Horn, Corn, and a Truck Load of Porn: Update on the Arias Penalty Retrial (Dec. 20)
by Rob Roman
Bringing you up to date on the epic battle … the interminable saga … the perpetually stalling Arias penalty retrial. If you’re anything like me, you have been sidetracked, distracted, busy, bored or befuddled by what’s going on in the Jodi Arias penalty phase re-trial, but you want to know what’s gone down and what’s likely to happen next. There’s been plenty of talk about this being a nightmare, a perpetual trial, and an interminable saga. So far, the trial is actually right on schedule and, as we predicted, it would last 3 months AND we said it would go into 2015.
The penalty phase retrial has gone 25 days so far, that’s 9 days for the prosecution and 16 days for the defense … so far. The retrial began on October 21st, and there’s no end in sight, as there are multiple issues to deal with and the defense has 14 potential witnesses.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez, ever the sit-in-the–front-row teacher’s favorite student, presented his case for why Jodi Arias should be executed with cold efficiency in just 9 days, schnip – schnap. First up was Mesa Detective Michael Melendez, the guy with the New Yawk accent who discovered the deleted photos in Travis Alexander’s camera (a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9).
All the recovered photos were shown, and Detective Melendez explained how Jodi Arias needed to use 5 steps to delete each photo. The implication there being that Arias was not in an altered state of mind and was not in a fog with her memory seriously impaired. She calmly and coolly took hundreds of steps to delete all the photos. What was not explained is that just 5 steps can delete ALL the photos taken that day, according to the instruction manual, something an experienced photographer like Arias could do in her sleep.
Next up was Detective Esteban “Steve” Flores, who inexplicably is no longer doing active investigations, but has now become a “Media Relations Officer for the Mesa Police Department”. Detective Flores was the main conduit of all the testimony related to the day Travis’ body was found, the crime scene descriptions, and the investigation of the crime up to and including the interrogation of Jodi Arias. The bloody and gruesome crime scene photos were shown to the jury.
Dr. Kevin Horn was the next witness up. Horn went over the autopsy findings, describing all the wounds, with many autopsy photos being shown. Dr. Horn again stated his opinion that the gunshot was last and probably post-mortem, in direct contradiction to Arias’ explanation of events. At one point on re-direct, prosecutor Juan Martinez suddenly approached Horn and feigned stabbing him with his pen, stating “that didn’t take long, did it?”. Apparently he wanted to demonstrate that all the stabbings could have happened in seconds. We agree.
After that was Nathan Mendes – the Former Detective, from the Siskiyou County California Sheriff’s Office, who set up surveillance on Arias in Yreka and arrested her, and he was present when the famous mug shot was taken. Detective Mendes testified that Arias asked him how her hair looked before being photographed.
You will recall that Arias asked if she could take her make-up with her when she was arrested in Yreka at her Grandparent’s home where she was living. She could not. Also she had a rental car packed for travel with 2 knives in her luggage and a 9 mm gun taped to the bottom of the seat that was not found until much later. Mendes also testified that he found receipts in the home from the California to Arizona to Utah trip. None of the receipts were from Arizona and none were from June 4th.
On cross exam, the Defense attacked both Doctor Horn and ex-Detective Flores about the change in the order of injuries as Flores was claiming the gunshot was first early on to numerous media outlets and in pre-trial hearings. Flores also stated that it was Dr. Horn who provided that information to him, but Dr. Horn denied any knowledge of having told that to Detective Flores. Nurmi also suggested it was possible that this murder was not especially cruel, the factor that opened the door to the death penalty in the first place.
The State then called Kevin Friedman, a former Yreka police officer who investigated the theft of the gun and other items taken from Arias’ grandparent’s home on May 28th, just 7 days before the killing. Walmart loss prevention specialist Amanda Webb then made her way back on the stand to testify that Arias had purchased a 5 galllon blue kerosene gas can, but there were no records found that one had been returned, as Arias claimed.
