There’s a jury somewhere in Arizona that went home last night probably traumatized or at least a little shell shocked. This would not be an unusual reaction after opening statements yesterday in the retrial of the penalty phase of the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. After opening statements on day one of the retrial of this penalty phase, one thing was clear, both sides of the table were opening big in what would be their only opportunity to make a lasting first impression with the new jury that will determine whether or not Jodi Arias lives, or dies. ABC News reported Oct. 21 that Prosecutor Juan Martinez opened Day One with two photos of Travis Alexander, one before his murder, and another shortly after with a gaping wound to his throat post mortem. And this was not the only shocker Martinez brought to the courtroom yesterday, while Kirk Nurmi, first chair for the defense had a few moves of his own.
Jodi Arias has already been convicted of first degree murder in the killing of Travis Alexander. A May 2013 jury found Jodi Arias to be guilty of premeditated murder, and guilty of killing Travis Alexander 3 times. Once with a fatal wound to the heart that was one of more than 20 stab wounds, a fatal wound to the throat that nearly decapitated Travis Alexander, and then again with a shot to the head that would have been fatal, had he not already been dead at the time of the shooting.
Aggravating factors phase of the Jodi Arias trial in May 2013 made her eligible for the death penalty. When it came time to determine sentencing, the May 2013 jury was deadlocked. A retrial was declared by Judge Sherry Stephens, and yesterday was Day One of this retrial. Both sides of attorneys came fully prepared to start off with an opening statement geared to make a lasting impression.
Kirk Nurmi, first chair for the defense, was up first. He spoke softly and showed the hand of the defense. This is a defense that is clearly built on what Nurmi believes to be the mitigating factors of abuse. Gently, Nurmi expressed what the relationship between Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias was really about.
According to Troy Hayden, from Fox 10 Arizona, Nurmi opened with,
“The story of this relationship is one of attraction, love. Forbidden sex…lust. And it came to a crashing end.”
Nurmi also told the jury that, “You’re going to see really horrible pictures.” He didn’t say they were going to see them practically 5 minutes later. Which they did when it was Juan Martinez turn up to bat. But, even knowing that didn’t stop Nurmi from vigorously defending his client.
Last time Nurmi appeared in court, relationships between he and Juan Martinez were openly described as “snarky.” This time the first chair for the defense was not holding his frustration back, but refused to be found accused of quibbling snarky again. This time, court watchers noted “new Nurmi” one that was not only 75 pounds lighter, but with a voice so gentle court watchers could barely even hear him.
Would that be because he didn’t want the gallery to hear him begging again for a mistrial as he did during opening statements? Twice? It wouldn’t be the first time.
The Maricopa Superior Court minute entries chronicle many pages of files detailing how badly Jodi’s own lawyer doesn’t want to be there. You have to feel for the guy. He can’t seem to cut a break, he’s earned a snarky bone or two.
Credit needs to be given to him for also clearly doing his job. Jodi will never be able to accuse Nurmi of not vigorously defending her. It is clear that there is no stone of quackery that he will let go unturned before he begs once again that we all just call this a day right now. The only stone of quackery the defense has left unturned so far is a signed confession from two ninjas, whose original blew away in the wind one day.
As far as taking the stand is concerned Jodi has returned her on again off again relationship with that decision, to the on side of the equation. Tweets from inside the court showed Nurmi stating that Jodi herself was going to tell the jury some things along the way of this retrial. ABC News reports that on this topic that Nurmi said,
“She will tell you how horrified she is that she killed the man she loved.”
Does this mean she will be taking the stand then? And how often do you think Jodi will suddenly start getting migraines in full force again? Has anybody started a pool on that? Or would that be “murder money” as Canadian writer Kelly refers to it over at the Really Big Mean Dog?
Speaking of “murder money”, there wasn’t any mention of the finances of Jodi Arias in opening statements by Kirk Nurmi. There weren’t any tweets or reports at all about how Jodi’s compassion and decency as a human being were highlighted by recent donations to St. Jude’s and St. Mary’s. One can’t help but wonder why. Oh wait, yes we can.
The most reasonable speculation would be that the defense didn’t want the jury to hear that those organizations felt victimized by those “charitable” donations. Kirk Nurmi did however spend a great deal of time in opening statements addressing the mitigating factors that Jodi Arias had in play at the time of the murder. These would be mitigating factors that her mitigating specialist Maria de la Rosa has helped to develop.
