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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dzevad and Emina and Jodi

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When I arrived at the #JodiArias trial this morning, Judge Sherry Stephens was still doing other cases. If you follow me on twitter @CamilleKimball, you know I quickly became intrigued by this case and started tweeting it. The defendant, though dressed in the baggy jail uniform of black and white stripes, looked powerful, muscular, and intimidating. In the gallery, Victim Advocates, employees of the courts, attended to women whose gaze he avoided. 

These women were seated where trial watchers are accustomed to seeing the Travis Alexander family during the Jodi Arias trial. The Alexanders were present, ready for their own day's ordeal to begin, but they respectfully sat two rows behind, in the media section while this other family watched their own tortured version of justice play out. 

When the victim's mother stood up to make her statement to the court, she spoke in an Eastern European language and used an interpreter. Keeping one eye on the defendant, though, I could see he understood the original language perfectly. He responded to some of the mother's remarks, even before they were interpreted, by shaking his head, "no." Even after taking this woman's daughter from her, it seems, this man still had an argument with her. And when it was his turn to stand up again, he told the judge how he disputed the grieving mother's account of certain incidents in their mutual past. 

He said his piece then received a Natural Life sentence from Judge Stephens, meaning he will never get out of jail.


The man, whose name flew by very fast in court, turned out to be Dzevad Selimovic. The woman he killed, Emina Redza. 

I looked up the rest of the case in downtown Phoenix court records. Selimovic is a native of Bosnia. Or rather, as he explained to Phoenix Police officers, he was born in a country then called Yugoslavia. Which, with a great deal of turmoil, has broken up. His point of departure when he left for America was actually Croatia. That was in January of 2001. The date of his arrival in America rolled off his tongue like it was a wedding anniversary or birthdate of his child.
At the time of the murder, Selimovic referred to Emina as his "girlfriend." The two had shared an apartment in Binghamton, New York for three months and, according to the defendant, were involved for a total of 2 years. 

He had paid off all her debts, he told police. But soon thereafter, she left New York and moved back to Arizona. He felt angry and suspicious. It wasn't long before she broke up with him altogether. He flew out here to visit her. After a couple of days his idyllic view of what their romance should be did not materialize. He went to a gas station and bought a "6-inch serrated screwdriver for automotive tire repair." His plan, he told police, was to use it to kill Emina. Or himself. 

But he held back when he found himself hopeful again for a reconciliation with her. What he thought was a new beginning did not pan out, though. After a week in Arizona, Emina was driving her ex-boyfriend to the airport to send him home.

They quarreled on the way, though, and he got out of the car at a random spot in north Phoenix. After many hours, the pair had cooled off. On the phone, they agreed that she would come pick him up at the grocery store to which he had walked. She'd bring him back to the apartment she shared with her sisters. He could take a shower there and then she'd take him to the airport for real. He was dependent on her for transportation since his own car was in the airport parking lot back in New York.

At 4pm, Emina told her sister where she was going and left to pick up what her sister referred to as her "ex"-boyfriend. 

As Selimovic tells it, Emina and he did return to the apartment, empty when they arrived. He asked for the shower. In the bathroom together, Selimovic, who sports a shaved head, asked Emina for a razor. She turned her back to him to get the razors out of the medicine cabinet.

Selimovic began stabbing her with the 6-inch serrated screwdriver from the gas station. 

"The two fell to the ground in the bathroom, where he again stabbed her in the back." Emina tried to fight back, but as she crawled out of the bathroom, the enraged Selimovic pursued her. Her body shows puncture type stab wounds to her face, throat, and hands in addition to her back. 

But Selimovic could not get the satisfaction he sought until he plunged the tire repair screwdriver into her temple. Emina no longer squirmed away from him after that. 

Selimovic was covered in blood. He took off his pants and threw them down on the floor in the same room where Emina was bleeding out. He cleaned his bare chest of Emina's spattered blood. He disappeared.

Emina's sister came home about 7:15 pm and found Emina lying on the floor with a screwdriver sticking out of her right temple. She was still alive. But, after an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital, the family was told by the neurosurgeon that she could not survive the screwdriver penetrating her brain. Emina lingered in a vegetative state for a while, but she soon proved the doctor correct. 

Police put out an All Points Bulletin for Selimovic. He was found, driving Emina's car, in a "farm and industral area" area surrounding Phoenix. A passing police cruiser noticed him as the only vehicle in an area of fields. 

As the officer approached, assuming it was a vehicle in distress, the driver "immediately stepped out of the driver's side, wearing only boxer shorts and sandals."

"I did something really bad," said this nearly naked man. "I don't want to run any more." 

The officer then noticed blood and contusions on the man and recalled the All Points Bulletin.  Selimovic was arrested.  He said, "I stabbed someone."

Back at police headquarters, Slemovic told the interrogating detective that Emina was his girlfriend, but that he also had a wife of 18 years and 2 kids. His rage, he explained, had to do with him leaving them for Emina. "I never did anything wrong before," he said.