A notable feature of the cross examinations by defense lead Kirk Nurmi, besides all the weight he’s lost and his now full head of hair, is that he has been said to be imitiating Juan Martinez. Nurmi was reported to have slammed down a binder of Walmart records during the cross of Webb, and to have asked Detective Flores if he had any memory problems. We have previously reported that this is not imitation, that sincerest form of flattery, but this is tactics. This is Nurmi using different tactics because the penalty trial is a different situation, calling for a different approach.
There were 5 days of Flores on the stand altogether, going over the now famous interrogation tapes and the sex tape was played in its entirety. Topping off the prosecution case were the allocutions of Travis’ younger brother Steven Alexander, and his younger sister, Tanisha Sorenson. These were heartfelt pleas to the jury and first-person memorials about the life of Travis Alexander.
“Steven Alexander described nightmares, ulcers and constant trauma from losing his brother, including locking the doors when he showers. Tanisha Sorenson called it a “living hell.”
“When I lay down at night, all I can think about is my brother’s murder,” Steven Alexander said as other family members could be heard crying in the gallery.”
The trial ended on the 18th of December and this was the date scheduled to have been the very end of the trial. The trial is now on hold for the Holidays until January 5th. The trial began to get messy even before the defense took the helm, and it has only gotten messier.
Mess number one – The jury
After the prosecution’s concise presentation, things got messy quick. Messy, messy, messy. First of all, one juror was dismissed on the opening day of the trial for a family emergency. A second juror was dismissed on the 2nd day of trial after she sought out legal reporter Beth Karas and asked her if she was Nancy Grace. Actually, the Judge should have left her in if she couldn’t tell the difference between Beth and Nancy.
“The first was let go Tuesday because of family problems. The second was dismissed Wednesday after she asked a freelance TV journalist if she was CNN superstar Nancy Grace, who has been a vocal crusader against Arias.”
A third juror was dismissed the day after Thanksgiving, as she was stopped for DUI, then it was discovered that there was a warrant on her for passing bad checks. This leaves only 3 alternate jurors to go before the threat of a mistrial if they end up with under the statutory number of 12. Yes, the lady with the multi-colored hair and a few other jurors from the guilt phase volunteered to comeback and serve (just kidding) – although she and others have been spotted in the courtroom.
Mess number two – The family Flores and the Mitigation Specialist
Media Representative Flores’ wife and daughter have been significantly involved in the Justice 4 Travis campaign. Daughter Angela is on Youtube singing a memorial song for Travis (She has a very nice voice, too) and Mrs. Corinna Flores is said to have been on Twitter under the handle “I’m boss that way” tweeting about the case and reportedly leaking confidential information from closed meetings in the Judges’ chambers. This had been disputed. None of these things would be seen as unseemly if the trial were concluded, but as we know, the trial has not nearly concluded.
Mitigation Specialist Maria De La Rosa, whom I like and have communicated with, is reported to also have gotten too personally involved in the case. She has been tweeting about the case under the Twitter handle of “Cougarluscious”, and has been getting involved with Arias supporters. This is a little harder to discern on the basis of wrongdoing, because part of her job as mitigation specialist IS to ferret out any and all evidence in support of sparing Ms. Arias’ life and this would seemingly include communicating with supporters.
Ms. De La Rosa was also stopped at the Estrella jail, and an envelope full of legal documents Arias gave her was searched, revealing an Arias art drawing, now identified as “The Pinwheel”. Stupidly, the County Sheriff’s office, or MSCO, tried to ban Maria from the jail, which would have certainly caused an appeal issue – not allowing the mitigation specialist access to the defendant / convict. They soon thought better of that, though. This lead to our speculation that the County wants to fire Ms. De La Rosa, but must wait until the end of the trial in order to not cause an appeal issue – leaving the Defendant / convict without a mitigation specialist would be in violation of Arizona statutes for a capital trial.
Mess number three – Sheriff Joe and the false Arias motion
You may remember that between the guilt phase and the penalty retrial, a motion was made by Jodi Arias asking for a restraining order to be placed on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and crime entertainer Nancy Grace. The idea was that Sheriff Joe was supplying Grace with information about Arias’ leaking breast implant and her hepatitis C condition.
