Strange that at times with our Criminal Justice system, we wonder on what side the real unrepentant criminal is.
On December 10, 2012, the circus/trial of Jodi Arias started in Maricopa County Superior Court.
I refer to Arias as Candy Crush because throughout her trial, a string of Mormon/PPL (Prepaid Legal now Legal Shield) men referred to her in the media as ‘having a stripper vibe’. And a stripper needs a good stage name before the show/trial can go on.
It was easy to come up with a name; she had become an addiction for the nation not unlike the Candy Crush game and candies like Tootsie Pops and Pop Rocks were an inherent part of the cheap mystique floating around her sex games.
As an attractive lady who was considered eye candy most of her life and used as such by Travis Alexander, the name could not have suited her any better. And let’s face it, not many people cared enough to find out who she truly was anyway. So Candy Crush was born and the game began!
Having worked in courtrooms for years as an Interpreter, I had to listen carefully to what was said in these sacred rooms and learn to be an instrument of communication without taking sides. I had to interpret the words of a defendant without trying to make him/her look better or worse. This is how I approached Arias’ trial.
Even if I now watch some trials on television or catch up on You Tube, I would gladly give up this privilege to defend the rights of defendants to have a fair trial.
In Canada, we don’t televise trials. It does not keep the media from talking and writing about them but it has less impact on the process. Witnesses and jurors are not intimidated and the trial can proceed without a soap opera atmosphere.
In England, for a long time, the publication of the names of defendants was banned and trials were never televised, but ten years ago, they started to experiment with cameras in some courtrooms in the UK on a very small scale.
Even without cameras in the courtroom, in most countries, the perp walk still exists; you handcuff the suspect and walk him/her to the courthouse after taking them out of the transport vehicle, which usually is where the media is posted to take photos and start shouting the usual asinine questions like “Did you do it? Why did you do it? How do you feel?” As if any defendant would ever answer anything other than “No” or “Get lost”.
Some would say that televising a trial makes the process more accountable because the public can monitor its integrity. But on the other hand, we could say that it is tainting the process because when the defendant is unpopular, there’s always the chance that the prosecutor and the jury could be coaxed into giving the viewers what they want.
At some point after she was charged with the murder of Travis Alexander, Arias tried to negotiate a deal with the DA’s office. She was willing to go to prison for a long time and everyone could have gone home. Plus, the County would have saved a lot of money.
In my opinion, it would have been the smartest decision for all parties involved. But the DA’s office of Maricopa County is well known for its aggressive prosecution of defendants, especially when they are hated in the media and represent the golden goose.
Debbie Milke and Jodi Arias are their star inmates and they are not about to let them out of their net. When people feel that their representatives are putting the bad guys behind bars, they are going to vote for them and be distracted from the real problems going on in their neck of the woods.
Bill Montgomery is the Maricopa County District Attorney and Noel Levy was the prosecutor in the Debra Milke case. He was highly criticized for his failure to disclose evidence in her case. The lead detective who testified at her trial had a sordid history of misconduct and basically invented a confession.
The 9th Circuit threw out her death sentence this year after she spent 20 years on death row. But Montgomery is not giving up and Milke’s attorney is asking for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to be recused from the case altogether. He states that Montgomery has a significant interest in obtaining another capital conviction against her to shield his office from potential penalties, civil liability and investigations by the federal government.
So it is no surprise that the Maricopa County DA’s office did not accept the deal offered by Arias’s lawyers and instead proceeded to prosecute her to the max. At the request of Travis Alexander’s family, they delayed the trial so that their pit bull prosecutor Juan Martinez would be freed up to go after Arias.
From the very beginning of the trial, with Judge Sherry K. Stephens at the helm, prosecutor Martinez showed he was going to play hard ball.
During jury selection, he was trying to ‘’systematically exclude’’ women and African-Americans. Knowing how some Arizona residents despise Mexicans, the fact that Arias was of Mexican descent probably convinced him to also eschew Mexican jurors.
Being indigent at the time, Arias had no money to hire a jury consultant so the process did not go in her favor and she ended up with a death penalty qualified jury practically eating out of the prosecutor’s hand. Martinez had managed to charge her with the death penalty, even though it is supposed to be reserved for hard-core criminals and not for a first-time offender involved in a crime of passion. So he had to make sure she was portrayed as a monster.
Arias’ public defenders were Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott and they were no Dream Team.
After the jury was sworn in and the trial started, her attorneys presented the wrong type of defense by putting too much emphasis on sex. The trial became sexually charged and bordered on the ridiculous at times. It did not help any that Nurmi looked like Glutton and that his slow speech and demeanor cloyed like molasses.
And then entered Juan Martinez; the prosecutor who was accused of prosecutorial misconduct countless times and who was known to play fast and loose with the truth. When he walked into the courtroom, it felt like Apocalypse Now and Juan ‘loved the smell of death penalty in the morning.’ He came across as a sadist who did not give a damn about the truth.
