Fact based reporting by
Amanda Chen and Rob Roman
Predictably, the settlement conference on October 24, yielded the status quo. The only interesting thing would be to see if either side offered anything at all. Jodi Arias faces a penalty of life in prison or the death penalty, and has little to gain if the death penalty is taken off the table. The state would refuse to offer less than a life sentence. Arias would never give up her appeals.
Jodi Arias and family have already begun a drive for funds to hire an appeals attorney, setting up a trust bank account and soliciting funds online. She has filed for bankruptcy which is a prerequisite to both setting up the trust and preparing for the inevitable civil trial against her.
Earlier in the week, Arias filed a 12 page hand written motion to dismiss lead attorney Kirk Nurmi. This follows an initial motion filed in June. Arias contends that she cannot work with her attorney and does not trust him. Though she had refused to allow him to visit twice since the first penalty phase, she contends that Nurmi has made no efforts to improve their relations, contact her, consult with her or keep her informed of preparations for the second penalty phase.
Arias also stated that her wishes were not respected and she was not consulted during the trial, causing emotional turmoil for her and damaging some of her testimony on the stand. Arias contends that Nurmi refused an offer to clear the courtroom to play the sex tape, which she claims was hugely embarrassing for her and disrespectful to the victim, Travis Alexander, and his family.
We contend that Kirk Nurmi has done a wonderful job in the area of objections, motions, and preserving the most important issues for appeal which has now become the most important function of Jodi Arias’ defense, and will continue to be going forward.
Arias makes a strong case to dump Nurmi, however. She contends that as a prisoner with a mental illness, it is Nurmi who should be making the effort to repair the attorney-client relationship, consult with his client, keep her informed and involved with the progress of the case, and to allow her to participate in the decisions and strategies involved in all matters pertaining to her case. She’s right, Nurmi is being paid to represent Jodi Arias and not just to independently perform his duties.
Nurmi is not imprisoned, he’s not on trial for his life, and so far as we know, suffers no mental illness. Defense lawyers often have difficult clients, and it is a necessary part of the job to deal effectively with difficult clients. Arias contends that Nurmi refused to offer even simple explanations for his actions, telling her that he was not going to sit down and explain evetything he has learned in years of law school and trial experience.
It is evident that Arias has been an albatross around Nurmi’s neck, as Nurmi has left the public defender’s office and started his own private practice long ago. Yet, he was not allowed to get out of this case because he was too far into it to leave pre-trial without causing significant delays. The trial was originally scheduled for 2011. The trial will continue into 2014 and there is no beginning to the 2nd penalty phase in sight.
Nurmi probably would like nothing better than to be off the case. He and Willmott both made a motion to be dismissed from the case following the guilty verdict, and this motion was denied. Nurmi attempted to get off the case as it was approaching trial, but Arias pleaded with Judge Stephens to not let him off the case, citing their agreement on strategy and Nurmi’s in-depth knowledge of the case as well as the time it would take for a new attorney to get up to speed on the case.
Arias stated she was very upset when Nurmi told the jury that “nine days out of ten, I don’t like Jodi Arias”, claiming that this statement and his behavior during the trial telegraphed to the jury that he may not believe in Jodi Arias or care about her ultimate fate. It also reinforces Arias’ contentions that Nurmi refused to meet with Arias, allay her concerns, and coordinate his moves with her during the trial.
Arias made reference to the body language at the defense table during the trial, which showed a seeming indifference bordering on hostility between Arias and her lead attorney. She was correct to note that this body language does influence the jury. Arias stated that she is very happy with the work and performance of second chair attorney Jennifer Willmott, and wishes to keep her on board.
Arias stated that Nurmi, before and during the trial, had refused phone calls from Arias at a cost of nearly $3.00 per call. She stated he even refused to take messages. Hey Nurmi, if Arias is being a pest with phone calls, you should have just told her to take notes about her concerns, and to call once per week if it’s not a “time is of the essence” issue. What’s so difficult about that? You should know that it takes a lot of effort to arrange phone calls from jail.
As a change of attorney would delay proceedings by 6 months to one year, we predict the motion will again be denied, butressing an expected “ineffective assistance of counsel” appeal. Judge Stephens will not take responsibility for further delays in the proceedings and will never grant the motion. The trial needs to go forward right away if it is to be held in early 2014 as it is.
The only interesting development is that District Attorney Bill Montgomery made a statement hat he didn’t need to attend the settlement conference and Juan Martinez could handle it by himself. Montgomery stated that this case was of no special significance and is no more important than any other case.
We contend that this is a lie. The Milke case and the Arias case are both vital to the District Attorneys interests, as he refuses to make a settlement with Debra Milke and the state must spend money on a new trial to keep her on Death Row. Milke has already spent 23 years on Arizona’s death row and with almost no evidence, it seems a real uphill climb to get a second conviction.
There is no comparable death penalty case in Arizona or in America. There are many reasons why. Because of this, Arias will never be executed and any death sentence will be commuted to life prior to any decision to reverse the conviction or remand for a new trial.
Arizona’s Death row for women which was supposed to receive Arias as the fourth inmate, is now down to just two inmates due to Milke’s conviction being thrown out and her release on bail pending a settlement or a re-trial. We know that it is cheaper to oversee four or more women on death row than it is to oversee only two. We know it is critical to Montogomery’s reputation and status as MaricopaCounty’s elected District Attorney to get a conviction for Milke and put her back on death row and to get a death sentence for Arias.
We believe Arias’ chances for a successful appeal are greatly enhanced should she be sentenced to death, and she should never give up her appeals, so she has nothing to gain from any deal struck with the District Attorney.
So, Bill, we contend that when you say that the Arias case is not important and the same as any other case, we contend you are lying and grandstanding again. You didn’t go to the settlement conference because it was a mere formality and you had no intention to do any other than continue to seek the death penalty.
You will continue to run up the tab on this never ending trial to protect your reputation and appease a political agenda and a family and Mormon community who wish to show their devotion to Christ by continuing to seek revenge. Bon appétit, Bill.
12 page hand written motion by Arias to fire her lead attorney: