on stage at him? What about the gals lining up for Evel Knievel, Wilt Chamberlain, and Magic Johnson? Groupies may find respect elusive, but where does their own personal responsibility end? If you don't want Andrew Dice Clay coming to your hotel room, don't throw your room key at him. 

All women know this. All. All women. Know. This.

Travis told Jodi he would not marry her. He told her their couple-hood had come to an end. What consenting adults choose to do with their libidos after such full disclosure of intent is their own business and hardly exploitative let alone abusive. 

Speaking to Vargas on GMA, Zervakos told us that it was his job as a juror to "divest himself from the personal and emotional" but in the same breath he told us the defendant's looks "just didn't wash" in relation to the crime. 

The Jodi Arias jurors had a hard job to do, I do not question that. Even if you are comfortable with the death penalty, it doesn't mean you have to give it out for any given crime or even for this particular crime, the brutalization of a young man at his most vulnerable. Twelve people had to figure out what was the right sentence and it would be respectable if they had all agreed to something. There is even dignity in working long hours but finding no agreement.

I just wish Mr. Zervakos had based his mistrial-inducing decision on something better than Jodi's well practiced posturing herself into the small and helpless. We know she's not helpless. We know her wispy bangs crown a cunning mind. We know her pretty eyes mask violent anger. I know that Mr. Zervakos carefully considered the testimony and evidence presented to him, I know he wanted to do the right thing. But his comments to Elizabeth Vargas will live forever.

And I know I won't be the only one wishing he had thought less about how Jodi looked and focused more on how Travis looked after she was done with him.

For more on Zervakos, click on the Zervakos label. See new post May 26, 2013

Blogger is having technical trouble keeping up with all your great discussion. Rather than have it continue to hide your comments, I have disabled comments on this post only. Please click through to this post -->> http://camillekimball.blogspot.com/2013/05/foremanhood-and-fatherhood-jodi-arias.html   to leave your thoughts on the Jodi Arias jury foreman. The comment function there is still working fine. THANK YOU!!! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jodi Arias Allocution Statement-Thoughts from the Courthouse

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Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

As I write this I am hurriedly grabbing lunch and charging up my computer in the courthouse where Jodi Arias just finished telling a poker-faced group of jurors why they should spare her life. Later today those jurors will deliberate that question.

I'm thinking about her speech a lot. She showed the jurors slides of the sketches she does while behind bars. These included portraits of movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and of Jodi's little niece at the piano. These were color sketches done with pencil. Jodi told the jury that because she will spend the rest of her life in prison-one way or the other-she would never be able to make an oil painting again. She managed to convey her sense of loss over losing this resource for her art.

She told them of her plans to institute a recycling program at the prison to which they will send her, if she gets a life sentence. She let us know just how wasteful the institution was and how she would be the great manager they needed to reduce their wastefulness if her life were spared.

She produced a representation of the Locks of Love program and told how she had so far made three donations of her own hair to the charitable organization for providing wigs to medical patients, three times she has cut her long hair and sent it to Locks of Love since her arrest some 5 years ago.

She told them how her life had been enriched by books and how, if given life, she would reduce illiteracy in prison and start book clubs for the inmates. And she would teach sign language, too. She hasn't done these things during her stay in Maricopa County Jail, she said, because she was too busy preparing for trial.  But given a life sentence, not shut up in Death Row, she would be a source of education and inspiration in the General Population of fellow women inmates.

In the midst of all this helpfulness, Jodi help up a T shirt with the word "Survivor" blazoned across it. She said she designed it and was selling it to help "survivors of domestic violence."

She said a lot of things, but let's start with that last one. Jodi Arias, trying to persuade twelve strangers to be merciful to her, told them she realized "some people don't believe I am a survivor of domestic violence."  As if this were somehow gentle and subtle, not a direct slap to the judgment of the people she was addressing, the jurors.

Jodi gave a convoluted excuse for having gone before television cameras soon after her arrest and admitted she lied on TV. Somewhere in that line of reasoning she built herself a platform for taking more swipes at Travis himself, the man she left to rot unmourned and unaccounted for locked behind his own bedroom doors for days.  The reason for her lies and strange TV appearances was that she was really "protecting" Travis's reputation. She "admired" Travis, she told the jurors, so that explained her not wanting people to know how really lousy he actually was, according to her reasoning.  What a skillful balancing act, riding both sides of that coin at the same time. Skillful at least in that she managed to convince herself it sounded good.

I have a sense of gloom for any Locks of Love recipients who now may be wondering if they have been given the hair of an unrepentant and gruesome murderer to cover their bald heads, the same hair that Jodi left mixed with Travis's blood in the shower where he died.  Perhaps Jodi would have made a more generous gesture if she had left her donations as a matter of privacy. 