I had never witnessed such a legal fiasco while working as a court Interpreter and the trials I had watched on TV, always had order in the court with a judge running a tight ship.
Judge Sherry lost control from day one and the fact that she did not sequester the jury in this high profile case shows her total bias and lack of judgement. By allowing the cameras in her courtroom, she was basically feeding Arias to the wolves and they were everywhere.
The public, the media, the prosecutor and the Alexander family were a lynch mob asking for Arias’s blood. The victim’s family is the only group of people I absolve. They lost their brother and are entitled to their feelings. But the fact that the judge allowed them to constantly roll their eyes and make faces at the cameras, proved how far her mind was in the gutter. It was totally illegal, unethical and definitely influenced the jury.
I also question the brother’s motive when he declared that he did not want to ever see this defendant again, but chose to push for the death penalty knowing full well it would drag out the process and would mean dealing with Arias and mostly the media for a very long time.
The Alexanders made the decision to expose their brother when they chose Martinez and were aware that their brother’s abusive messages, double life and genitals would become public domain. If Jodi’s plea deal would have been accepted, the memory of their brother would have remained intact. So blaming Arias for dragging his name through the mud when she offered to walk away with a stiff sentence is not entirely fair.
The jury went home every night and had access to electronic devices. They had to have been contaminated by the contagious hate going around. It was totally unfair to the defendant.
This is when I broke my rule of neutrality and started to have sympathy for Arias. The media was buzzing with any warm body willing to say something negative about her. And the stripper vibe and the vacant weird eyes bit picked up steam quickly and spread to social media. It was an overload of hate and unsubstantiated allegations. People claiming to be outraged by her crime started acting and talking in outrageous fashion.
She was called a stalker without any proof whatsoever. That rumor was probably spread by Alexander himself and no one ever witnessed even one incident of stalking. They had exchanged more than 8,000 e-mails, phone calls and electronic messages. So the relationship was real.
One of Alexander’s numerous ‘friends’ even yelled on the air while interviewed, that Jodi had killed Travis with the same knife she used to slash his tires. There was once again no witness to the slashing of the tires. And keep in mind, Travis’ girlfriend Lisa had a former boyfriend who had troubles with the law and was a known hothead. It could easily have been him. The point is that we do not know for sure.
We are talking here about the Boy Scout leader who gleefully toppled and destroyed a 17-million-year old rock formation in a Utah state park and posted it on You Tube. He was fired from the association and subject to charges for the desecration of the park. So you will excuse me if I do not put any credence in his judgement.
A couple who was very close to Alexander campaigned incessantly to get the death penalty for Arias. The husband declared that he ‘had a score to settle’ with Jodi. It makes you wonder how a Mormon couple preaching forgiveness could be so vindictive.
After their supposedly good friend’s death, they obtained his computer password and read every message that was on it before the police could seize them. How do we know they did not tamper in the case of unflattering content?
And of course they are the ones accusing Jodi Arias of snooping in Travis’s e-mails and texts. She was doing it to find out if he was cheating on her. What is their excuse? Their double standard was blatant.
They are the ones who forced Travis to go underground with his relationship with Jodi. They realized she was not good for his bottom line. They said on the radio that Travis was not making as much money since he was dating Jodi and that he was neglecting his business. As they depended on him for making money for their PPL business, they had to get rid of her.
Strangely, they also said that Travis was ready to commit to Jodi when they decided to ban her from their house. So they call her a stalker but he was going to commit to her? They also wrote horrible e-mails to Travis about mistreating Jodi but tried to minimize their actions later on. They basically saved their hide instead of being truthful about the whole saga.
They never could come up with a single incident that could remotely present Arias as a dangerous person. They went with the ‘vibe’ again. I get the feeling that many of the wives did not like to have that siren in their midst.
It did not go any better in the courtroom, where Martinez battled with every defense witness. Like a One Trick Pony, he even attacked his own witnesses if they did not say what he wanted. This prosecutor has never learned the fine art of moderation.
It is one thing to get dramatic at the right time but it quickly got old and extremely annoying. Any witness in the box must have fantasized about using a taser on him as he was like a relentless Chihuahua rubbing on their leg.
He called Arias a compulsive liar and attacked Alyce Laviolette who is a well-respected domestic violence expert. He basically demonstrated for the world, how an abuser behaves.
In fact, Travis’s sister Tanisha was banned from any meetings in the Judge’s Chambers for starting a hate campaign online against this expert. As a good practicing Mormon girl, she also said on TV that she would like to watch Arias die.
What Laviolette said made a lot of sense and it came from written communications. She made a judgement call like any expert in her position is expected and allowed to do. It is up to the jury to take it or leave it. When Dr. Richard Samuels said that Arias had PTSD, he received the same treatment.
