The Felony Murder charge is the Holy Grail in the Jodi Arias case

Why the Felony Murder charge is the Holy Grail

of the Jodi Arias case

Fact based reporting

by Rob Roman & Amanda Chen

 

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Much has been made of the 1st degree Felony murder charge in the Jodi Arias case. The popular consensus is:

 

1) This is a totally legitimate charge under Arizona law.

2) The prosecution can charge whatever they want. It’s still up to the jury whether or not to convict on each charge.

3) Arias’ defense attorneys are a “joke” and “do not know what the hell they’re talking about”.

4) “F*ck Off, f*cktard!!”

5) Nobody cares / It doesn’t matter, because the jury did not find Jodi Arias guilty of 1st degree Felony Murder.

6) The jury instructions said that jurors can make a finding of both 1st degree AND felony murder, and that’s what some of them did. So what?

7) Jodi Arias butchered Travis Alexander. She was unanimously found guilty of first degree Premeditated Murder by a jury of her peers, so f*ck off!

8) It was Felony Murder, because it was a felony AND it was a murder. – It’s not rocket science – Duh!

“Ladies and Gentlemen: There’s nothing.

It’s silly. It’s fearful. That charge is there out of fear.

It makes no sense …. not under any scenario does that make any sense.

Either she was there to kill him … or she wasn’t.”

– Defense Attorney Kirk Nurmi

 

What does he mean by “Either she was there to kill him … or she wasn’t”?

What does he mean by “That charge is there out of fear”?

 

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Now is a good time to review the different charges for a murder:

 

1st degree Premeditated Murder: A deliberate plan to kill or a “period of cool deliberation”.

It’s deliberate and there is an intent to kill in the person’s mind. It’s also called a “cold-blooded murder”. It’s considered worse than 2nd degree Murder because a person calmly made a decision to murder, reflected on it, and then carried it out.

1st degree Felony Murder: A deliberate plan to carry out a dangerous felony (other than 1st degree murder) and in the course of that felony, a death occurs.

The primary or “predicate felony” is the main intent of the person. The person usually has no premeditation to commit murder. As a result of and in the course of carrying out that dangerous felony, somebody dies.

2nd degree Murder: There is no deliberate plan to kill nor a “period of cool deliberation” or it cannot be proven in court, but the person intentionally caused the death of another person.

There is no provable deliberation, but an intent to kill is formed in the person’s mind. It is a murder born of unplanned circumstances. Often, this would be called a “hot-blooded murder”.

If a jury finds that this 2nd degree murder was committed in the intense emotional turmoil called a “heat of passion”, Arizona law requires that the charge be reduced to Manslaughter.

Manslaughter: There is no deliberate plan and no intent to kill, but the person negligently or recklessly caused the death of another person.

Justifiable Homicide: A murder is justified because a person was defending their life or the life of another person.

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We have a situation in a Capital murder case, where the prosecution is pushing hard for a 1st degree murder conviction, this will mean lifetime imprisonment or the Death Penalty.

The defense is pushing just as hard to get, at the least, a 2nd degree murder conviction, where the Death penalty cannot be applied and the defendant has some chance of parole and one day getting out of prison. Of course, a heat of passion manslaughter verdict or an acquittal would be even better for the defense and Arias.

The Defense in the Jodi Arias case had a primary goal or mission to get anything BUT a 1st degree murder conviction for the same reasons.

Can the additional but bogus charge of 1st degree felony murder assist the prosecution to achieve their goal of a 1st degree murder conviction?

 

Now, let’s review the actual instructions that the jury was given and that Judge Stephens read word for word to the jury.

 

“THE CHARGED OFFENSE – PREMEDITATED MURDER

Count 1 charges the defendant with First Degree Murder. Arizona law

recognizes two types of First Degree Murder – Premeditated Murder and

Felony Murder. The state has charged the defendant with both types.

The crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder requires the state to prove the following:

  1. The defendant caused the death of another person; and
  2. The defendant intended or knew that she would cause the death of another person; and
  3. The defendant acted with premeditation.

“Premeditation” means that the defendant intended to kill another human being or knew she would kill another human being; and that after forming that intent or knowledge, reflected on the decision before killing. It is this reflection, regardless of the length of time in which it occurs, that distinguishes First Degree Murder from Second Degree Murder.

While reflection is required for First Degree Murder, the time needed for reflection is not necessarily prolonged, and the space of time between the intent or knowledge to kill and the act of killing may be very short. An act is not done with premeditation if it is the instant effect of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.

The crime of First Degree Premeditated Murder includes the lesseroffense of Second Degree Murder. You may consider a lesser offense if either:

  1. You find the defendant not guilty of First Degree Premeditated Murder; or
  2. After full and careful consideration of the facts, you cannot agree on whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of First Degree Premeditated Murder.

You cannot find the defendant guilty of any offense unless you find that the State has proved each element of that offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

SECOND DEGREE MURDER

The crime of Second Degree Murder requires proof of one of the

following:

  1. The defendant intentionally caused the death of another person; or
  2. The defendant caused the death of another person by conduct which the defendant knew would cause death or serious physical injury; or

Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the defendant recklessly engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death and thereby caused the death of another person. The risk must be such that disregarding it was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have done.

The difference between first degree murder and second degree murder is that second degree murder does not require premeditation by thedefendant.

 

CHARGED OFFENSE – FELONY MURDER

As stated earlier, Count 1 also charges defendant with First Degree Felony Murder. The crime of First Degree Felony Murder requires the state to prove the following two things:

  1. The defendant committed or attempted to commit Burglary in the

Second Degree; and

  1. In the course of and in furtherance of committing Burglary in the Second Degree, or immediate flight from it, the defendant caused the death of any person.

An “attempt” requires the state to prove that the defendant intentionally did something which, under the circumstances she believed them to be, was a step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in the commission of the offense. The crime of Burglary in the Second Degree requires proof that the defendant:

  1. Entered or remained unlawfully in or on a residential structure; and
  2. Did so with the intent to commit any theft or felony therein.

Residential structure means any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, that is adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not.

“Intentionally” or “with the intent to” means, with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense, that a person’s objective is to cause that result or to engage in that conduct.

There are no lesser included offenses for First Degree Felony Murder.

http://archive.azcentral.com/ic/pdf/arias-jury-instructions.pdf

 

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Okay, I hope you lived through that. If so, you may have noticed a few things. First, it seems as if juries were very confused about how if they decide it’s a second degree murder, then they must decide if it was a “sudden heat of passion” killing. If the jury decides it is, then the 2nd degree murder is reduced to manslaughter. The instructions repeat so many times on this that it seems that there was trouble with the comprehension of this instructions.

The 1st degree pre-meditated murder charge includes the lesser offenses of 2nd degree murder, sudden heat of passion murder, and manslaughter. The Felony murder charge has no lesser included offenses.

The jury is informed that all can vote for premeditated M1, or all can vote for felony M1, or all can vote for both, or there can be any kind of mixture, as long as they are all unanimous that it’s a first degree murder.

In order to make a finding of Felony murder in this case, the jurors need to find that the defendant committed or intended to commit 2nd degree burglary. In Arizona, this only means that a defendant entered or remained unlawfully in a residence with the intent to commit any other theft or felony.

 

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Can two people both be guilty of felony murder with one victim? Yes they can.

Example: Joe Blow and Lou Blew go to rob a horse track. Lou Blew blows away a cashier. Both Joe Blow and Lou Blew are guilty of felony murder.

Can one person be guilty of felony murder with two victims? Yes they can.

Example: Snidely Whiplash is in his Humvee being chased by the police. The police car smashes into a motorcycle, killing Hairy Ryder. Snidely runs over Midge, a little old lady with a walker who was trying to cross the street. Snidely Whiplash is guilty of two counts of felony murder.

Can one person be guilty of both felony murder and premeditated murder with two victims? Yes they can.

Example: Robin Redrum plans on killing Bumptious Q. Bangwhistle in his home a month in advance. She goes to his home and shoots him dead. Bumptious’ brother, Sumptious Z. Bangwhistle, is visiting that day. He hears the gunfire and comes out of the bathroom and Robin shoots him dead. Robin Redrum is guilty of one count of 1st degree Premeditated Murder and one count of 1st degree Felony Murder.