I can just imagine the jury deliberations later today as 12 people willing to convict her of 1st degree pre-meditated murder throw their hands to their hearts and foreheads, what will the Arizona State Prison System do without Jodi's organizing skills for a recycling program? There couldn't possibly be any security issues involved with that the wardens might have already considered? What a blessing Jodi will be if we send her out there to help out administration and teach all the 'lesser' inmates about literature and sign language!

Taking a human life, in the form of a death sentence, is a very serious thing. I don't often digress into sarcasm like that during these proceedings, but the more I replay her speech in my mind, even watching some of her jurors cross toward the elevators while I type (they cannot see my screen and do not notice me),  the more I realize how much she revealed herself.

As others have already noted, at no time did Jodi say she was sorry for what she had done to Travis. She said it was "the worst thing she had ever done." Even while she was saying so, some 30 feet in front of me, I in the back row, she across the railing and facing the jury, I couldn't help but think, "It's the worst thing ANYONE in this room has done!"

Jodi spoke those words during a river of rhetoric that almost made it comparable to someone else saying they shoplifted a lipstick as a teen or were snarky to their spouse.

It's almost time to go back upstairs. The one thing I cannot stop thinking about Jodi saying, most of all, is when she revealed she never understood just how much Travis's brothers and sisters were suffering until two of them made victim impact statements last week. Suddenly, Jodi said, she had it "hit home."

For me, the magnitude of that revelation cannot be over-emphasized.  Saying that you could stab someone's head so hard the skull chipped and divoted, slicing their throat all the way through the trachea, stabbing them in the heart, shooting them in the head and delivering so many other wounds and insults -- it took you till the end of the trial to figure out this would devastate and derail a family forever?

Jodi, that doesn't make you a person who deserves mercy. That makes you a very scary person. A very scary person indeed.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jodi Arias and Mitigation

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Jodi Arias reacts as a guilty verdict is read in her first-degree murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic/Pool
Jodi Arias hears the verdict: Murder 1   Pool photo

Now that the "guilt" phase of Jodi Arias's trial is over and she is a convicted 1st degree murderer, we are trying to move into the "aggravation" phase.

I say "trying" because it was supposed to begin on Thursday, but was mysteriously cancelled while we were waiting in the hall outside locked courtroom doors. The reason for the cancellation may have something to do with the exclusive interview Arias gave to Fox10's Troy Hayden, less than half an hour after she heard jurors convict of her of pre-meditated murder. Or it may not. All is speculation right now.

But in that interview Arias herself spoke directly about the mitigation process. She told Troy Hayden that she has "no mitigating factors." I'll come back to that. First I'd like to explain more about the process.

For 4 months, people have observed a woman who sits behind the defense team and often interacts with Arias during the breaks and also with her family. She is the mitigation specialist. While Nurmi and Wilmott, Arias's defense attorneys, are there to give their client the best legal advocacy they can, Arizona law affords her one more chance on top of that. 

Mitigation is not about guilt or innocence. It is about mercy. So the mitigation specialist is rarely, if ever, a lawyer.  The person who fills this job is more likely to be a trained social worker or counselor. This person puts together an extensive report on the defendant's background and/or accomplishments.

Jodi Arias told Troy Hayden with bitter irony that her mother "didn't beat her hard enough" therefore she has no pathetic childhood stories with which to touch the jurors' heartstrings. 

But Arias is missing the biggest point of the entire mitigation proceeding. The most effective thing a convict can do to mitigate their sentence is to show humility and remorse. 

This is what worked for Sam Dieteman, one of Arizona's notorious serial killers. Did you hear that?  A serial killer.

I am not here to be defending or admiring Sam Dieteman in anyway. He did some horrific things and caused incalculable human sorrow (< < click thru) and laughed while doing so. But once he was caught, he had at least enough remorse to confess. He pled guilty without any deals and spared the community a long trial. Dieteman cooperated with the state by testifying against his former "buddy," Dale Hausner, all the while knowing the state still intended to try to get a different jury to give him the death penalty when they were done with Hausner. 

Dieteman's testimony in the Hausner trial was compelling. He told the jurors that he had become a "piece of shit" prior to his incarceration. He did not blame Hausner for his own degeneration. He appeared in stripes and chains before the Hausner jury, not cocky and never sparring with the attorneys. He told jurors that he believed in the death penalty and that he deserved it.  

