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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! 


  1. I love your stuff, but you have to fix this blog design -- it detracts so much from your writing (also centered text is only for invitations). There is a great site that talks about visitor usability and how to design for it at http://www.nngroup.com/articles/113-design-guidelines-homepage-usability (Jakob Nielsen) I think if you toned it down your site stats would go through the roof - consistently. It's better if you have your own website/blog but the fact that your name is in the blogspot URL helps you. Just my thoughts because your writing and content are so good, but this site is hard to read and hard on the eyes.

  2. I agree... There is too much going on and it's hard to read some of the bullets... and since bullets are your business (as well as other instruments of dispatch) you might want to consider some changes.

  3. I do appreciate your advice, Sarah and Sandy. I admit I'm really bad at the website design stuff and have to learn it from scratch with a brain that repels such info right at the border. I have opted to concentrate on providing content, which comes more naturally to me. But it appears that soon I shall have to hunker down and get the design part right. I do hope you will continue to be patient with me as I continue to focus on content a bit longer. Thank you very much, really appreciate it.

  4. This is absolutely incredible. I loved reading your work. As someone who has studied this case so very closely, I praise you on your ability to write out the extreme complexities within this story,into something others can grasp. Because there is so much! Another thing: Thank you a lot for being a neutral source throughout your article. That's highly respectable and says a lot about your character and how your ideas and experiences are truthful and genuine.