Now, can one person be guilty of BOTH felony murder and premeditated murder with a single victim? Only rarely, and it would take some doing and some verbal gymnastics to explain how this could be so without a separate felony.

 

Premeditated murder is a planned murder, or at the very least, the person had a moment of cool reflection.

 

Felony murder is an unplanned murder. The person plans another felony, and in the course of and in furtherance of this felony, a death occurs. (The victim could have a heart attack, your accomplice could murder the victim, the police could shoot the victim by mistake when trying to shoot you, or you could be surprised by an unexpected victim and kill them, or you could just suddenly decide to kill somebody. All these are examples of felony murder).

 

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How does one person commit BOTH a planned and an unplanned killing with a single victim? Not very easily, BUT Arizona law does allow jurors to find both pre-meditated murder 1 and felony murder 1 concurrently under certain circumstances.

Doesn’t that seem like a blessing for prosecutors?

 

A) Let’s say Horatio Hornblower plans to tie up and rob little Billy Pilgrim. He ties him up and steals his computer and big screen TV. He drives away, then he thinks again and drives back to Billy Pilgrim’s house and kills him with a George Foreman 3 minute hamburger grill. Now, is this felony murder or premeditated murder or both?

B) Let’s say Horatio Hornblower again plans to tie up and rob little Billy Pilgrim. He ties him up and steals his computer and big screen TV. Billy tells Horatio that he’s a useless cowardly thieving dirt bag. Horatio Hornblower then brains Billy with a George Foreman 3 minute hamburger grill. Is this example felony murder, pre-meditated murder, or both?

C) Let’s say Robin Redrum has NO intention to kill Sweet Polly Purebred in her home by suffocating her with a plastic bag. Robin is a welcome guest. A fight breaks out. She puts a plastic bag over Polly’s head, but she’s not dying. She’s injured, but not dead. So Robin stabs her with Polly’s knitting needle 99 times until she dies. She takes the bag and the knitting needle with her. Is this premeditated murder or felony murder or both?

D) Now, let’s reverse that and say that Robin Redrum plans for months to stab Sweet Polly Purebred to death in her own home with Robin’s knitting needle. She stabs her 99 times, but she doesn’t know if she’s dead or not. She puts a plastic bag over her head just to be sure and takes her own knitting needle. Is this felony murder or premeditated murder or both?

 

The last example is the equivalent of the prosecution’s theory in the Jodi Arias case (gunshot last, pre-meditation, Jodi brought the gun). The one before that is the alternate theory of murder in the Jodi Arias case (gunshot first, no pre-meditation, Jodi used and stole Travis’gun).

 

Now, can you apply the jury instructions to these 4 cases? What do you come up with?

 

A) Under the laws of California and many other states, this would be premeditated murder. It starts out as a felony, but Horatio leaves, then deliberates and after cool reflection, decides to go back and kill Billy Pilgrim. For me, this would be 1stdegree premeditated murder plus separate kidnapping and burglary charges.

In Arizona, however, this fulfills all the requirements for a finding of BOTH Pre-meditated M1 AND Felony M1.

B) I would call this felony murder. Horatio intended to commit a felony. While engaged in the felony, he becomes enraged at Billy Pilgrim and, without a plan or cool reflection, murders him. I would charge felony murder and add on the kidnapping and burglary charges.

C) This would seem to me to be premeditated murder or it could be 2nd degree murder, depending on the details. Robin Redrum didn’t plan the murder. There was no intended felony. A fight broke out and Robn went wild. If there was a cooling off period proven, then it’s 1st degree premeditated murder. If there was no time for reflection, then it’s 2nd degree murder. If the jury finds it’s a sudden heat of passion killing. (Robin and Polly had an intimate relationship of some kind), then the charge could be reduced to manslaughter.

D) This would also seem to me to be premeditated murder. Robin Redrum planned the murder and carried it out. There doesn’t seem to be any intended felony or further felony other than the murder itself.

 

Did you come to the same conclusions as I did?

In the Jodi Arias case, there were 7 out of 12 jurors who found that it was BOTH a felony murder and a premeditated murder. How did that happen? There were also 8 jurors out of 12 jurors who voted for death. Since I do not know, I think it’s a very good educated guess that the 7 who voted for both felony and premeditated murder AND 7 of the 8 jurors who voted for death are the same people.

I would love to hear their explanation as to how this is BOTH. I would love to hear anyone’s explanation as to how this can be both a planned AND an unplanned murder.

UPDATE:

In Arizona, there IS an explanation:

If the prosecution proves that a death occurred “In the course of, and in furtherance of, another intended felony”,  a juror can make a finding of Felony Murder 1, even if that same juror also made a finding of Pre-meditated M1.

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monty_python__the_holy_grail_by_eleth89Kirk Nurmi argued that since there is no predicate felony, there is no Felony Murder. So, it is either 1st degree premeditated murder, which the prosecution argued almost exclusively, or it is a LESSER CHARGE, such as 2nd degree murder or heat of passion manslaughter. Here’s what he said about this in the guilt phase part of the trial in 2013:

 

“Remember when we heard the charge of Felony Murder yesterday and the state making an argument that was….incomprehensible? This idea that well…if you believe Jodi’s version of events she’s guilty of felony murder because she went to Travis’ home, and she decided to steal his gun, and in the course of trying to steal his gun, she shot him. She went there, they had sex, they did all these things, then she decided she wanted his gun, and decided to take it, and wanted it so bad that she was willing to kill him.

That’s the theory of felony murder they have put forward. That shows a little fear, and we’ll talk about some of the fear that the state has demonstrated throughout this case, but that’s just some of it – alright? We also heard this idea that….well, she was unwelcome once she put the weapon upon him and she was there to commit a burglary or another felony ….. there’s no other felony.

Ladies and Gentlemen: There’s nothing. It’s silly. It’s fearful. That charge is there out of fear. It makes no sense …. not under any scenario does that make any sense. Either she was there to kill him, because the state said “Hey this is a plot that began in May”. Either she was there to kill him … or she wasn’t, and that’s ultimately what we’re here to determine.”

– Defense lead attorney Lawrence “Kirk” Nurmi in the guilt phase closing argument.

Start at 9:15

 

So, in his closing statements, what does Kirk Nurmi mean by “Either she was there to kill him … or she wasn’t”?

What he means is that this is either a deliberate pre-planned, cooly reflected upon murder, or it should be a lesser charge.

The reason why he’s saying this is because he doesn’t see an underlying felony in the felony murder charge. Martinez’ answer during Nurmi’s motion to dismiss the felony murder charge is that the underlying felony can be any lesser offense of Premeditated Murder. This is after he states once again the reasons why this is clearly a premeditated murder. Then Martinez offers up “assault” as the underlying felony in the felony murder charge.

We are well on our way up the hill to the Holy Grail, I promise. But first, let’s take a small detour and look at the genesis of the felony murder charge. It never changed from the time of the indictment, although premeditated and felony murder are clearly stated as ALTERNATIVES.

Here’s the relevant wording from the original indictment on July 9th 2008 (Jodi Arias’ birthday):

 

“The Grand Jurors of Maricopa County, Arizona, accuse Jodi Ann Arias on this 9th day of July, 2008, charging that in Maricopa County, Arizona:

Count 1:

JODI ANN ARIAS, on the 4th day of June, 2008, intending or knowing that her conduct would cause death, with premeditation caused the death of TRAVIS V. ALEXANDER, in violation of A.R.S. $$ 13-1101, 13-1105, 13-702, 13-703, 13-703.01 and 13-801.

The State of Arizona further alleges that the offense charged in this count is a dangerous felony because the offense involved the discharge, use, or threatening exhibition of a .25 caliber handgun and/or knife, a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument and/or the intentional or knowing infliction of serious injury upon TRAVIS V. ALEXANDER, in violation of A.R.S. $$ 13-604 (P).

OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE

JODI ANN ARIAS, on or about the 4th day of June, 2008, acting either alone or with one or more other persons, committed or attempted to commit Burglary, Second Degree, and in the course of and in furtherance of such offense, or immediate flight from such offense, JODI ANN ARIAS or another person caused the death of TRAVIS V. ALEXANDER, in violation of $$ 13-1105, 13-1101, 13-702, 13-703, 13-703.01 and 13-801.

