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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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Dark Marksmen: TV Show Tonight

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Show: Twisted
Episode title: The Dark Marksmen
When: 10:00 pm Eastern, 7:00 pm Arizona
Date: October 21
Network: Investigation Discovery or ID (check your local listings to find which channel this is in your area)

This will air in more than 50 countries. Please check listings in your country. This show airs in Great Britain as "Born to Kill?"

Tonight U.S. television debuts the episode of Twisted that we shot in April. Tune in to the cable channel Investigation Discovery at 10:00 pm Eastern, 7:00 pm Arizona time.

The episode is called "The Dark Marksmen."

Serial Shooter survivor Paul Patrick with British TV producer and moi

 The photo above was taken in the spring when the British crew was filming Paul Patrick, whose story is told in my book, A SUDDEN SHOT.  A few months later, in the summer,  the villain mastermind of the crime spree, Dale Hausner, died in prison.

Hausner died at his own hand, friendless. His family, which had loyally attended his trial for more than 6 long months, had finally concluded that youngest son Dale really was a serial killer, one who gloated at death agonies and taught his toddler the lingo of murder. As the news of his death spread, the Hausner family released this statement: "We as a family stand with the victims of the crimes and their families. Today, a murderer died and is now going on to face the Ultimate Judge. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent people that were victims of his senseless crimes."

It had taken years for the family to get to that point. They had vigorously defended Dale and believed in his innocence. How well I remember the day, however, that secret recordings of Dale were played in court, recordings that were taken from the apartment next door using special equipment. The Hausner family members, seated not far from me in the courtroom, seemed shaken to the core as they heard his cruel laughter mixed with the innocent voice of his tiny daughter. She could barely talk at all and he was teaching her to ape his private jokes about his secret hobby: murder.   The family put their heads down and wept as her little voice rang out. I could never say for sure, but it seems this child, and the surveillance tape of her, may have been key to the family's finally seeing Dale for the guilty man he was.

This child is grade school age now. Her mother told me some time ago that she is doing well. She has grown up as the adopted child of her mother's husband, unaware of her own association with the infamous crimes of Dale Hausner.

Others who were associated with Dale Hausner were not sorry to see him go. While their professional work on his behalf was scrupulous and vigorous, as every defendant has a right to expect, they are not happy to have their names linked with his for all time. Some will talk to me privately, not for attribution. The day Dale Hausner died, one of them told me "Good riddance." This person went on to say that Dale's suicide was not a suprise.

Indeed, it wasn't. He had tried it before he ever went to trial, in the Maricopa County Jail.  But guards found him and he was revived. Hausner had jovially waved off the incident ever since. After his conviction, though, Hausner pursued his own execution.

In one letter to my colleague and friend Michael Kiefer he wrote, "I mean, really, what's a guy got to do to get to get snuffed out?"

Dale Hausner did not leave a suicide note and we will never know what his true private last thoughts were. But his prison suicide took planning, the long-term hoarding of drugs available to him. When he petitioned Arizona courts to have his appeals stopped and his execution expedited, the state wanted to make sure he was in his right mind to make such a decision.

I was even in court one day when Dale Hausner had planned to appear telephonically but his court appointed appeals attorney, a zealous anti-death penalty advocate, had the court hang up on him so he could not interfere with her legal defense of his life.

As part of this process of determining whether Dale Hausner was competent to rush to meet his execution, the state ordered psychological evaluations of him.

This is one thing we know that Dale Hausner detested, the public disclosure of any psychological report. He waived mitigation, or the portion of an Arizona trial where defense attorneys put on evidence to support a plea for mercy before sentencing, in order to avoid his childhood being publicly explored or psychological reviews being entered.

This time, in trying to expedite his execution, Dale Hausner had no choice in that matter. He could not waive the psychologists away. It's a good bet the approaching catastrophe, as he considered it, of loss of psychological privacy had something to do with Dale Hausner's decision to execute himself at the time that he did.

Certainly the smirking killer had other reasons to take such a drastic step, since we know he had been trying and planning for years. Listening to the tape of Dale Hausner, private, not knowing a cadre of law enforcement were wiring microphones into the drywall of his apartment, re-living his crimes and glorying in the sufferings of those he left to die on sidewalks all over the Phoenix metro area, it can not be doubted that the thing that made him happiest was killing.  In prison, the power to kill was lost to him forever. Without feeling the ultimate joy of his power of death, his status as "a god among mortals" (read the book if you want to learn more about that quote), Dale Hausner must have felt life was no longer sweet.

* * * * * * *

As this show goes to air, I would like to thank once again the incomparable Mary Morrison of the House of Broadcast Museum in Scottsdale. Here she is with me the day we shot this episode. We are standing behind the crew's camera. Thank you so much, Mary!