Monica Lindstrom tweeted from inside the courtroom that,
“Jodi Arias bears the burden of proving the existence of any mitigating circumstance she introduces by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means more probably true than not true that such a mitigating circumstance exists.”
From Nurmi we heard a lot about the bad childhood of Jodi Arias. The court heard that Jodi Arias was treated poorly by her mother, and even had her hands on her throat on occasion. Nurmi said,
“Her mother would almost choke her out when punishing her.”
Nurmi told the jury that they would be hearing from domestic violence experts, and that Jodi Arias was a mentally disturbed individual. He cited Borderline Personality Disorder as her key concern which is interesting. When Jodi Arias was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder during her first trial, the defense vehemently disagreed with this diagnosis. Now it seems to work for this phase this time.
This did not go unnoticed by prosecutor Juan Martinez. But before he had a chance to mention this, Nurmi got a few more points in. Other mitigating factors for Jodi Arias include her age, her lack of criminal history, and her emotional distress experienced during her relationship with Travis Alexander. Troy Hayden from Fox 10 tweeted that before resting, Nurmi implored the jury,
“It’s up to you [the jury] to write the final chapter of this story.”
Nurmi also knew what was coming next once he rested. Before signing off, he gave the jury a gentle reminder on how to handle what was next.
“Do not see those photographs and allow them to alone influence your verdict.”
Juan Martinez was next. Rather than focusing on matters of love and relationships, at first, Juan hit the jury with the facts. The first set of facts he showed the jury were graphic before and after photos of Travis Alexander. Those would be just some of the photos that Nurmi does not want to influence the jury.
According to Troy Hayden, Martinez told the jury what he believes to be the truth about the relationship between Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias. He said,
“She was a jilted woman. Travis Alexander didn’t love her. Didn’t want her”
Juan Martinez then stuck to the facts in the case. The new jury heard about the gas can details, and about the way that Jodi Arias went to Utah to visit a new man right after she killed Travis Alexander. Juan Martinez also reportedly mitigated the mitigating factor by saying Borderline Personality Disorder wasn’t enough of an excuse to get away with killing someone. According to Troy Hayden, Juan Martinez said,
“You can fight a war when you are 19. She was 9 years older than that at the time of the murder.”
And as far as Jodi’s alleged mitigating factors are concerned, Juan Martinez squashed as many as he could in one statement.
“There are no mitigating circumstances in this case. None. And the only outcome should be death.”
Following this, the state began showing their witnesses according to USA Today. USA Today reports that the first two witnesses for the State were law enforcement from the Mesa police. One police investigator reported on the forensics of photos found in a camera in Travis Alexander’s home after his death.
This camera, and the photos recovered from it, has been a key point of evidence against Jodi Arias. A stream of photos has been retrieved from this camera that were reportedly taken during the actual murder. This camera was later retrieved by Mesa Crime Scene Investigators, and testified to in court yesterday.
Lead investigator for the case Detective Esteban Flores also testified yesterday, but court adjourned before he was cross-examined by Kirk Nurmi. Wednesday’s court session is expected to have more testimony from Detective Flores, as well as testimony from the Medical Examiner on the cause of death for the victim Travis Alexander.
Until the first Jodi Arias trial, the State had contended that the gunshot Travis incurred during the murder was first. In November 2012 just before jury selection, Juan Martinez alleged a different theory. In his changed theory, Martinez alleged that Alexander was stabbed first, then had his throat slit, and was then shot in the head to “finish him off” according to USA Today.
Before court opened to the jury yesterday, lawyers for the defense Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott filed yet another motion asking that the Medical Examiner be precluded from “repeating that testimony.” Reporters inside the courtroom that were tweeting yesterday mentioned that this was a very attentive jury through all of this testimony and evidence. Reporters noted this to be an almost all female jury, and also that the jury appears to be more engaged during Martinez statements, as opposed to Kirk Nurmi.
Many are speculating on this that a mostly female jury could be damaging for Jodi Arias, despite the fact that she has picked this jury with her defense team. This is based on a consensus that most of the people upset with Jodi Arias in the court of public opinion are women. What do you think?
Tweets from yesterday’s court room testimony can be seen in the slideshow. Most reporters concurred that yesterday’s opening arguments were very similar to the ones the first time around. Key points from the first set of arguments can be viewed in the video here.
How do you think they compare? Court in the retrial of the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial will resume Wednesday. The court expects to hear from the Medical Examiner in question today.
What do you think about the case so far? Do you think Jodi has any mitigating factors? What do you think about having an almost all female jury?