The State of Arizona further alleges that the offense charged in this count is a dangerous

felony because it involved the discharge, use, or threatening exhibition of a .25 caliber handgun and/or knife, a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument and/or the intentional or knowing infliction of serious physical injury upon TRAVIS VICTOR ALEXANDER in violation of A.R.S. $ 13-604(P).

http://jodiariasisinnocent.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Jodi-Arias-Court-Docs-1.pdf

 

Did you see that? Premeditated Murder OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, felony murder. Not both, how could it be both? You either planned a murder or you didn’t, right? In Arizona, for whatever reasoning, a juror can find both if the pre-meditated murder happened “In the course of, and in furtherance of, another intended felony”.

In Arizona, you get to

have your cake and eat it too

I’m going to throw out a word to you now – Boilerplate. It’s a legal term meaning a standard way of wording things such that there are few problems understanding it. The exact same, time-tested phrasing is used every time. July 9th was just a month after the body was found.

JODI ANN ARIAS, on or about the 4th day of June, 2008, acting either alone or with one or more other persons, committed or attempted to commit Burglary, Second Degree”. This standard boiler plate language should be narrowed down to exactly what the evidence shows by the time of the trial.

 

ravenAt that point, Jodi could have been hiding and protecting an accomplice who actually did the killing while she just watched. She would still be guilty of 1st degree felony murder, because she was a willing accomplice. Someone could have assisted her, even if Jodi did the killing. Maybe it would turn out that either Jodi didn’t premeditate the murder OR there was not enough evidence of premeditation.

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So that boilerplate wording on the indictment including the felony murder charge are there as a catch-all or a just in case. They’re basically a one size fits all. Three or Four years later, you would think the prosecution would know if it was felony murder or a premeditated murder. Everyone knows what they are going to try to prove and what their theory of the case will be.

 

– But they left the defense guessing.

Kirk Nurmi made two major points in his closing about the Felony Murder Charge. It makes no sense, and it’s only there because of “fear”.

“Either she was there to kill him, or she wasn’t”.

 

In Arizona, there are 16 statutory (witten in the law) predicate felonies for felony murder. These are:

1) Sexual Conduct with a minor

2) Sexual Assault

3) Molestation of a child

4) Terrorism

5) Marijuana offenses

6) Dangerous drug offenses

7) Narcotics offenses

8) The use of minors in drug offenses

9) Drive by shooting

10) Kidnapping

11) Burglary

12) Arson

13) Robbery

14) Escape

15) Child abuse

16) Unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement vehicle”

 

Jodi’s predicate felony is burglary? You’ve got to be kidding me. Incredibly, Juan Martinez sold that B.S. To the jury, or to many of them, anyways. I don’t think you can stretch, mutilate, and warp a law any more than Martinez did here. Then he sold it to them, because he is the fireside story teller. There were five astute jurors, though, who weren’t buying it at all.

The State has put forth that the felony predicate is burglary. In Arizona statutes, burglary is akin to trespassing with the intent to commit any felony. Jodi Arias at some point became an uninvited guest in Travis Alexander’s home. When, exactly did Jodi Arias become an unwelcome guest in Travis’ home? According to the twisted logic of the State, Jodi Arias became an unwelcome guest as soon as she began her premeditated murder of Travis Alexander.

According to the state, when Jodi Arias began killing Travis Alexander, at that point in time, she is no longer welcome in Travis’ home and is now guilty of 2nd degree burglary.

 

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“The crime of Burglary in the Second Degree requires proof that

the defendant:

  1. Entered or remained unlawfully in or on a residential

structure; and

  1. Did so with the intent to commit any theft or felony therein.”

– Arizona 2nd degree burglary statute.

Here there is a situation where, as soon as Jodi Arias starts killing Travis Alexander, she is now guilty of second degree burglary, because Travis obviously would not want her in his home at that time = remaining unlawfully in a residential structure. That same act of starting to kill Alexander also serves as the further felony Arias intended to commit. So the killing of Alexander serves as the reason why she is guilty of 2nd degree burglary, plus it is the further felony Arias intended to commit, plus it is the killing that was committed in the course of the burglary.

 

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Do you see why this is insane circular logic? As a matter of fact, that’s what Kirk Nurmi argued when he asked the court to drop the Felony Murder charge after it became clear that the State was arguing just about exclusively for 1st degree premeditated murder. He said this is circular logic. The murder and the predicate felony and the further intended felony cannot be all the same thing.

Not only is it circular logic, but also, there’s a law against it:

 

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Felony-murder cannot be charged if all the elements of the felony are included in the elements of murder. This is known as the merger doctrine, which holds that if the underlying felony merges with the killing, the felony cannot constitute felony-murder. For example, all of the elements of the crime of Assault and Battery with a deadly weapon are included in murder. If a killing, therefore, occurred during the course of this crime, the accused would be charged with murder.”

Yet this is exactly what Martinez is putting forth. He wrongly divides a stabbing murder into a series of assaults with a knife, and calls the intended further felony “assault”.

 

Update: It has come to my attention that, In Arizona, Martinez and Judge Stephens correctly cited the law when stating that the intended felony defining the burglary can be assault even if the victim was murdered.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Felony-Murder+Rule

Again, the predicate felony = remaining unlawfully in the home (via killing Alexander) with the intent of committing any further felony (killing Alexander) and the murder part of the felony murder is (killing Alexander).

For this charge of Felony Murder, aren’t all of the elements of the felony predicate “merging” with the murder?

 

You cannot do that. Yet, Martinez and the state of Arizona did do it. Sound familiar?

It seems that in the Bizarro world of Arizona, a murder can be divided up into a series of assaults.

 

Raven1

Now, let’s entertain the theory that it was Travis’ gun that was used in the killing. Besides the fact that this significantly weakens the State’s case for pre-meditation, this scenario doesn’t work so hot either. That’s because the State would have to prove that Arias’ stated intention was to remain in Alexander’s residence with the intent to steal that gun, and in the course of committing this felony, she was willing to kill Alexander.

He would have to prove that Arias intended to steal the gun prior to, rather than after, the murder.

Following this theory, the death occurred while she was in the process of stealing Travis’ gun, which was her primary intention. This is absurd. Since she got rid of the gun, one can then be confident that her main purpose was not to be in the home unlawfully in order to steal his gun.

 

 

Travis Alexander as Eddie Snell from Alabama
Travis Alexander as Eddie Snell from Alabama

There’s a much better argument for that:

What if, she broke into the home, was in there without Alexander’s consent or knowledge, and then he caught her with the gun in her hand? She shoots him and kills him because he identified her in his home when she was supposed to be 1,000 miles away in Yreka. This is a much clearer case of felony murder. But, as we know, Travis let her in the home, Jodi knew what he was watching on his computer (You tube: “Harder Better Faster Stronger”).

We know they took pictures of each other, and we know they had sex a number of times. One could have confidence that she was welcome in the home (at least, at first).

Neither theft of the gun, nor “assault”, nor the killing of Alexander can fulfill the “intent to commit any felony” part of the Felony Murder Statute, according to Nurmi. The intended felony must be separate from the killing.

scoob1Update: It has been brought to my attention that Arizona does not recognize the merger rule in all instances, meaning if a person is murdered, you can break down that murder into a series of assaults and you can use assault as the felony defining the felony predicate of burglary.

 

 

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The prosecution, after being asked over and over again by the defense about their intentions with the felony murder charge, in 2010, finally stated what they would be using “any of the lesser included offenses” (murder 2, manslaughter). Later, they added “aggravated assault” and “theft” as the intended offense beyond 2nd degree burglary (remaining in the home unlawfully). Doesn’t this show that they have no clear theory?

Nurmi brought up a motion to dismiss the felony murder charge on the ninth day of trial, in open court minus the jury, on video. There he states that there is no underlying felony for the felony murder charge (video below). Nurmi said “The essence of the argument, your honor, is that there was nothing facilitated, at all. There was no distinct offense for this burglary….and the assertions of felony murder based on that should not stand.” Here he is saying that there was no intent to commit a theft or any felony other than the killing itself.