This information and the motion were found to be hoaxes filed by a convict from New Jersey. The trouble was that Sheriff Joe had a press conference where he slammed Arias for her motion, even though it was easy to see that the signature was obviously not hers and the motion was made with materials that Arias obviously had no access to. The defense brought up the fact that anything said about Arias, no matter how pernicious, will be believed because the public is so poisoned against her by the media and this does not allow for a fair trial.
Mess number four – the unsequestered jury
Famous trial lawyer, appellate attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has already sounded the alarm about how it is just about impossible for a very high profile defendant to get a fair trial with an unsequestered jury. This is because the atmosphere is just permeated with strong feelings one way or the other. Juan Martinez’ boss, District Attorney Thomas Horne, is already on record worrying that the unsequestered jury will be an appeal issue. Nevertheless, Arizona Judge Sherry Stephens did not sequester the jury because ‘we have always not sequestered the jury in the past in Arizona’. Well, Arizona bars were always equipped with spittoons, too. Why aren’t they now? Did times change?
Mess number five – The secret witness
The defense, after taking the reigns, stated that they had 3 witnesses who would refuse to testify unless the courtroom was closed to the media and the public. Judge Stephens heard the motion and affirmed it. The court was cleared and the secret witness testified. Rumors abounded that the secret witness was Jodi Arias herself. The media balked and appealed the decision to the Arizona Court of Appeals. It’s insane that the Judge would affirm a motion to have a witness who had never been shy of the media, both before, during, and after the trial to suddenly now be requesting to have the public and media cleared for her testimony. Why on earth would Judge Stephens allow such a motion?
Even so, no one on the prosecution supporter side would give the Judge credit for possibly having some compelling reason for her ruling. Was it because Jodi Arias mentioned the other secret witnesses in her testimony? Wasn’t there some kind of accommodation the court could make without altogether clearing the courtroom? Prosecution supporters also do not want to blame the reason for this special request on the people who harassed, intimidated, and attacked Arias’ witnesses during the guilt phase. These are the people threatening our system.
The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed with the media that the public has a 1st Amendment right to know what is going on, especially in a capital trial. The Court stayed the Judge’s ruling, and the defense will appeal that ruling, probably on January 5th. Will the other three witnesses, reportedly a long term boyfriend of Arias – Darryl Brewer, A co-worker of Arias’ – unknown, and a former friend of Travis Alexander’s – possibly New Zealander Marc McGee, formerly of Riverside, California, still expect to testify in secret?
Will they refuse to testify? Also under contention is the media’s request to have the transcripts of Arias’ testimony released. Will that be granted, even though the transcripts of all the other witnesses have not been released? Also, was the secret witness actually Jodi Arias? Most people close to the case are saying so. Maybe this matter was confused, because the Judge will refer to the defense as “Arias” in motions. But, people seem to be sure it was Jodi Arias herself who testified in secret.
Mess number six – The Porn
The defense vowed to fight the stay, but continued the trial by calling up Bryan Neumeister, the private computer, audio and video expert who often testifies for the prosecution. You may remember Neumeister as the guy in the guilt phase who testified that he enlarged the reflection in Travis’ left iris from the “Calvin Klein” shower photo and found it was Jodi Arias, with no weapon. Martinez seems to have a distaste for “science-types”.
Neumeister resisted Juan Martinez’ combativeness, and he stated several times that he couldn’t understand the prosecutors’ questions because Juan had a very limited knowledge about computers. He also accused the prosecutor of lying. But the big thing is that Neumeister made a startling discovery. He said that when he checked the “clone” copy of Travis’ hard drive, he found thousands upon thousands of deleted porn files, supposedly including searches based on the word ”teens” and “tweens”. “Tween” is a word for children on the cusp of being teenagers. They aren’t quite teens, but they are no longer children in the strictest sense. They’re in be-tween. This is exactly the definition of a 12 year-old.