Martinez basically accused him of having the hots for Arias and lacking ethics for having given her one self-help book. When he testified that she could not remember the crime because of amnesia, Martinez went ballistic. His reaction was very telling because it went against his theory of the cruel, cold-blooded monster Arias was supposed to be.
Martinez could not attack the expert’s testimony but was trying to destroy, confuse and provoke. A good prosecutor does not need to resort to such tactics if he has the truth on his side. When Arias took the stand in her own defense, Candy Crush was already in the mind of the nation. She was a skank, a harlot, a liar and a cold hearted murderer.
Arias answered every question in an articulate manner and he tried to trip her up every step of the way. He asked her incessantly, as he did for every witness he ever interrogated in his career, if she had memory problems and when she tried to answer, he cut her off. It was all about trickery. No search for the truth here. And shockingly, she was forced to testify wearing a stun belt, a device designed to control troublesome defendants, which she was not.
There was no reason to make her wear a belt that shocks the wearer causing intense writhing and shaking and may result in serious medical injury. As the belt can activate accidentally, a defendant’s testimony can be greatly affected by this threat. A death sentence was upheld in California in 2014 because a defendant had to wear one. It was sheer cruelty to make Arias wear one.
It is obvious that if she remembered the murder, there is no way on earth she could have admitted to it. He would have sadistically made her describe every unbearable detail of it.
In Arizona, you do not have to wait till the end of the trial to find out what the jury is thinking. They are allowed to ask questions and in this case, they clearly revealed their bias against Arias. They were not searching for the truth. In their eyes, she was already guilty and some of them admitted later to have tested and teased her with questions about haircuts and the meaning of skank.
Even when witnesses who knew Arias well testified that she was not a liar at all before these tragic events, it did not sink in. They kept on with the compulsive liar routine. But bigger lies rolled in during this trial and not from the defense side.
As a juror, I would have been flabbergasted by some of the whoppers I heard. Detective Flores, who had conducted the original interview with Arias and sat at the table like a dummy throughout the trial, had said countless times that Travis had been shot first and stabbed afterwards. But, as it did not fit Martinez’s strategy to introduce the cruelty factor in order to qualify for the death penalty, he did a switcheroo. Now Travis had been shot last by Jodi in a final sadistic ‘Sayonara’.
The problem is that medical examiner Dr. Kevin Horn had told Flores that Travis was shot first and it was written in his report that Travis’s brain’s Dura mater had not been perforated, meaning that the bullet had stayed in the sinus cavity. Which meant he was conscious and wrestling with Jodi.
Conveniently, the Judge, the prosecutor and the medical examiner changed the order of the crime so it would fit their scenario. When asked by the defense attorney about his report, Dr. Horn said it was a typo. I could not believe my ears.
In my opinion, the best defense witness was psychologist Dr. Robert Geffner. His experience and testimony were unsurpassed and he explained the defense argument with brilliance.
The weakest prosecution witness was psychologist Dr. Janeen DeMarte who had no experience whatsoever in domestic violence and was too green for the type of assessment asked of her. But by all accounts, the jury went with her version and totally resisted anything the experienced experts had to say. It showed the prejudice that prevailed in this case.
When the time came to start closing arguments, I had a sinking feeling about the whole case. The defense attorneys had done a very mediocre job. No gun and crime scene experts were called. They did not refute the gas cans theory or much else for that matter.
It would have been important to know that a .25-caliber gun can jam easily, which can only aggravate a situation, and is known to shoot accidentally at times. It became poetic justice when Jane Velez Mitchell, in her unique screaming fashion, did a demonstration on the air with a gun expert, but the man’s conclusions happened to concur with Jodi’s testimony.
The crime scene was a mess and it raised doubts about the premeditation aspect. And you would think that a medical examiner would have been called to refute Dr. Horn’s notion that the victim had been shot after he was stabbed. Common sense indicates that a man with the strength and size of Travis would have defended himself more vigorously unless he was shot first.
The stab wounds were not all deep and the ones on his back were more superficial and slanted, indicating that she did not stab him in the back from behind. Instead, we heard the sex tape, which was good to establish that the relationship existed but did nothing else to help her.
The fact that Flores and Martinez had withheld the electronic correspondence from Travis and Jodi, claiming it was irrelevant to the case, was another big lie that should not have gone unnoticed. They wanted the death penalty so badly and they were going to do anything to get it.
That is why Martinez threw in the kitchen sink and charged Arias with felony murder with the predicate felony being burglary based on the incoherent theory that she was not invited into the house when the crime began. Total lunacy.
Martinez’s closing was very predictable. Arias was a compulsive liar and a stalker. Later on, he came up with the outrageous statement that even though Arias did not have a criminal record, it did not mean that she had not committed other crimes.