HolyGrail051

Juan Martinez states that the further felony is assault, now her status has changed to an unwelcome guest, the assault, and the stabbings that happened after that become the felony. Nurmi responded that it is either a premeditated murder or it’s not, and the felony murder burglary charge is just an “empty vessel” in order to seek a first degree murder conviction. (The motion was denied by Judge Sherry Stephens).

 

 

The defense motion to dismiss the felony murder charge.

Start at 47:15

 

Do you remember this? Jodi must have forgotten her glasses or something and is wearing a different pair. Nurmi and Martinez fight it out over the felony murder charge

 

At SpotLightOnLaw, we have talked about the felony murder charge a lot. Now, we hope you will soon understand why. Who gives a hoot about the felony murder charge when it’s old news? It’s over and done with, the jury was unanimous for pre-meditated murder anyways, and Nurmi is a blooming idiot!

 

Tim-monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-591629_800_441

 

No, there’s something to this. Either this is Martinez’ trick, or it’s just bad common law. Not the first time we’ve seen a poorly worded statute interpretated poorly in Arizona.

Nurmi seems to feel internally that this is incorrect. He’s not wrong, but his argument is not persuasive enough. He didn’t invoke the merger rule and he couldn’t find any case law specific enough to this issue. He’s a really good attorney, but he’s lacking as a trial lawyer.

 

images

 

I will reiterate this now in a visual format, so I hope you can see that this felony murder charge is ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It makes no logical, practical or legal sense, does it?

Juan's interpretation of the law is on the left and Kirk's interpretation is on the right. Who is correct?i                                                                Click to Enlarge
Juan’s interpretation of the law is on the left and Kirk’s interpretation is on the right. Which is correct?
Click to Enlarge

 

Stay with me, now. I hope you will see that this is at the root of what’s wrong with the Jodi Arias case. The Holy Grail is in sight!

What do you believe is the theft or felony that Jodi intended to commit or committed? No, Juan Martinez and Judge Stephens, it cannot be the murder itself.

But, wait. According to Arizona law, and only Arizona law, Juan Martinez and Judge Stephens are correct in saying that assault CAN be used as the the felony defining the burglary. 

 

Martinez in closing arguments of the guilt phase discussing the felony murder charge

Starts at 23:30 then he picks it up again at 37:30

Now, if you don’t believe me, look at what a very good attorney in Arizona has to say:

 

Vladimir Gagic, Criminal Law Attorney

Phoenix Arizona

“That, for the moment, leaves the felony murder charge, which is count two in the indictment. At common law, felony murder meant that someone could be charged for murder even if they never intended to kill a person, so long as the a death was the foreseeable result while the defendant was committing a dangerous felony.

The classic example of a felony murder is when a kidnap victim dies from a heart attack while stuffed in the trunk of a kidnapper’s car. Thus, even though the kidnapper never intended to kill his victim, he is still guilty of felony murder because the death of his victim was a foreseeable consequence of the underlying predicate felony, kidnapping.”

“Another example is when during a bank robbery the police shoot and kill a bank robber’s accomplice. Even though the bank robbers certainly never intended the police to kill one of them, that result was foreseeable, and thus felony murder. Other common law predicate felonies included rape and burglary. Assault is not a predicate felony in Arizona for the felony murder rule.”

The important point with the felony murder rule is that the predicate felony is different from intent to murder, depraved indifference murder, manslaughter, or any other homicide charge because the goal of the felony murder rule is to deter the predicate felony itself, while non-felony murder homicide and murder laws deal with homicide charges directly.”

 

Monty-Python-and-The-Holy-Grail-monty-python-16580771-845-468

 

As most of you are aware, the government has charged Ms. Arias with felony murder, with the predicate felony being burglary. The important point here is that while even though common law burglary required breaking and entering with the intent to commit a theft therein, in Arizona, which follows the model penal code, defines burglary more broadly as (see “Arizona Revised Statute ARS 13-1506 and 13-1507):

Entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a nonresidential structure or in a fenced commercial or residential yard with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein; and A person commits burglary in the second degree by entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a residential structure with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein.”

“The prosecutor does not allege Ms. Arias entered into Travis Alexander’s home with the intent to kill him or commit any felony, for that matter, at the moment of entry. How could he when all the evidence shows Mr. Alexander invited Ms. Arias into his house? The evidence is clear she spent at least 8 hours in his house, and during that time together they had sex multiple times.”

 

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“Instead, the prosecutor’s argument is that felony murder applies because at some point Mr. Alexander revoked permission from Ms. Arias to be in his house, and at that point, she was “remaining unlawfully in… a residential structure”. This is where things get quite silly for the government’s felony murder allegation:

if in fact at some point Jodi Arias was still in Mr. Alexander’s house without his permission (we can call that point T1), what felony was Ms. Arias’ intending to commit at T1? If she was intending to kill him at T1, then that would be the exact same thing as count one, murder in the first degree intent to kill, premeditated murder.”

“The defense filed a motion to dismiss the felony murder charge, stating quite correctly the allegation makes no sense. In response, Judge Stephens ruled Ms. Arias’ intent at T1 could have been assault, not intent to kill Mr. Alexander. I believe that ruling is in error because of something called the merger rule.

 

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To count any death that occurred during the course of an assault as felony murder would obliterate the distinction between assault and murder. And even more importantly, there would be no distinction between second degree depraved indifference murder and first degree intent to kill murder.”

“P.S. What I mean by merger rule is that the predicate underlying dangerous felony, the dangerous felony of felony murder, must be different from the actual murder charge itself; that is why assault is not a predicate in felony murder. If it was a predicate, then every murder would automatically be felony murder because every murder involves an assault. In other words, proving the murder would automatically prove the assault as the evidence is circular. And thus, there would be no degrees of murder charges (first degree, second degree) as there are now.”

http://www.azcriminallawsexcrimes.com/violent-crimes/why-the-felony-murder-allegation-against-jodi-arias-is-nonsense/

 

There’s more to it. Let’s move on to the other pieces of the puzzle.

This explanation makes good sense and it’s the law in most states. Here is another instance, like the F(6) cruelty aggravator, where the statute is poorly written, coupled with illogical jury instructions or case law, that leaves Nurmi and Gagic and I, feeling like something is not quite right. That’s my overall feeling about the Jodi Arias case, too.

 

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What did Kirk Nurmi mean by “That charge is there out of fear”?

Now, we are getting to what Kirk Nurmi said about the prosecution’s ”fear”. What’s the distinction between 1st degree Felony Murder and 2nd degree Murder? Both involve no pre-planning, and in both, the person must have an intent.

The difference is that in Felony Murder, as normally observed, there must be an intent to commit another dangerous felony (where a death is foreseeable). There must be a primary or “predicate felony” OTHER THAN THE KILLING, with no pre-planned intention to kill. In the course of committing this dangerous felony, a death occurs.

Martinez argued premeditation throughout this case. He even argues a short moment of cool reflection in the bathroom was also possible, in case the jurors don’t accept the long premeditation theory. The – Travis was “killed three ways” argument is also meant to show deliberation and premeditation. He argued throughout the case that Travis didn’t own a gun, and that Jodi brought the gun with her from Yreka.

Now, Martinez is telling the jury that according to Arias’ version of events, Travis did own a gun and he’s arguing that she did steal it and that makes theft the felony defining the burglary. He’s arguing that Travis Alexander was murdered, and in the process of the murder he was assaulted, making assault the felony defining the burglary.

Martinez is telling the jury that yes, you can find that this was both a felony murder and a pre-meditated murder if the premeditated murder happened in furtherance of the burglary. He’s telling them that as soon as Arias first assaulted Alexander, that at that point, she was now unwelcome and unlawfully in the home. He’s telling them that this fits the Arizona burglary statute.   

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

 

Holy_Grail_tapestry_The_Failure_of_Sir_Launcelot

Why is he doing this? What is going on here?

Imagine there are 4 rooms, like motel rooms. Imagine there is a door to each of these rooms. The first room is 1st degree pre-meditated murder, the second room is 2nd degree murder, the 3rd is manslaughter and the 4th is justifiable homicide. Which door will the jury walk through?

