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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Juan Martinez - So, So Hot and So, So Cold

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The debate about whether Prosecutor Juan Martinez is an Avenging Angel bringing sweet relief to the crying souls of murder victims or a Demon doing the devil's work of browbeating innocent-ish defendants and their sainted legal teams into broken submission has busted out anew with the publication of a new newspaper article.

The article is a long-form piece, so refreshing to find in these days of click-bait Air-Puffed News Crunchies. Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer worked on it for several months, researching and analyzing data on the incidence of allegations of misconduct against prosecutors in Arizona's death penalty cases for roughly the last ten years.

If you are coming to this blog from outside Arizona, and most of you do, Kiefer's work (it's actually a week-long series) will still be relevant to you because it gives insight into American courts in general and also highlights several cases that have captured the nation's attention at various times. Most famously and most recently, the series highlights the case of Jodi Arias. Visitors to this blog tend to be, ahem, very interested in that case.

The third article in Kiefer's series is devoted entirely to allegations of misconduct against Jodi Arias prosecutor Juan Martinez.

Juan Martinez is a polarizing figure. No question about it. He has a unique charisma in the courtroom that attracts adoring fans to his quietly burning fire and bionic-man efficiency or repels others to the core with his lightning strikes of sarcasm and take-no-prisoners advocacy where his five foot four frame seems to loom menacingly huge like a shadow in the most frightening Gothic film.

This summer I was a guest of the Arizona Public Defender Association, on a panel speaking to a ballroom full of lawyers. When the name Juan Marinez came up, the collective growl of 500 defense attorneys was palpable, audible, and almost feral.

In the prosecutorial misconduct article, Michael Kiefer shows us the Gothic version of Martinez, a prosecutor who seems to flit in and out of the halls of justice with the eternal indemnity of a vampire and the same morals.

Michael Kiefer himself has picked up some angry detractors of his own. I count myself one of his friends and fans. He has always been a generous and valued colleague to me.
Kimball and Kiefer
We have often viewed the same event through different lenses and that makes no difference to my respect for him. It's beneficial that we can look at the same elephant with him focusing on the trunk and me fixated on the size.

So here are a couple of my casual observations about his article on the sins of Juan Martinez.

First, a bit about the Jodi Arias section. Michael writes, 'Martinez was frequently insulting. The first question he posed to Arias during cross-examination set the tone, when he displayed a photograph to the courtroom and described it to her as a “picture of you and your dumb sister.”'

To me, that sentence could have been a bit more precisely punctuated. It should have had more quote marks in it. Picking it up in the latter half it should have looked more like this,
...and described it to her as a "picture of you and your 'dumb' sister."
As I recall the courtroom action, Martinez was not in that moment himself insulting defendant Jodi Arias's sister. He was quoting Arias herself, as entered into evidence. He was showing the photo of the two sisters together possibly to underscore the defendant's tendency to arrogance and duplicity by coupling it with Jodi's own remark about the younger Arias.

Media of the world in a pic I snapped leaving the Jodi Arias courthouse
In the section about the Doug Grant case (click here for more on Doug Grant), in which a nutrition king was accused of murdering his wife, every-bit-as-famous-in-his-own-right defense attorney Mel McDonald is quoted as complaining that Martinez had objected to just about every question he had posed to a witness. This is, yes, a very annoying tactic when you are one of the observers in a courtroom. It is hardly, however, the singular sin of prosecutors in general nor of Juan Martinez in particular. Any courtroom observer has seen it done by both sides of the aisle. Some judges keep a tighter rein on it than others. I'm no expert, but I don't think it's defined in the rules of courtroom procedure as a sin, at all. It can't be, for as often as I've seen it done.

The Republic article rightly lists the many pieces of evidence of drowning victim Faylene Grant's bizarre and cheerful obsession with her own death. I think I will use my own space here to also mention  some of the other evidence such as that the origin of her obsession was subject to debate. Did Doug have some kind of Svengali-like hold over her, leading her to write about death for his own sinister purposes? One of Faylene's own kids testified to having been blocked from access to her mother that morning, breaking with the household's normal routine. And the strange idea that natural health expert Doug had of calling a buddy instead of 911 upon finding his wife in mortal distress and that of feeding her excessive doses of powerful drugs against advice.