A few weeks later, the same attorneys who had called him as a friendly witness asked for his execution in front of a different jury. Dieteman knew they would. His demeanor before his own jury did not change from the Sam we had seen helping to convict Dale. But this second jury was moved to mercy.  It was not Dieteman's less than stellar childhood that did it. It was Dieteman's lack of defiance and refusal to defend his own despicable acts that stayed their hands.  Sam Dieteman did not get the death penalty though he killed more times than did Jodi Arias.

So far Jodi Arias has displayed less remorse than a serial killer. 

When her lies had caved in on her and she sat with Troy Hayden in a basement cell well below the fifth floor courtroom Wednesday afternoon, Arias could have embraced the truth at last. She could have used Troy's cameras to tell the world how sorry she was that she had taken a life. She could have expressed a sense of shame and sorrow. 

But as people all over the world have seen by now, the only sorrow on display was a brief moment when Troy asked her about her mother. Knowing she would remain behind bars instead of walking free, Jodi Arias had a sudden repentance for how she had treated her mother "not very well."  She averted her face, hiding behind her sheet of hair, and went through the motions of someone overcome by emotion.

"I can't talk right now," she whispered to Troy, through her drapes of locks. 

Mama Arias had become a much more important figure, Jodi had seemed to realize, now knowing she would not be following in Casey Anthony's footsteps, free to crash-bang her way through life on her own terms. In county jail, just about anyone is free to visit an inmate. Jodi had been receiving fans from the public so much that even her mother was denied access when Jodi ran out of allotted visits for the week. The sheriff who runs the jail is even more in love with TV cameras than Jodi is, allowing what seems to be access unprecedented in other jails across the country.  By the way, that is how the Troy Hayden interview was allowed -- it had nothing to do with Judge Sherry Stephens. The inmate is in the custody of the county sheriff and this particular sheriff has never asked a judge for permission to do anything in his life. 

County jail, though, is for un-sentenced inmates and short-termers. The famous tents are filled with DUIs and probation violators, not with capital defendants. As soon as Jodi Arias is sentenced, you can expect to see her custody transferred from the county sheriff to the state prison system, possibly on camera.

Arizona's Department of Corrections has a dramatically different policy toward the media than does the county jail.  A TV crew can get a state prisoner on the phone for a recorded interview, but they are never allowed to bring in the cameras for a personal interview with an inmate about his or her crime. AZDOC may allow a camera in from time to time to do a story about a new rehabilitation program, for instance. But officials there have told me they simply refuse to put inmates up for individual stories "about my life and times in crime," as they sarcastically put it. I've made the requests myself and so have many TV crews I've worked with. So far, no results. 

AZDOC is also much stricter about who can come in for a regular visit. No longer a first-come, first-serve system where you can show up unexpected and have the inmate brought out to you, in Arizona prisons an inmate must designate visitors on a list. Each person named by the inmate as a welcome visitor must undergo their own background check by the prison. Plenty of people could be refused access to prison invitation, starting with people who have their own felony convictions. 

The visitor list is restricted to 20 people, last time I checked. So to receive any visitors at all, an orange jump-suited guest of the State of Arizona must hope for people who are both willing to submit to the background check and who will pass it.

The jail system Jodi Arias has been in the last five years has facilities that are close to downtown Phoenix or are actually in downtown Phoenix. From the airport, you could be filling out your visitor pass within 20 minutes and be seated at a restorative fine dinner 20 minutes after your visit to the grimy, smelly jail.

The prisons where Jodi Arias will live out the rest of her life, one way or another, are out in the wild boondocks, though. After your arrival at Phoenix Sky Harbor you'd have to drive another hour or so to the east, well into the desert.* The small town available to you out there is not a thriving major metropolitan city full of hiking trails and golf courses; it's a prison industry village with forgotten diners and spare accommodations. 

Jodi Arias, knowing that she will soon leave Maricopa County's convenient and accessible jails, knows she now needs her mother. Her display of repentance about her behavior to her mother could easily be seen as a last minute grasp for the one person who might be willing and qualified to go through everything it takes to stand by Jodi in the state prison complex east of Phoenix. Inside the courtroom during the trial, I have seen Jodi look toward her mother from time to time. But I never saw the message in her eyes that expressed love, connection, shame, or fear. It was more of a cold roll-call. In those days, Jodi still expected the testimony of Alyce LaViolette, Richard Samuels and her own self had washed over the jurors like a tidal wave of righteous truth. She could afford to be haughty and demanding with her mother. Frankly, I have seen more emotionally connected wordless exchanges between serial killer Dale Hausner (< < click thru) and his family in the court gallery than I did in this trial. 