Neumeister also intimated that child porn was among the deleted files. This was a bombshell in the case, because Detective Melendez testified in the guilt phase that not one shred of porn was found on Travis Alexander’s computer. Juan Martinez, as he has done in other cases, immediately began blaming Neumseister for somehow contaminating the hard drive copy with porn. Alternatively, he blamed 2 former Arias defense attorneys for turning on the original computer and thereby allowing built-in antivirus programs to eliminate all the porn on the computer.
This could not be possible, because the defense attorneys were always under the watchful eye of the police when they inspected the original computer. Detective Flores was in charge of the computer. It was also reported that an anti-virus program found on Alexander’s hard drive was a program that did not exist in 2008. The implication was that the Mesa Police had tried to remove all traces of porn found on Travis’ computer. Many prosecution supporters responded by saying ‘So what, that’s normal all guys have porn on their computer’.
That’s not the point. The point is that IF someone from the police removed the porn from Alexander’s computer, what else did they remove? What other evidence, possibly exculpatory, could they have hidden? Since former Detective Flores was close to the evidence, it was suggested that Flores was the one who removed the porn. In any case, this is another issue for appeal, and it’s a serious one.
Martinez, by blaming the former defense counsel and Neumeister, was conceding that there was in fact porn on the computer, and that it was somehow ‘disappeared’.
That there was porn on Travis’ computer should surprise no one, given his references to porn and his sexual vocabulary in the sex tape, etc. which could only have come from a person exposed to porn. This issue, like many others in this case, is still awaiting further clarification and resolution, because most of the conversation about this matter was held in chambers and is not yet available to the public.
Mess number seven – Court reporters and Legal Experts
As a substitute fro HLN broadcasting the trial live and endlessly giving slanted, biased, jesting and mean-spirited views, we now have reports, blogs, “spree-casts”, and Tweets from reporters and Legal commentators inside the courtroom. Some of them, like Beth Karas, Michael Kiefer / Yihyun Jeong, and Monica Lindstrom, are reporters and/or legal experts with ethics, integrity, and a sense of objectivity. They realize this is a capital case, a serious affair where a defendant / convict may have her life taken by the State. Others, like Jeff Gold, Jen from the Trial Diaries, and Wild about Trial (a division of HLN), are playing to popularity and the lowest common denominator with little thought about ethics or fairness.
We do note that Jeff Gold stated that this case should not have been a Death Penalty case. He must have taken some heat among his listeners for that.
“The first jury hung (no not that kind of hanging although I know many of you wish so.) Many states end it there. But AZ allows a second bite of the apple.
Moreover, the DP is usually reserved for murdering kids, cops, multiple persons, a particularly heinous murder (chop body up and eat it) or murderers with long records. This is just not a clear case for DP. “
Jeffrey Evan Gold – Court Chatter TV Legal Analyst
Since then, we’ve heard only a few astute legal observations and almost nothing in any way positive said about the Defense or Arias. Often, his Tweets are rude comments, super-biased comments, comments with sexual innuendos, dumb jokes or self-promoting comments.
Gold often tweeted about “Hodi-Jodi”, with zero evidence that Arias was in any way a “Ho”. He knows his audience is 95% pro-prosecution and constantly plays to that audience with tweets about ‘how dare the defense put up a defense when their client is a sadistic, manipulative, maniacal murderer’? He also enjoys making a big joke out of the whole trial. Wild about Trial seems to be full of high school or college interns, a giggly gaggle constantly spewing corny jokes, many of them laced with 5th grade bathroom humor.
Jen, from The Trial Diaries who reportedly had or is having an affair with the prosecutor, Juan Martinez, has acted basically as a cheerleader and sounding board for prosecution supporters. Jen couldn’t be counted on to give even a sliver of objective news about the defense or Arias. Nancy Grace and former HLN talking head Vinnie Politan also tried to get in on the act inviting brownie points from trial fanatics for throwing stones at Arias and her defense.