I shall leave the Doug Grant section with the notation that defense attorney McDonald himself considered the outcome of the case a victory for his client and well he should.

Lastly, the section in the Republic article about prostitute-killer Cory Morris hammers on Martinez's conduct regarding allegations of possible habitual necrophilia by the defendant. Was the evidence for this medical in nature? Apparently not. I did not sit in on this case, as I did the others mentioned, but I trust the reportage and accept it with confidence. But it does make a perfect case of me fixating on the size of the same elephant while someone else is examining its trunk. As I understand it, the corpses of the unfortunate women were recovered in states of advanced decay. It is unlikely it was at all possible to establish this kind of assault via medical evidence, with all the soft and fleshy parts of the bodies no longer coherent in form. But crimes are often proved in court without medical evidence. (Rick Valentini was recently convicted of the murder of Jamie Laiaddee with no medical evidence at all: her body has never been found, nor a crime scene--click here)

From what we know about sexual serial killers, the necrophilia is highly likely and a reasonable assumption especially given other facts of the Cory Morris case. But, most of all, why on earth would medical evidence of abuse of a corpse be crucial to the outcome of this case? Abuse of a corpse is not a capital charge. Victory against Martinez on this charge would lead to...crickets chirping.

It seems the fight for whether Morris actually murdered five women or not has been abandoned. Let's say appeal attorneys do win this battle. Cory Morris no longer can be considered guilty of necrophilia. He was never convicted of Abuse of a Corpse anyway. Morris is currently waiting on Death Row for five executions for five murders. The end. No sentences for any other crime. Just murder.

My guess is the appeals team hopes it can taint the verdict by saying the jurors were unfairly influenced by the improper "disgust" factor. If so, I may have more faith in jurors than do Morris's lawyers. If we could send people to Death Row for disgusting conduct, epic child molester Jerry Sandusky from Penn State would be there right now.  I believe jurors know that.

I also believe the strangling of five human beings is monstrous enough and so does the law.

Or perhaps their arguments have to do with the enhancements required to be found by a jury before a murder conviction can be considered for the death penalty. But committing 5 murders will get you over that hump so, again, crickets. And for more about how the law regards crimes against a dead person as opposed to a live one, see this post on Trent Benson.

So those are some of my top of mind reactions to the prosecutorial misconduct article in the Republic. Your mileage may vary.

The paper's series, by the way, opens with a highlight on retired prosecutor Noel Levy. He handled the Debra Milke case (click here for that case). I'll be doing more about it in the future. More details on Levy are available in my book, WHAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED about Marjorie Orbin.





Please join the debate on the Republic's Gothic Juan Martinez in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you, the good, the bad, and the ugly.






13 comments:

  1. This journalist had a bend against JM from the beginning. He has posted an editorial piece in my opinion which is his right. We don't have to agree with it, and most don't. Thanks for your input.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Sunny. Pursuing the death penalty always deserves great scrutiny and public discussion. Glad to hear your point of view.

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  2. I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to JM. In the case of Jodi, though, I love him. Put that woman away and never let her come out to play again. The *hate* comes because a re-trial on the penalty phase is costing loads of money to the AZ tax payers. JM won't back down and insists on the death penalty. Let her live - in solitude - for the rest of her life. One thing I do like about JM is the fact that he is unassuming. Most lawyers hog the limelight, whereas JM tends to shy from it. He is passionate about his work, and it's obvious when he grills someone on the stand. I see nothing that in any way shows "misconduct".

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    1. While it's flattering to get fans and media attention, I do believe nothing makes Juan Martinez happier than prosecuting a case. He is really in his element there and the full attention of a jury is probably the only "limelight" he really needs. Thanks for your thoughts.

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    2. "One thing I do like about JM is the fact that he is unassuming. Most lawyers hog the limelight, whereas JM tends to shy from it."

      That'd be a great observation if there were any truth to it.

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  3. If Juan had not developed an attitude with Jodi ,he would not have gotten a thing out of her. She made Juan question her the way he did ,because she thought she was smarter than he was. I don't know how the man had the will power or patience to deal with her. He is the best.

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    1. I agree with "Sunney," this was an "editorial." Kiefer-isms. And I agree with Anonymous here. Kiefer laments, in reference to Mr. Martinez. In one assertion, Kiefer states: "He asked compound questions and then accused witnesses of being non-responsive when they would not answer yes or no."