 

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If some jurors are unsure about premeditation or if some feel it’s a heat of passion homicide, they could have a compromise verdict and choose to walk through the door of 2nd degree murder. But what if the state is allowed to add the door of 1st degree felony murder? In this motel scenario, that extra door would lead into the same room as the 1st degree pre-meditated door, (or they could be connected rooms). In any case, it’s another choice for the jury.

It’s another choice which gives the prosecution another opportunity for the jurors to go into the room they want. That’s only fair, Martinez would say, because the defense has 3 doors and 3 rooms and we only have one. Now, it’s more fair because they have 3 doors and we now have 2 doors.

That’s what’s really going on here. He wants it to be as ambiguous as possible.

 

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Whether Jodi Arias is  completely innocent or whether she is a cruel and evil, cold-blooded murderer shouldn’t even matter. Does what Jodi did give officials the right to do what they’re doing here, or what they have done and continue to do in the State of Arizona?

Maybe the statute and/or the interpretations of the statute is just plain wrong.

In the beginning of this case, Juan Martinez had much less information about the gas cans than he did by the end of the trial. The major evidences of pre-meditation at the beginning of the trial were the license plates being tampered with, the car being rented 90 miles from Yreka, the borrowed gas cans, the hair coloring, the phone being off, and the recovered bullet being the same caliber as the gun stolen in Yreka.

All these occurrences could have nefarious explanations, but all these could have innocent explanations. If I were the prosecutor on this case, I would have been a little worried. Maybe that explains, both the change by the prosecution in the order of injuries from gun first to gun last (with the help of Dr. Horn), AND the retention of the felony murder charge. Is it just a coincidence that both of these absurd assertions help to dramatically increase the odds for the prosecution?

The biggest untold embarrassment of this trial is that there was division in this jury. They could not agree on the essentials of this case, and they disagreed 8 to 4 over the death penalty. Seven jurors voted for BOTH felony murder and premeditated murder.

Just because the boiler plate jury instructions state that you can vote for both felony murder AND premeditated murder doesn’t mean that voting for both in any way applies to this particular case.

 

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These 7 people were following Juan Martinez’ interpretations while the remaining 5 were at least considering some of the defenses’ arguments.

 

All this is the Holy Grail of the Jodi Arias case.

 

Remember the list of 16 predicate felonies?

If you or someone with you causes the death of a person in the course of one of these dangerous felonies, the killing is elevated to 1st degree murder. You could say that 1st degree Felony Murder is when a person commits a 2nd degree murder in the course of one of these dangerous felonies.

 

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Notice that 1st degree premeditated murder is not on that list. Premeditated murder cannot be the predicate felony for felony murder. Assault with a deadly weapon also is not on this list. Assault can be the further intended felony that’s required in 2nd degree burglary, but it cannot be the predicate felony for felony murder.

So, 2nd degree murder and 1st degree felony murder have A LOT in common. Also, 2nd degree murder and 1st degree premeditated murder have A LOT in common, particularly when the period of cool deliberation or reflection is very short.

 

This caused a legal expert to say:

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“The point is that in jurisdictions where no time is too short to support a finding of actual thought and reflection, sufficient to establish premeditation, the dividing line between first and second degree murder is extremely murky, to put it mildly”.

http://books.google.com/books?id=f9vrpYcRBAAC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=example+of+premeditated+murder+brief+period+of+reflection#v=onepage&q=example%20of%20premeditated%20murder%20brief%20period%20of%20reflection&f=false

 

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They could fear that they would lose the case. Remember, Juan Martinez, as shown in his prior and current cases, will cheat even when he has a slam dunk case. (State vs. Morris, State vs. Dixon, State vs. Gallardo, State vs. Lynch). But we know that Juan will cheat even more when he fears he may lose the case (State vs. Falater, State vs. Grant, State vs. Carr, Robert Towery commutation hearing, State vs. Chrisman).

 

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For Juan Martinez, not getting a 1st degree murder conviction would be a LOSS in the Jodi Arias case. The Death Penalty would be off the table and Jodi Arias would get out of prison one day. That’s unacceptable to the prosecution. This case has been widely viewed throughout the United States and the world. People are getting a good look at Arizona Justice, and this trial was on live TV. Also, the 2nd penalty phase will be available on video and transcripts after the sentencing.

 

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This case is a very big deal in Arizona. There are plenty of biblical law types, who demand the most severe punishment possible when a woman kills a man. The Mormons are a very powerful political base of themselves, and they support the ultra conservative right which reigns supreme in Arizona. Woman’s Death Row just lost one woman (due to a wrongful conviction), so there are now only two women on Death row in Arizona. Isn’t it awful expensive to run a maximum security Death Row for only two women?

 

Monty Python

Remember that Juan does not like to lose a case, and anything less than 1st degree murder would be a loss. Remember also that Juan did not really have a handle on the gas can situation until late in the trial. As things stood in 2011, this is too risky for a guy like Juan. He wants every advantage possible. He got that advantage by changing the order of injuries and not dropping the felony murder charge, for starters.

Now, I hope you can understand this just a little better and we hope you will start to see why we consider the retention of the felony murder charge, along with the one-two switcheroo of the order of injuries to be the Holy Grail of wrongdoing by the prosecution.

What is YOUR opinion?

Comments from all perspectives are welcome.

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spotlight-On-Law/189870931203328

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The Jodi Arias Murder Trial: A Juanderful Closing Argument

The Jodi Arias Murder Trial: A Juanderful Closing Argument

(SpolightOnLaw The Jodi Arias Murder Trial: The OTHER side of the story)

Fact based reporting by

Rob Roman and Amanda Chen

jodi

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In this photo, Travis Alexander is wearing the costume and carrying the wig of "Eddie Snell from Alabama", his crude and violent alter-ego.
In this photo, Travis Alexander is wearing the costume and carrying the wig of “Eddie Snell from Alabama”, his crude and violent alter-ego.

In the all-important closing argument, Maricopa, Arizona prosecutor, Juan Martinez, promised to “shine the light of truth” on the defendant. He explained that Jodi Arias is guilty of first degree murder because:

*

  •  Jodi called her sister “stupid” (Important)
  • She had conflicts with her parents
  • She got in big trouble and lied about it
  • Jodi “adjusted” Ryan Burns
A Mormon couple, modeling their "magic underwear".
A Mormon couple, modeling their “magic underwear”.
  • She “committed perjury”. Everything she said is nothing but lies.
  • Jodi is a liar and manipulator because she testified that Ryan Burns was “full of crap”…
  • …after Ryan testified that he thought she said “she worked at Margaritaville” and he “touched her vaginal area”.
  • “A field of lies sprouted every time she took the witness stand”.
After earthly life, the next step for Mormons is to live with God on Earth's sister planet Kolob, which is closer to the throne of God, becuase earth was relocated form near Kolob to it's present position.
After earthly life, the next step for Mormons is to become celestial rulers and live with God on Earth’s sister planet Kolob, which is closer to the throne of God, because Earth was relocated away from Kolob to it’s present position in our solar system.
  • She is a waitress / manipulator who flirts with customers for tips.
  • The defense experts and defense team are all liars.
  • If Jodi told the truth about Travis having a gun and she did not premeditate the murder, she’s still a thief because she stole Travis’ gun and she’s still a murderer in the first degree because the prosecution, with the approval of the judge, legally manipulated the law with the felony murder charge.
Jodi Ann Arias is " a chameleon who will adjust to the situation and make herself go further to manipulate. " - prosecutor Juan Martinez
Jodi Ann Arias is ” a chameleon who will adjust to the situation and make herself go further to manipulate. ” – prosecutor Juan Martinez
  •  She stomped around like a wildebeest migration and left behind incriminating evidence. 
  • She was focused and deliberate, removed incriminating evidence and she did not leave a trail of bloody footprints while exiting the home.
A real Wildebeest "hovering" in a real field.
A real Wildebeest standing, not “hovering”, in a real field.
  • Jodi is a liar because she has a good memory for buying a Strawberry Frappuccino but can’t remember the details of a horrific, traumatic killing.
  • The only victimization or trauma Jodi ever experienced in her life was this: Jodi is “a victim of the trauma of lying”.
  • Jodi implicated herself on the stand and violated the spirit of the law by stealing a license plate that she was not absolutely sure belonged to her rental car.