With this bunch of block-heads, it’s really hard to get an objective picture of what exactly is going on in that courtroom. Thankfully, a few of them do have integrity.
Mess number eight – The Death Penalty on the table.
Even some prosecution supporters are wondering if it would not be better if the State goes over Judge Stephens and Juan Martinez’ head and takes the Death Penalty off the table. This would effectively end the Arias trial, and the Judge would only decide on Life in prison with no chance of parole, or twenty five years to life in prison with an almost non-existent infinitesimal chance of parole.
Along with a number of other motions to remove the death penalty awaiting a decision by the Judge, Nurmi and Willmott earlier filed their most epic motion yet, a 59 page motion to dismiss the death penalty. In it, they review all their charges of misconduct against the prosecution from the entire history of the case, in addition to new allegations from the post guilt trial and the penalty re-trial.
The motion to dismss the charges and the case also includes an alternate plea in the alternative, to remove the death penalty from the table. Here, court reporter and legal expert Monica Lindstrom explains why the death penalty realistically could be taken off the table possibly due to being under pressure from higher-ups and the people of Arizona:
Non-secret Defense Witnesses
In place of Alyce LaViolette and Dr. Richard Samuels, Forensic Psychologist Dr. L.C. Miccio-Fonseca, and Psychologist Dr. Robert Geffner were called to the stand by the defense to interpret the relationship between Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias and Jodi Arias’ state of mind prior to, during, and after the killing. The defense stated earlier that there was good reason to believe that Alexander was shot by Arias in the shower, as it agrees with the evidence, whereas the prosecution’s assertion that he was stabbed first and then shot does not. Nurmi possibly said this because he was not allowed to bring up Arias’ claim of self-defense, since the jury rejected that theory in the guilt phase.
Dr. Fonseca examined the sexual relationship between Alexander and Arias and the dynamics of that relationship, coming up with the same basic conclusions as Alyce LaViolette. She even stated she believes Alexander did watch child porn. On cross examination, Juan Martinez tried to discredit Dr, Fonseca and her testimony.
Dr. Geffner, who was pilloried by trial watchers in the guilt phase, for having a coughing fit, burping loudly, and spilling a large container of water, was next on the stand. His job was to interpret psychological tests and diagnoses of Arias, and to explain other aspects such as Arias’ temperament, propensities toward violence or lack thereof, and her state of mind. Juan Martinez had begun his cross of Doctor Geffner, when the trial ended for the year.
More details of what was in the text and e-mail exchanges between Arias and Alexander were revealed. One interesting detail is that Jodi Arias claimed to own a stun gun in early 2008, and she apparently offered it to Alexander as protection from the person who was slashing his tires.
Reportedly, there were no spills, no mess.
Nothing much can or will be done about the Corn going on regularly in this trial. The so-called legal reporters will continue their pandering and catering to the prosecution supporters, and acting like the entire trial is one big joke and an opportunity to try their hands at low-brow comedy and over-dramatic tweeting.
Maybe something can be done about Horn, in that he continues to be adamant that once Alexander was shot in the face, he would not be able to move or defend himself. This seems to be more and more unlikely and more and more contradictory to the evidence.
But something really needs to be done about the Porn, because police and/or prosecutors removing, hiding, or disappearing any evidence should never be tolerated by a court of law. Some remedy for this seeming violation should be offered. Appeal issues are piling up, leading me to make a remark on social media that this case has become a literal Chia Pet of ever-sprouting possible appeal issues. This holds true no matter what you believe about the verdict in the guilt phase of the trial.
More than this, the new claims of removing evidence seem to give even more credence to earlier claims about the 1st degree felony murder charge and the possible switcheroo of the order of injuries by former Detective Flores and Dr. Kevin Horn.
This may have also included prosecutor Juan Martinez, who is well known for his win-at-all-cost attitude, which then would become collusion or conspiracy. This would be very difficult to prove, but especially if Arias is sentenced to death, all these little allegations could possibly add up to one big and powerful allegation which could change the course of this seemingly never-ending case.