      The fact is, Nurmi and Willmott, if they didn't object, they were forced to attempt rehabilitation of their own witnesses or, Mr. Martinez had to formulate two separate questions to obtain a yes or no answer. No different than what Nurmi or Willmott were called out for and often got away with. Lawyers do it all the time. Perhaps that's why the referenced statement about 'going back to law school' was so poignant. Side-bar complaints..

      And the irony is, the majority listening to Mr. Martinez recognized the reasoning behind his questioning. Lets get to the truth. Isn't that the prosecutions job? It's simple, when the responses went beyond the scope of questioning, Mr. Martinez recognized their attempts to 'avoid' simple questions. Arias was no exception. But lying is Arias' forte and she had ample time to formulate yet another story before trial. You could call it convict pillow talk. Or feminist influence. Or both.

      Mr. Martinez knew exactly what he was dealing with when it came to Arias. She wanted life with the possibility of parole. She didn't get what she wanted in spite of her threats, her predilections for salacious sex which she admitted to enjoying. It backfired on the predator. Yet Kiefer crosses the line again. Kiefer seems compelled to state Mr. Martinez has a predilection for bringing up sexual predilections with defendant behaviors. Sounds personal. And petty.

      Nonetheless, the story, as Arias tells it, a segue into pedophilia. And Righteousness. And victimhood. Yet viciously the Alexander family is touted as having brought on their own agony having to listen to this admitted prevaricator. Why the personal attack on the Alexander family by Kiefer? Meet the victims of Arias. Pray tell, where are Arias' mitigation witnesses with the Death Penalty looming? The crux of Kiefer-isms.

      Given everything in Kiefer's editorial, it comes off as petty and a personal attack on prosecutors, a wind up reference directed at Mr. Martinez with a comparison to Levy. A cheap shot. Can't get anymore personal or petty than that other than lacking in editorial integrity.

      If this was to be a come-back piece for Kiefer, it appears linking his article is the only manner in which to give it a leg.

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    2. Thank you Pane! Finally someone who put it ALL into a clear, concise, perspective. I keep hearing that JM is "known" for prosecutorial misconduct by Kiefer and Arias fans, BUT I can find nothing to substantiate those claims. If Juan Martinez is a "crooked dirty prosecutor"..... Could someone offer me proof, as well as other cases in which he is accused of such? Observing JM (via TV) has been riveting. I find him very intelligent, always informed and ready to fight fire with fire if the need arises. It becomes quickly obvious he has NO patience for liars and so called "sexperts" called in by Nurmi and Willmont. Jodi Arias thought she would be "cute" and give JM a hard time while trying to "rattle" him with her antics. Her plan cost her greatly.... by not answering his questions and appearing totally devoid of compassion. JM managed to bring out much of what she had tried so hard to hide. Former jurors found her lack of remorse and compassion deplorable and went on to say she was her own worst enemy on the stand.

      Please forgive my rambling but I have followed this trial for so very long and feel passionately about it.


      I want more than just accusations of misconduct by Juan Martinez. I want the names of the cases (other than Arias) in which JM supposedly committed misconduct.

      I know NOTHING about Kiefer, other than he appears to be biased regarding Jodi Arias and seems to have an ax to grind with Juan Martinez. I want to know why he seems to hate JM and why he seems to be "buddies: with Arias. If he is against the death penalty, that is his right. But he has no right to attempt to smear the name of Juan Martinez UNLESS, he can give valid reasons why.

      I will be waiting and watching for "facts" against Juan Martinez.

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  4. Bully or rock star?

    What do we call a man who willingly and systematically stomps on the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair hearing of the facts? Bully seems such a mild name for that man.

    When a man uses tactics, such as verbally gutting expert witnesses, as Juan Martinez did in the Arias trial, he undermines the system to prove what he already “knows” in his heart. It no longer matters what the facts will prove or disprove; he had decided the defendant’s guilt and removes the possibility of the defense proving otherwise.

    It’s a little like one team spiking the opposing team’s sport drinks with laxatives before a game. Victory becomes a certainty but not through competition.

    When a man decides the defendant is guilty of the crime, and is willing to subvert his or her constitutional rights to prove his preconception, it’s not a far step to twist evidence to the same end. If the defendant is guilty, a prosecutor wouldn’t want any contradictory proofs muddying up the water.