What Emina's version of their breakup was we don't know. Perhaps she hadn't known about the wife and two kids and recently found out. Perhaps it was she who was sick of his debts. That's the thing about chasing a bleeding woman crawling on the floor till you can get the screwdriver right into her brain where you want it: it tends to make your version of what would otherwise be a lover's argument look extremely not-credible. The case does interest me. I may look into it further.

All this happened in September of 2010. At one time, attorneys on this case turned in paperwork checking off a) Control/ownership/jealousy issues and b)Access to or use of a weapon in categorizing this case as one of Domestic Violence. I make sure to point this out because he was being sentenced in the same room in which Alyce LaViollette was waiting to testify on these very types of markers in the Jodi Arias trial. 

While we were sitting there waiting for that trial to begin, we saw the tail end of this one play out in 2013. Emina's sister took to the rostrum in the center of the court, where #JodiArias watchers are accustomed to seeing Defense Attorney Jennifer Wilmott set her notes when questioning a witness, and tell the court of her grief. The one good thing about today, the unhappy sister said, was that they "won't have to come here any more and see the defendant." 

I have heard these sad words before. Each case is unique, but some things are just universal. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Vomit at Jodi Arias Trial - I Was There

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#JodiArias is on trial in an Arizona courtroom and people all over the country are watching on TV.  I, however, am watching from inside the courtroom itself and tweeting my observations at @CamilleKimball

The new tower in the Maricopa County Superior Court complex didn't make for a very good photo when I tried to snap it, so I turned the camera the other direction. That's me on the courthouse steps and the tiny white things across the street are the big TV trucks.

Crime writer & Emmy winning Investigative Reporter Camille Kimball on the "Day of the Vomit"

Here's a better look at one of the trucks (there are several).

Many of you are depending on this truck for most of your coverage

As you all know by now,  today's session in court was dramatically ended by an episode of projectile vomiting!  I happened to be looking right at the lady as it happened. I saw her lean slightly forward in her seat, in some kind of distress. Within moments, her lower jaw started quavering and soon the stuff came forward. She managed to get it onto the floor and avoid her own lap. This was not a dainty bit of baby spit-up but quite a hearty portion of a recently consumed solid meal. Her distress continued and the people around her became a mixture of awkward horror, resigned amusement, and polite concern. Soon she was whisked out with help and the row cleared. Her vomiting apparently continued out in the hallway. She did leave the courtroom on her own two feet.

This woman was sitting in the public section which is in the rows behind Jodi Arias' family. The lady was across the aisle from me in the media section. The jury was not present and the afternoon session of court had not quite begun but was slated to start in just moments. 

I would like to give a shout out to the the fellow who came in from the maintenance crew to clean up the unpleasant mess. We never stop to think how much janitorial stuff puts up with. Today we got an all too up close and personal look at their jobs. He was a great sport about it and I took a moment to personally thank him. At least he can go home and tell his family he was part of a somewhat historic moment!

The surprise Gastric Drama provided the most intrigue of the day. Otherwise, it was a day of Sidebars featuring White Noise occasionally punctuated by snippets of re-direct testimony. Dr. Richard Samuels was on the stand being rehabilitated by Defense Counsel Jennifer Wilmott after a shouting shellacking by Prosecutor Juan Martinez. 

In general, Dr. Samuel's testimony is intended by the Defense to show that Jodi Arias was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Self Disorder whether or not she told lies on the psychiatric tests and that this PTSD tends to support her version of self-defense in the killing of Travis Alexander, her secret Mormon lover. 

The attacks by Prosecution highlight Jodi's magnificent record as a liar; throw doubt on Dr. Samuel's ability to maintain a proper professional distance from Jodi and his credibility as an evaluator; and assert that Jodi's lies should and do make a difference to a proper psychiatric evaluation of her. 

Dr. Samuels has painted a picture of a young woman terrified of Travis due to his "abuse" and her own "low self-esteem." He has supported her alleged memory losses as physiological responses to the extreme stress of fighting for her life as well as taking a life in violation of her own pronounced "pacifist" nature.

Juan Martinez, on the other hand, is hoping to convince the jury that Dr. Samuels is in over his head, may even have a bit of a crush on Jodi and consequently massages his report in her favor and that Jodi is nothing but a cold and calculating liar and killer. 

If you want to see a picture of the vomit inside the courtroom, you'll have to go to the pool camera for that. I will leave you with a shot of the courthouse steps leading onto 1st Avenue in downtown Phoenix looking across the street at just some of the many TV trucks that have gathered for this trial. 

Look for the blue railing on the parking garage in all three shots to help you get oriented.
Thanks for asking @JanaMirrh, who wants to know "what the 'pool' camera is?" Here's the answer:
"The media" is a rough and tumble amorphous group of competing businesses. Everyone is trying to get the best pictures, the best information first!  If they don't win this game at least now and again, there's really no reason for them to stay in business. I should say that applies to a good chunk of them, not all of them. Some have other specialties besides "first." 