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  • Jodi was criminally careless and negligent in possibly depriving a citizen of their lawfully obtained California license plate.
  • Jodi “has created a fantasy world”. Yet, even in her fantasy world, Juan reaches in and catches her several times violating the law.
Scene from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Scene from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • She decorates her lies with ornamentations to make them more believable.
  • Jodi is a lying liar. She even lied to Travis by faking an orgasm.
  • Jodi is a story-teller and sociopath who will defy the laws of common decency, bend the law to suit her purposes, lie, manipulate and even break the law in order to achieve her goals.
  • Jodi is strong-willed.

 

Scene from the "Wildebeest Stampede" from Disney's The Lion King
Scene from the “Wildebeest Stampede” in Disney’s The Lion King
  • “She’s not a reasonable person, she’s a liar and a murderer.”
  • She is physically strong enough to take Travis and she “Adjusted Ryan” (Important)
  • After killing Travis the “chameleon” proceeds to Utah where “that thing” kisses Ryan Burns, straddles and “adjusts him”, and “rubs genitalia”.
  • Jodi exaggerates and is dramatic.

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Jodi Arias:
“Has a dumb, stupid sister”
“Is not nice to her mother”
“Is not a very nice person”

Lady-Tremaine-and-Stepsisters-cinderella-1991155-360-264

“will lie and manipulate at every turn”
“targeted a good Mormon boy”
Because she “decided she needed to breed”
Good Mormon boy whose halo is a CTR (Cherish the Right) Ring reminding him never to defile his future bride by engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct prior to marriage.
Good Mormon boy whose halo is a CTR (Cherish The Right) Ring reminding him never to defile his future bride by engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct prior to marriage.
 
For prosecutor Juan Martinez, this is key evidence in the Jodi Arias trial. Jodi called her sister stupid one time while communicating with Travis Alexander. This was one of the first questions he put to Arias on cross-examination. Juan made certain to bring up this major piece of evidence in his closing argument.
Allegations that Arias also once stuck her tongue out at her sister, Angela, and called her a “poopy face” were not allowed into evidence.
Judge Sherri Stephens absolutely controlled the courtroom because earlier in the trial she made sure the spectators remained silent and did not interrupt the prosecutor in an hour back and forth examination about crucial testimony concerning Snow White, the role of the Prince, the ages of the Seven Dwarfs, and whether their home was a “shack” or a “cute cottage”.

judge stephens

If Judge Stephens had the temerity to simply ask Juan “Where are you going with this?” she may have risked a mistrial or a successful appeal. It was a grand fishing expedition, but Juan got nary a nibble.
According to Juan Martinez, Jodi Arias should allow Travis Alexander to berate her father and her grandfather (people he never met) because Jodi called her own sister “stupid”. These are the footprints of murder.

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Arias, like many young people, had a strained relationship with her mother. This is evidence of either abuse or Jodi’s mental and emotional problems stemming from her childhood and mental illness. This is an issue which supports the defense, not the prosecution.
Martinez stated that Arias’ behavior and acts from her birth to her late teens were irrelevant to the crime or it’s mitigation. Yet, he brought them up again and again in this capital murder case.
Juan Martinez is fond of saying “You can’t have it both ways”.

kirk nurmi

This is a man whose imagination is confined to the world of Disney, where the whole world is invited to participate in the reduction of great works of literature and psychologically profound fables about passages into adulthood, into simplistic and pleasing tales and colorful, lilting rides.

That’s why author E.L. Doctorow, in his historical work, The Book of Daniel, called Disney World rides, themed after simplistic Disney stories loosely based on the true literary works of art, “a sentimental compression of something that is itself already a lie”.

"If it's not written in the journal, it didn't happen" - Juan Martinez
“If it’s not written in the journal, it didn’t happen” – Juan Martinez

That’s the Jodi Arias trial in a nutshell, ladies and gentleman, after the actual, and complicated truth was corrupted and bastardized into a simplistic good versus evil morality play by the “Bulldog” of Maricopa County.

Your opinion is valuable. All comments are welcome and appreciated

All Rights Reserved –

(Please do not reproduce this article in whole or in part without permission)

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Sources:

http://movies.disney.com/snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs

http://movies.disney.com/the-lion-king

http://mormon.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolob

Juan Martinez gives his closing argument in the guilt phase of the trial

What’s Going On in Arizona, Maricopa? (part 2)

What’s Going On in Arizona, Maricopa County? (part 2) Fact based reporting By Rob Roman County Officials are suing Maricopa County   The State of Arizona is suing the U.S. Government   Juan Martinez is accusing the police of obstruction of justice   The ACLU is suing Sheriff Joe   Judges are suing Maricopa County   Sheriff Joe is indicting County officials The U.S. Government is suing Sheriff Joe    Prisoners are suing Maricopa County    Juan Martinez is fighting with Judge Janet Barton     The U.S. Government is suing  Arizona

What’s going on in Arizona, MaricopaCounty?