The shock of her conviction left one thing clear to Jodi. Having lived on the inside for 5 years, she must know from the stories of other inmates how different it is in state prison. With her tentacles to the outside world severely clipped as the last of 12 jurors firmly called out "yes" to affirm their vote, Jodi knew she had to reel Mama Arias back in as close as she could get her.  The dip of the head, the falling sheet of hair, the "my mom is a saint" comment to Troy Hayden, seemed to me to be designed to that end.

Jodi never used the interview with Fox10 to exhibit any other remorse. Quite the opposite, she slammed the dead man yet again, over and over, with various questions that Troy lobbed to her. Don't blame Troy, he got her to reveal herself and reveal she did. 

Lead defense counsel Kirk Nurmi is the one who told her she had no mitigating factors, Jodi reported to Troy. Her communications with Nurmi are privileged so there's no way to prove it, but I personally believe that is an outright lie. Nurmi must have told her that bad childhoods aren't the be-all and end-all of mitigation.

But Jodi wouldn't have listened to Nurmi's advice on that. Just like she didn't want to listen to the advice of one of her earlier attorneys; she petitioned the court to have Maria Schaffer removed from her case years ago. It's clear Jodi didn't like Ms. Schaffer. But the attorney who successfully guided admitted serial killer Sam Dieteman clear of a death penalty was, in fact, Maria Schaffer.

There are things far more powerful than past hardship during a mitigation hearing.




Jodi could have been funneling her art sale proceeds to the Alexander family or even to Deanna Reid at least to defray Napoleon's expenses. She could have been using her much cherished verbal intelligence to help with literacy courses for other inmates. She could have been honest on her numerous psychological exams and begun an earnest course of self-improvement. 

In her five years in jail, Jodi Arias did none of that. In her 45 minutes with Troy Hayden's cameras trained nowhere but on her, she did none of that. 

What she did reveal is what Travis Alexander himself told us from the grave as his text messages to her were displayed for all the world to see while Jodi Ann Arias was on trial. What Travis said to her is, "You only have tears for yourself."

*Much thanks to @Sandaholics for reminding me that Jodi Arias is more likely to go to Perryville, than to Florence. Perryville is west of Phoenix and is not as far. 

Jodi's statements to Troy Hayden about mitigation  < < click here 

**Link to this or any post is always welcome, but posting the whole text to another site makes me go all frowny!**

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is Juan Martinez Married? - Camille Gives the Answer

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If you watch the Jodi Arias trial - the formerly blonde bombshell who killed her lover 3 different ways - you not only know who Juan Martinez is, you have an opinion of him. 

Martinez is the diminutive prosecutor with the giant personality. I live tweet from inside the Jodi Arias 
courtroom and twitter demands brevity, so I always refer to him as simply, "Juan." 
Juan Martinez looks at Jodi Arias video on the monitor on the prosecution table

His first name has been co-opted by the web, anyway, as fans frequently refer to him as "Juanderful," "Juantastic," and other clever puns showing enthusiastic admiration for the short, slender man who displays the cerebral machismo of a Captain Kirk, with an identically equal commitment to justice and to winning.

Instead of zooming from galaxy to galaxy setting wrongs to right wherever he goes, Juan Martinez dashes from courtroom to courtroom discharging his considerable energy like a phaser set to stun on witnesses and defendants who don't know what hit them.

Juan is unabashedly aggressive in the courtroom, mocking witnesses, raising his voice, never letting a single point go by unchallenged.  Now that he has a worldwide television audience, it turns out the ladies love him for it. 

Some of the most commonly used search terms now to find this blog are, "Is Juan Martinez married?" or "Juan Martinez wife?" or "Juan Martinez available?"

Sometimes I have answered that question directly to commenters who post the question in the trails. I figured it was time I made it easier to find the answer with a post of its own.

Ladies, Juan Martinez is NOT married.

Now for the bad news: he is not single, either. 

Juan Martinez is in a long-term relationship with someone who fell for that terrier-like charisma of his long before he was famous.  She has been keeping a close eye on the trial, closer than you would think, but you haven't seen her.

Why am I being so coy about naming her or giving more info about her?  Because they are. Well before fame came into their lives, Juan and his lady love guarded their privacy carefully.  With the unrelenting glare of TV cameras from all over the world converged on him every day all day, their privacy for their personal lives is even more sweet and I will not be the one to break it for them.

I will tell you that she is as smitten with him as you are and speaks of him with great fondness and admiration. So you can all rest assured that he is treated well and given his due portion of loving companionship.

I can also tell you that he is incredibly lucky to have her, as well. She is physically just gorgeous. She is highly educated. She has considerable professional accomplishments of her own. I guarantee you would all like her.