When many competing media businesses are all interested in the same event, say a coronation of a new pope or a sensational murder trial, the people in charge of the event have to find a way to manage all the competing reporters. What happens is that the courthouse or the Vatican or whatever designates one approved spot in the room where ONE camera may be placed. They choose a spot that is the least disruptive to the proceedings at hand. Often that's the back of the room or sometimes a raised dais off to the side. 

Since only this one camera is allowed in, all the media must share the fruits of this one piece of equipment. In a long trial, the different TV stations will rotate who provides the photographer of the day. At the end of the day (or in the middle of it, depending), the pool camera or the station in charge of it for the day MUST share all the footage or stills that they took.  

So, in general, cameras are not permitted to snap away willy-nilly inside a courtroom. Since I was not the pool camera on the day of #Vomitgate (and THANKS for that hashtag!!) I would not be permitted to snap my own photo of the, er, mess on the floor. If they had permitted me, suddenly you would have a dozen reporters and producers crowding and elbowing each other trying to get their special "angle" on the, ah, biological residue.  In order to maintain both fairness and order, one camera gets all the shots and you should see the same photos/footage everywhere. 

Since there are so many places to see the pool photos, I haven't posted any here. It is my aim to provide you with material you don't get everywhere else.

Glad you asked @JanaMirrh, hope that explains it well enough! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jodi Arias

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I am back in court today....Jodi Arias finally finished her marathon and extremely unusual run on the witness stand. Now the lawyers are arguing about the psychologist who is scheduled to testify next. He's a defense witness, Richard Samuels. He is supposed to explain to the jury such things as why Jodi Arias has no alleged memory of committing the murder, a murder that left a much bigger and stronger young man slumped in his home with his throat deeply slashed, nearly thirty other stab wounds, and a bullet in his head. 

Follow me on twitter.  @CamilleKimball

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Video of Sierra Cat Haven on a Happier Day

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There's crime.  Which is entirely preventable because a human being can choose not to commit one. 
And there's the brutality of nature. Which at once can be both more simple and more complex. 

A lion, as one grieving big cat sanctuary in California is painfully aware of today, is born to kill. While the Sierra Cat Haven is dedicated to providing comfortable homes for the gorgeous beasts and planning for their long term salvation as a species, the cats themselves are not making such grand plans. We don't know yet exactly what occurred between volunteer Dianna Hanson and big male lion Cous Cous, but by the end of it, they were both dead. 

By a quirk of fate, I happened to be at the Sierra Cat Haven sanctuary about 3 weeks ago. I saw Cous Cous. He was perfectly calm. His enclosure is one of the largest there. He shared it with a female lion who was much closer to the fence when our tour group stopped by. Cous Cous himself hung far back at the interior of his fenced habitat.  My wild guess is that he had roughly a 1/4 acre in which to roam. 

Cous Cous sat and watched us with his head erect, his full mane giving him the majesty for which his kind is so famous. He did not come near nor attempt to engage with us in anyway. He did not seem nervous or unhappy but he was not playful, either. 

On our tour we were told that all the cats there had lived their entire lives in domestic situations. Several of them had been acquired or "rescued" from trainers or zoos who found them unusable for profit-oriented entertainment purposes. Many of the leopards, lynxes, jaguars and tigers seemed very comfortable with human handling.

I shot this video on Feb 10, 2013 at Sierra Cat Haven. The fellow in the cage is a leopard who has been playing with a watermelon, the smashed remains of which can be seen at the bottom of the cement cavity inside his enclosure. 

Sierra Cat Haven seemed like a well run facility on the day I was there. The enclosures were large. Many of them had Christmas trees in them, the mega-cat version of a scratching post and crinkle toy. All of the cats had places to be private, ways to exercise, and entertainment designed for them. The tiger even had a place to swim. Each personality behind the barriers seemed well known to our tour guide. The animals were bright-eyed and alert but calm. The interaction between the tour guide and the cats was certainly unforgettable. With their plush fur, they would lean in to her caresses with the same exhibition of decadent luxuriating that we expect from house kitties. But with their size, their periodic screams, their dagger like claws and teeth, it was impossible to forget these were not pets but killing machines. 

And now a cat-crazy young woman, whose passion for the animals led her to travel far and plot out a life course she will never get to pursue, has lost her life in what must have been a terror we do not want to imagine. And Cous Cous, a playful cub on Ellen Degeneris's lap a few years ago and a haughty Master of All He Surveyed just 3 weeks ago, has fallen far afoul of his caretakers' altruistic vision, played out the brutality of the jungle for which he was born, and paid for it with an officer's bullet. 

A necropsy will be performed on Cous Cous. Will there be any answers there? Are there any videos of exactly what took place between Dianna and the big cat? Were there reliable witnesses? We may never have any satisfaction.

It may be no more that a passionate and cheerful woman took one wrong step, just one, in her young life and died for it. Whether it was trying to get a closer look at an animal that may have been showing signs of distress, distress which she thought she could  relieve, or that she tried to retrieve something dropped inside the double barrier, unaware that the lion's side had broken in some way or any of a number of other scenarios, the lesson might end being nothing more that one wrong step is all it takes. 

That is, after all, the law of the jungle.