arizona conservative

Part 2

joeMaricopaCounty is tough on crime and is the home of “America’s toughest sheriff. Who is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and how does he relate to what’s going on in MaricopaCounty and the Jodi Arias case? In some ways he has helped Jodi Arias by allowing her 1st amendment right to free speech, which resulted in facilitating her post conviction interviews. In other ways, his obsession with cost cutting has resulted in the two meals per day which, due to scheduling, caused Jodi some health problems during the trial. joe drawingSHERIFF JOE ARPAIO According to Wikipedia: Joseph M. “Joe” Arpaio (born June 14, 1932) is the five-time elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. First voted into office in 1992, Arpaio is responsible for law enforcement in Maricopa County. This includes management of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, county jail, courtroom security, prisoner transport, service of warrants, and service of process. Since 2005, he has taken an outspoken stance as an advocate for strong enforcement of immigration law, and has become a flashpoint for opposition to Arizona’s SB1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. He is well known for attracting media attention, and styles himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” tent citytents Sheriff Joe is a controversial figure who has been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, illegal immigration enforcement, and racial profiling. The U.S. Justice Department is suing him. He is also being sued in a class–action lawsuit for racial profiling. Arpaio and Donald Trump are famous for investigating President Barack Obama‘s birth certificate, which they claim is a forgery. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Arpaio jodi chainsjoe 3 Sheriff Joe had used such cost cutting measures as erecting a “tent city” in the desert to hold defendants facing trial, feeding prisoners “green baloney” and food discarded from other businesses, and forcing inmates, both men and women, to wear pink underwear and black and white striped uniforms. joe handLike the unending amount of loyalty oath signings U.S. airmen were subjected to in the novel Catch-22, there seems to be a competition in Arizona, Maricopa to see who can be the most conservative and the toughest on crime. Maybe that’s why MaricopaCounty is second only to ClarkCounty in Nevada for the most death penalty cases waiting to be tried. At some point, Sheriff Joe thought that there was corruption in the CountyOffices and he joined with a prosecutor to fight the corruption they saw. The result was a political war which mostly spared Sheriff Joe, but ended in the disbarment of the prosecutor. thomas joe arpaioSHERIFF JOE & ANDREW THOMAS  Prosecutor Andrew Thomas joined forces with Sheriff Joe to wage a war against County officials, judges and others in 2008 and 2009. They filed criminal charges against some and they filed a civil racketeering lawsuit in federal court against others. Sheriff Joe and Thomas conducted “a coup in MaricopaCounty by arresting, prosecuting and suing all of the county elected officials, including sitting Judges they did not like”. Prosecutor Thomas accused these people of a massive conspiracy against Sheriff Joe. Local attorneys organized a giant rally against Thomas and Sheriff Joe. Both Sheriff Joe and Thomas started this war while employed by the county. As a result, many of the targets these attacks sued MaricopaCounty, costing the county millions. http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20130426lawsuit-settlement-wolfswinkel-arpaio-thomas.html http://badlawyernyc.blogspot.com/2009/12/maricopa-county-arizona-prosecutorial.html The County fought back and they brought massive power to bear on prosecutor Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. andrew thomasPHOENIX (AP) — “An Arizona ethics board disbarred Maricopa County’s former top prosecutor on Tuesday for violating the rules of conduct for lawyers in bringing criminal charges against two county officials and a judge in December 2009 with the purpose of embarrassing them. The three-member disciplinary panel of the Arizona courts ruled that Mr. Thomas and an assistant prosecutor broke criminal intimidation and perjury laws in knowingly bringing false bribery charges against Judge Gary Donahoe, then of Superior Court. The panel ruled that the evidence suggested that Sheriff Arpaio and one of his aides conspired with the two prosecutors.” Notice that the very politically popular Sheriff Joe escaped from all this hoopla rather unscathed. Then there is the case of Anant Tripati. His legal research business investigated wrongdoing in MaricopaCounty. Mr. Tripati soon ended up being prosecuted by the Maricopa Attorney’s office and thrown in jail. tripati largeTripati 2 small 80 A native of Fiji, 54 year-old Anant Tripati owned a legal research firm in Beverly Hills. In 1991, Tripati provided assistance in a complex case in Maricopa Superior Court. He soon discovered some unethical, unlawful, and discriminatory practices. Tripati found evidence that prosecutors were manufacturing evidence, arresting, and prosecuting certain targeted people in MaricopaCounty. Tripati was arrested and prosecuted for real estate fraud. Witnesses testified against him. He was sentenced to 52 years in prison with no possibility of parole. Tripati claims the “witnesses” were pressured into testifying against him under the threat of arrest and prosecution. These witnesses wrote letters and gave sworn affidavits stating that Tripati was innocent, and that they were “threatened, coerced, intimidated, and otherwise forced” by employees of the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office into giving false testimony against him at trial. Tripati contends that these “witnesses” were the actual perpetrators of the crime. He remains in prison in Arizona. http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2011/01/marcia_powell_revisited_will_b.php There are more and more unusual occurrences happening in Arizona prisons and jails. Prisoners are “committing suicide” at rates much higher than national averages. Prisoners are refused emergency aid and even basic medical attention. An unusually high number of prisoners are dying under questionable circumstances. Here are a few examples. brenda toddBRENDA TODD The Arizona Department of Corrections announced on January 21, 2011 that Brenda Todd died in custody at Goodyear’s Perryville Prison, She was found unresponsive in her cell and medical responders attempted to revive her. They were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead. The ADC indicated that her death was “under investigation”. “Since Todd’s death, several individuals have claimed that Todd pleaded for medical attention days before she was found dead, and that she even banged on the wall or door of her cell the night before her demise, asking for help. Todd was doing 2.5 years for an aggravated DUI. She was housed in Perryville’s minimum security Santa Maria Unit.” There are many more cases like this of prisoners with severe and even life-threatening illnesses who were denied medical attention and other basic services. marcia powellMARCIA POWELL  Powell was an inmate serving a twenty seven month prison term.  On May 20, 2009, she was left outdoors in a human cage for four hours with no shade or water. The temperature was over 107 degrees (41 degrees C).  The prison’s policy limits outside confinement to a maximum of 2 hours. “The county medical examiner found the cause of death to be due to complications from heat exposure. Her core body temperature upon examination was 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees C). She suffered burns and blisters all over her body.” “Witnesses say she was repeatedly denied water by corrections officers, though the Commanding Officers deny this. According to a 3,000 page report released by the ADC, she pleaded to be taken back inside, but was ignored. Similarly, she was not allowed to use the restroom. When she was found unconscious, her body was covered with excrement from soiling herself.” “Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution, was still alive but she expired after being transported to WestValleyHospital, where acting ADC Director Charles Ryan made the decision to have her life support suspended.” “The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has chosen not to prosecute Arizona Department of Corrections staff in the death of inmate Marcia Powell”. What happened is that Marcia Powell was barbecued alive. The staff of the prison claim it was an honest mistake. But would anyone in MaricopaCounty government leave their pet dog or cat out in unshaded area for 4 hours in 107 degree Arizona heat with no water? snakeOne person was allowed to retire a few months early and a few people were fired, No one was held accountable for this unauthorized death sentence. Let’s face it, Marcia Powell was probably a “wise-ass” or a “loud-mouth” and she was “dealt with” by prison staff. Don’t even try to say that it was an “accident”, an “oversight”, or it “went too far”.  There are some ignorant and sadistic guards, especially in places like Arizona, who are in this business for their own personal entertainment and to make sure that prisoners suffer for their crimes. Can there even be a reasonable debate on this matter? Here is a very recent, perfect example of just such an individual: glen edmondA Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Detention Officer was accused of violating his girlfriend with a souvenir baseball bat, pepper-spraying her vagina, sticking a loaded gun in her mouth, and other crimes. The woman also accused him of assaulting her with wrestling holds, using a Taser on her, and throwing her high heeled shoes at her. “A detention officer at one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails is accused of violating a woman with a baseball bat, pepper-spraying her vagina, sticking a gun in her mouth, and more.” “The 29-year-old woman told police Edmond used a wrestling hold to pin her to a bed and used the wooden bat during the assault. During an argument later he pointed a .40-caliber handgun at her, she told police. Another woman stepped between the two and Edmond grabbed the victim around the other woman, ripping the victim’s shirt and breaking her necklace and cell phone, according to a court document. The victim told police it wasn’t the first incident with the suspect. She said he pepper-sprayed her vagina in 2005, used a stun gun on her, had previously placed a gun in her mouth, and broke the high heels off shoes to expose the nails and threw them at her.” http://www.kpho.com/story/22845025/avondale-man-accused-of-sex-assault-with-bat Edmond admitted to some of the accusations, but pled not guilty. Another incident this year involves another guard who is also accused of a violent domestic assault. cj-joe“An Avondale father and son were heavily drinking and got into an argument that ended with the father being stabbed multiple times. CJ Joe and his father were drinking and got into a heated argument over politics before allegedly stabbing his father, said Avondale Police. Joe remains in critical condition at a local hospital, police said. He was stabbed six times in the chest, back, biceps, shoulder and finger.” http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/region_west_valley/avondale/avondale-father-son-stabbing-mcso-detention-officer-stabbed-dad-6-times-dad-in-critical-condition#ixzz2gBAXI2V4 In just the last few months, there are these two reports of guards lashing out in violent attacks on their partners and family members. If they are acting like this at home, how do you think they are treating the prisoners? joe 2Sheriff Joe Arpaio has fought against his own County’s officials and judges in addition to his battles with the federal government. The U.S. federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union have fought back against Arizona and MaricopaCounty in a series of lawsuits. A class-action lawsuit was filed against the ADC (Arizona Department of Corrections) alleging widespread abuse leading to serious injuries and even death. “The lawsuit filed Tuesday morning alleges thousands of prisoners within Arizona’s Department of Corrections system have received grossly inadequate medical, mental health and dental care over the last several years.” justice 2“The state of Arizona has failed miserably providing basic needs,” said Daniel Pochoda, legal director with the ACLU. “When people are confined to prisons for 3 years or 5 years, they are not confined to a death sentence and many of these folks have died because of the absence of adequate care.” Don’t worry about the fate of Arizona and MaricopaCounty because help is on the way:  andrew_thomas_announces_for_gov_apr2720131ANDREW THOMAS After being disgraced, disbarred and losing a bid for Arizona Attorney General, Andrew Thomas is now running for Governor of Arizona in 2014. “I’ll be focusing on the need to protect public safety, ensure border security and fight corruption, among other issues,” Thomas said in the e-mail. “Thomas served as county attorney from 2005 until he resigned in 2010 to unsuccessfully run for Arizona attorney general. His political downfall came after he was accused of using his prosecutorial powers while in office for political purposes. Targets included judges, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and other county officials.” joe 4Andrew Thomas claims that “honest prosecutors are railroaded for fighting corruption in this state.” There is controversy over whether Sheriff Joe and Andrew Thomas are the heroes or the villains in Arizona. There seems to always be considerable political turmoil swirling in and around the capital city of Phoenix, where something, be it corruption, malfeasance, scandals, or condemned prisoners, always seems to be rising out of the ashes. criminal-justice-schoolsCONCLUSION In this environment it is not such a stretch of the imagination to see how investigations done on a Spartan budget lead to faulty and incomplete evidence. It is easy to see how the accused could be rubber stamped through the Grand Jury, indicted, overcharged, and arrested with little evidence and then pressured into a confession or a plea deal. What if you are the accused you choose to stand up, not make a deal, and fight the charges? What happens then? It appears that some people in the Attorney’s Office then find a way to put you in prison, make you suffer, and keep you there for a long time. large immigrationsaddlebrooke_extremists large The Prosecutor’s has been called, and they will double down on the gamble and take you to trial. The County wants to show they are tough on crime and will not back down on their charge. Prosecutors will bend the rules to “supplement” the evidence, make the evidence fit and hide or destroy evidence. They will find “witnesses” to testify against you. They will threaten and intimidate your witnesses. They will not allow exculpatory evidence into your trial. They will use their contacts in the media to demonize you.az butte The police and prosecutors, technicians and medical examiners, and even judges will “cut corners” to get a conviction and make it stick. They are doing this in the interest of justice and public safety. Many times the accused are guilty, so there are few complaints. A better idea might be to spend a little more on resources and conduct thorough and fair investigations. This way you can indict, charge and prosecute suspects on sound and reliable evidence, and conduct fair trials. Convicts can be put into custody under safe and humane conditions. Then you can expect to save a lot of money on murder trials, re-trials and lawsuits. amnestyThe Jodi Arias trial shined a spotlight on the intense political environment and questionable practices in MaricopaCounty and ArizonaState. Enormous efforts are made to save money, but they lost millions of taxpayer dollars to lawsuits. They are forced to spend millions more dollars to wrest a death verdict in the Arias trial. This is even though this never should have been a death penalty case and the death penalty can not be achieved or it will not hold in this case. Debra Milke is forced back to a death penalty trial even though the County has ZERO evidence in this case. The CountyDistrict Attorney needs to save face on the Arias case and the Milke case. If Debra Milke were guilty, why doesn’t either of the two convicts involved in her son’s murder, and currently serving on Arizona’s death row, wish to testify against her? Aren’t they on death row only because she wanted her 4 year-old son dead? death penaltyCurrently, there are around 120 pending death penalty cases in Arizona.  So the case of Jodi Arias needs to go well and smoothly for them. Judge Sherry Stephens is one of several judges who are new to death penalty cases simply because there are so many of these cases on the docket. Meanwhile, other states such as Maryland have put an end to the death penalty due to the overwhelming costs and the alarming amount of wrongful convictions. They have saved a lot of money and now people in Arizona are agitating for change. Everybody’s reputation is on the line in this case. So, in State v. Debra Jean Milke and State v. Jodi Ann Arias, are we really seeing a search for the truth leading to Justice? Perhaps we are really seeing a win as an absolute political necessity for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. We will have to see what kinds of decisions are made in both the Debra Milke and the Jodi Arias death penalty cases to be sure. Debra Milke Cover Please see What’s going on in Arizona, Maricopa County (Part 1) All Rights Reserved Unlike some Blogs, ALL comments are accepted and will be posted.