Juan Martinez was not a national figure before the Jodi Arias trial but to those of us who have been in the Maricopa County courthouse for many years before Jodi ever tried on her first pair of jail stripes, he has been a familiar figure, handling many of the most sensational murder trials in this county. Some of us know his better half, most do not. 

Juan also happens to be a polarizing figure. Some consider him a bully, not a bulldog. I've even had commenters on this blog suggest the temper he displays in court is a symptom of a scary man and fear he may even be dangerous as a partner.

I can say unequivocally that is a bizarre accusation of the wildest kind. Without having actually taken her clothes off for any forensic exam, I can tell you I have seen his sweetheart often enough and know enough about her to assure you she is no shrinking violet and displays all the qualities of one of the most capable women you could ever meet. Frankly, she could probably best him in a physical confrontation--not that such a thing has ever happened!--because of both her character and his small size. In other words, if you dressed them both in WWF scary outfits and dropped them in a ring together, I wouldn't know which one to bet on. So please put that ridiculous thought out of your mind. Feel free to dislike Juan, but don't worry about his private life or his loved ones.

But most of you adore him. You can't get enough of him. You will be sorry to hear that during the Jodi Arias trial, a TV production company that was working on a piece about one of my cases was having a hard time reaching him. I was able to help them out by passing on their message to him in person in the hallways. 

Unfortunately, the Chandler Police Department ruined your chances of seeing Juan on TV for that particular story because they refused to cooperate, so the TV crew had to kill the story.  It was the Jamie Laiaddee case, which is my story "Trophy Wife" in Masters of True Crime. In that case, your favorite prosecutor got some measure of satisfaction for another grieving family, remarkable because the body has never been found, making it a far more difficult a case than Jodi's. Not only no body, but no crime scene has ever been found, either. Rick Valentini, the man on trial, maintained that Jamie is still alive and has simply left town on her own.  

But Juan Martinez ninja-ed his way through that enormous obstacle and got Valentini convicted of 2nd degree murder. Valentini will be wearing an orange jumpsuit for the better part of the next 50 years. 

Juan Martinez has prosecuted many interesting cases and I will feature more of them. Here's one of the more bizarre. < < click

Just a sliver of the crowd in front of the courthouse on Jodi Arias verdict day, as seen from the KPNX set

So many of you have discovered this fiery and focused prosecutor through the Jodi Arias trial. You have fallen in love with his saying to witnesses what you wish you could say to them yourselves. You've been impressed with his tight control of his case and his always-ready organization skills. You've admired his passionate speeches to the jury, in which he used no notes and spoke for hours from the facts and points in his head. You loved him when he pointed at Jodi and called her "a liar and killer." 

You consider yourself his biggest fan. 

Just remember, he does have one fan who is even more ardent and committed than you are. She's proud that all you ladies admire him from afar.  She's amused that he's become a rock star to you.

But mostly she's very happy she found him first. 

(If she ever gives me permission, I will "introduce" you to her. But I won't out her, so don't ask! To the few who think she is me, she isn't. Really. Don't get me in trouble with her, please.)

**Link to this or any post is always welcome, but posting the whole text to another site makes me go all frowny!**

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Never Any Worries - Crime Writer talks Jodi Arias to KPNX

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Jodi Arias to Fox 10's Troy Hayden after her 1st degree murder conviction: "I think death is the ultimate freedom and I'd rather just my freedom as soon as I can get it."

Jodi, I think you'll finally get your wish. And very soon. (at least the sentence-the actual execution will take very long)

The embed code to the video below has it playing instantly as you visit the site. Please hit "pause" or turn down the volume until you are ready to view it. I will work on figuring out how to change the code or just remove the video if I can't change the setting. Sorry!

Many people, including some quite famous ones, were extremely nervous about the length of time that the Jodi Arias was taking in deliberations. I was not. To prove it, here's the TV interview I gave the night before the verdict actually did come in. I believe the jurors did exactly what I said they'd be doing.....

 I spoke with Mark Curtis again the next day from the courthouse steps shortly after Jodi Arias was convicted of first degree murder. I'll post that too if they put it up.

Jodi Arias found it easy to take a human life. 12 jurors did not. They took their time in reviewing their options. The final vote was a total of 12 for pre-meditation and another 7 found she also committed felony murder. Some of the time in the jury room may have been spent trying to get a unanimous triple play. But in the end they decided having 12 votes plus an extra 7 sent a strong enough message.


Please join me for the final phases of the trial as I tweet live from inside the Jodi Arias courtroom.
@CamilleKimball  with @CamilleInCourt for backup