She used her own identity cards to rent a car and there were photos of her as brunette with one blond streak way before the crime, but he still used the fact that she became a brunette and rented a white car instead of a red one as part of her covert mission to kill her ex-lover.
He gave his ‘psychic’ rendition of the crime; the last time I checked, no one witnessed what happened in that bathroom. He basically offered the scenario that served his purpose. Food for thought: Martinez changed his hair color to black during the trial and was covertly trying to get Arias killed by lying.
The gas cans received a lot of dramatic interpretation. For a minute, I thought they were the same gas cans Jose Baez was relentless about in the Casey Anthony trial. And why oh why did he not ask Jodi when and where she used that gas? I suspect because she had an answer that did not fit his scenario. By the way, my sister who lives in AZ probably is a murderer because she has them in her car at all times.
Martinez preached to the choir. You could feel it in the courtroom with the smell of the gas cans Juan was obsessing about. The same gas cans that she refilled even after leaving Arizona. It was so vaudeville that I expected him to end his routine by lighting one of his farts with his lighter and using the gas cans to do a fire show.
When Nurmi delivered his closing, he made solid points to undermine the prosecution, but the game was already over. And when he said that he did not like his client nine days out of ten, I was shocked. He was actually trying to save his own behind. He had also been the object of a hate campaign and did not want to give the impression that he gave a damn about Candy Crush. Some defense attorneys have used that line before to make a valid point, but never to that extent. He also played an edited version of the sex tape AGAIN. Unbelievable!
So Jodi was found guilty of 1st degree murder and the jury accepted the cruelty factor. A few of them even bought the felony murder charge. During his closing, Martinez basically said that Jodi committed another felony by stealing Travis’s gun to shoot him even though he claimed during the trial that there was no gun in the house and that she stole her grandfather’s gun. It was nonsensical but he had to throw as many charges as possible to make sure one of them would stick. The bottom line is that felony murder and consequently the sentencing guidelines, give all the power to the prosecutors.
Martinez was a happy camper but was shocked when he realized that his jury did not bring back the death penalty. Four brave souls realized that Candy Crush used to be a decent human being leading a decent existence before the crime. They dug in their heels and saved her from the death penalty.
Juan was fuming! Even the judge could not hide her disappointment. One of the jurors mouthed ‘I am sorry’ to the Alexander family. As if 1st degree murder was not enough. It was extremely inappropriate but it did not surprise me as she also partied with the family later on and had a permanent chair as a guest on HLN.
The jury foreman gave an interview on another TV station and as tough as he was, he made a lot of sense and admitted Arias had been emotionally and psychologically abused and was being crucified by the media.
Even the jury did not know that Maricopa was not going to accept their decision. Instead of having the judge sentence her, they decided to retry the sentencing part of the trial. Talk about sore losers!
So the trial about tootsie rolls, Pop Rocks, a sex tape, naked photos and Red Riding hood sex games in the woods, came to a temporary halt. As if she was not totally humiliated and battered enough, they were going to pursue their quest for the death penalty with everything they had. And the haters were going to follow in lockstep.
But the world was watching and Maricopa County did not realize that their bad legal manners would not be appreciated by everyone. Prosecutorial and judicial misconduct is unacceptable even if a defendant is guilty or unpopular.
To this day, I do not understand the degree of hatred directed at that woman. She is a human being who was afflicted by depression and more than likely, a personality disorder. Her life was in a state of despair when this dreadful event happened and Travis Alexander was not an innocent bystander in this tragedy.
She will spend the rest of her existence in prison unless she gets another trial, which will undoubtedly happen eventually. And people keep kicking her while she is down.
Her naked body and sexual habits should have been kept private and shown only to the jury. She was abused by her boyfriend and now by the system, the media and perfect strangers jumping on the bandwagon and trying to deny the abuse ever happened even though written proof was shown and read at trial. Instead, they defend Alexander’s abuse as being ‘reactive’.
Christmas is approaching and no doubt, Sheriff Arpaio will organize another singing contest at Estrella hoping to film Jodi singing Holy Night again so that her detractors can have a good laugh. This year, I hope that the ones who like addictive games will ask Santa for Candy Crush and leave Jodi Ann Arias alone for a change. All we need is love!
‘’The Death penalty is a victory of emotion over reason’’ Anthony Lewis 1927-2013
Pope Francis met with 200 prison chaplains and prayed for all the inmates. He said ‘’When we have the same weakness, why did they fall and I didn’t? This is a mystery that makes me pray and draws me to prisoners.’’ He also washed the feet of young inmates for Easter.
‘’An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’’ Ghandi
Glenn Close expressed regrets at feeding the mental illness stigma in Fatal Attraction. ‘’I would have a different outlook on the character today. I would read the script totally differently.’’
How to help inmates by a man I highly respect, Alan Mills, lawyer and activist.
The Resurrection of Candy Crush