    There was blood in Travis Alexander’s right ear, blood that emanated from an internal source. Juan Martinez asked Dr. Kevin Horn about blood in Alexander’s ear. The doctor blamed it on a supposed nicked lung.

    That’s a medical impossibility.

    I can understand why the bulldog bites, but why would a doctor misrepresent facts?

    The Arias Trial: Lie by Omission -- Youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o6MXUvA4S0

    Read:
    Innocence: An Argument for Jodi Arias
    Innocence: Proof of Perjury
    http://herrspeightsventures.com/Innocence.html

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  5. Name the constitutional 'right' of Arias' stomped on by the prosecutor? The proof - not just speculation and argument. Because I can speculate all day long too and give plenty argument for why I believe she's a narcissist ...a sociopath and a pathological liar that has every motive in the world NOW to scream self defense.

    The blood in the ear is an extremely poor argument you've been attempting to peddle on your blog and FB , to death, and when others point out how your argument isn't sound you simply huff n puff n pick up your rocks and stomp away back home. Is that what you expect to be respected?
    I don't know if people claiming Martinez is a bully or committing prosecutorial misconduct are SERIOUS or if there's just a LOT of emotional and mental illness in those watching this case who 'want' the girl innocent because they fancy themselves her fierce protector and have really fallen down the rabbit hole !

    As to Kiefers article. I agree with the previous poster. Kiefer seems to hv some real chip on his shoulder against Martinez. Is he just so anti DP he focuses so much of his hate onto the prosecutor or is there some petty slight that Kiefer feels toward Martinez we don't know about? Because he never seems capable of providing the full context to a given story. He uses the tired technique of 'if you just SAY it, some will just believe it '. Truth is so beside the point. Obviously.

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  6. It's already been said but I found this blog post due to a Google search 'what is Michael Kiefers 'personal' problem with Juan Martinez'.
    Astute trial watchers have already articulated that Kiefers problem HAS to be personal. His articles, tweets, etc on the Arias trial are like no 'journalist' of any integrity I've come across. He NEVER tells the full story when 'Opining' on the Arias Circus that her lawyers have been 100% responsible for- and never articulates ANYthing that comes close to backing up his allegations of misconduct. People are accurate - the man is petty. And filled with some kind of burning hatred for a man who dares to call a liar a liar. If he's buying the pedophilia and abuse nonsense- this man has very little exposure to what the fairer sex with a Personality Disorder is capable of. But I'm still hoping the truth eventually comes out. Michael Kiefer needs a therapist/not a computer. He has been an obvious mouthpiece for the Arias defense since day one. And that leads anyone to wonder what kind of a person would willingly assist such liars and corruption.

    As far as Mr Speights goes, well, good luck Kief if that's the kind of reader you want. His hallucinogenic ramblings are certifiable.

    Let me be clear. Juan Martinez I do not think is a God or certainly infallible. He bugged me when he let Arias and her 'experts' get away without being drilled and gutted even more. But I do think Juan Martinez approach at other times was exactly what was called for to expose Arias for who she was. Using a defense like battered women syndrome is an extremely insulting defense. Using it as a jaded courtroom gambit deserves far more vitriol than they actually got.

    If the defense had been REAL and genuine- there ain't NO prosecutor in the world that could have shaken up Arias and Alyce. When u have truth on your side- you don't get snarky, you don't become combative, you don't talk in double standards and you DONT need to take things OUT of context.

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    1. "As far as Mr Speights goes, well, good luck Kief if that's the kind of reader you want. His hallucinogenic ramblings are certifiable,' says the one hiding behind a pseudonym.

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  7. Martinez successfully prosecuted Wendi Andriano who was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of her husband who was dying of cancer. Andriano filed an appeal which, in part - surprise surprise - also accused Martinez of prosecutorial misconduct. Her appeal was denied. Martinez was also the prosecutor in the Laiaddee case.

    I believe that only those accused of murder think of Martinez as a pit-bull who won't let go. The family of victims call him passionate about finding the truth and convicting the right person. Too bad Kiefer doesn't understand the difference. I'm sure that if one of Kiefer's loved ones was murdered, he'd be begging for Martinez to prosecute the case.

    BTW, you are absolutely correct about using quotation marks around the "Arias' 'dumb' sister" statement. J'accuse Kiefer of reportorial misconduct.

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