What’s Going On in Arizona, Maricopa (part 1)

Fact based reporting

By Rob Roman

The State of Arizona is suing the U.S. Government      The U.S. Government is suing the State of Arizona      Juan Martinez is accusing Maricopa police of hiding evidence       Judges are suing Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe      Sheriff Joe is indicting County officials      County Officials are suing Maricopa County      The U.S. Government is suing Sheriff Joe      The ACLU is suing Sheriff Joe      Prisoners are suing Maricopa County     Juan Martinez is accusing the police of obstruction of justice      Juan Martinez is fighting with Judge Janet Barton

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What’s going on in Arizona, MaricopaCounty?

(part 1)

azOverview

In order to fully understand the Jodi Arias trial, we must look at the context in which the trial is taking place. Arizona has long been a very conservative “red” state. The conservatives hold sway over Maricopa county and they want to show the rest of America how justice is served. They want to show they can keep the cost of government low and the services effective.

They want to show they can bring criminals to justice and lock them away from the public while staying on a tight budget. Politics are fierce as the leaders fight against the U.S. Justice Department in such areas as law enforcement and immigration. There is tremendous pressure under this system for those in high offices to produce results and advance the conservative causes of their political leaders.

cactusThis is especially true in law enforcement. Certain crimes fit a political agenda. Certain crimes get a lot of play in the media. Law enforcement is pressured to solve the case and make an arrest. The Maricopa Attorney’s Office is then pressured to bring the case to trial and get a conviction.

This works splendidly until there comes a case where there isn’t enough solid evidence to get a conviction. Then the pressure is directed downward, from the CountyD.A. to the prosecutors involved to the detectives, to the forensic technicians, to the cop on the beat. There is an agenda driven push in high profile cases to make an arrest quickly. Once the arrest is made, there is a concerted effort to get a conviction and make it stick.

Of course, these occurrences are not particular to Arizona or conservative states. There are many reasons why suspects can be wrongly convicted. But for the County prosecutors, pressure from above or even self-imposed pressure to get the arrest and the conviction seems to be a primary cause of faulty prosecutions.

justice projectThe Justice Project

Most people have heard of “the Innocence Project” and other agencies like this. They investigate questionable convictions and pursue justice for the wrongfully convicted. In many cases, DNA evidence is re-examined. This can only be a small percentage of cases. There are many more convicts serving time who were wrongly convicted with no DNA involved. It is generally agreed there are many more prisoners who are not guilty of the crime(s) charged.

Organizations like The Justice Project were created to provide assistance and resources to clients who might not be able to afford or have access to such services. The Justice Project has been operating in Arizona since 1998 to help overturn wrongful convictions. The Justice Project “examines claims of innocence and manifest injustice, and provides legal representation for inmates believed to have been failed by the criminal justice system.”

lady-justice “Nearly all of the exoneration cases in the registry’s report came about because of public attention or the efforts of innocence projects. The states with the most exonerations – California, Texas, Illinois and New York each has more than 100 cases.”

University of Michigan Law Professor Samuel Gross said the courts should be more willing to reverse course and overturn previous rulings. “We need to be more ready to acknowledge mistakes were made,” Gross said. “Change in attitude is more important than any policy.” “We don’t think we’ve scratched the surface in wrongful convictions,” Gross said. “This is a tiny number.”

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/05/21/11756575-researchers-more-than-2000-false-convictions-in-past-23-years?lite

In the span of 25 years, eight death row convicts have been exonerated in Arizona. These are only the 1st degree murder convictions resulting in death sentences. This is a problem because it is especially the death row convictions which should be beyond a reasonable doubt. Below are some of the recent Arizona exonerations:

RobisonJamesPC

James Robison **** Aquitted

Convicted: 1977 **** Exonerated: 1993**** (16 years in prison)

“ArizonaRepublic reporter Don Bolles was fatally injured on June 2, 1976 when a six-stick dynamite bomb attached to the vehicle was detonated by remote control.

John Harvey Adamson, confessed to planting the bomb in Bolles’ car. Adamson pleaded guilty and implicated his friend, James Robison, as the one who pushed the button on the remote control device. The sole evidence was Adamson’s word. Robison was acquitted by a jury after three trials.

Here a guilty party implicated his friend because he wanted to make a deal with the prosecutors or because he wanted to limit his culpability in the crime. There was no other evidence to substantiate his claim.

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3588

Robert Charles Cruz **** Acquitted

Convicted: 1981 **** Exonerated: 1995 **** (14 years in prison)

In this case, there seems to be a concerted effort to convict Cruz on the top charge, even though it appears evident that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to get or sustain a conviction. Cruz had mafia connections, which were improperly admitted into evidence and were prejudicial to the jury. At his fourth trial on the same charges, the Supreme Court found a violation because four Hispanic jurors were excluded solely due to their race. A special prosecutor assigned to Cruz’s fifth trial was caught bribing two inmates to testify against Cruz. The jury acquitted Cruz and stated they did not believe the prosecutor’s new “star witness”.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3139

David Wayne Grannis **** Acquitted

Convicted 1991 **** Exonerated 1996 **** (5 years in prison)

The defendant admitted he was at the scene but claimed he fled before the murder. Here again, a defendant facing the death penalty feels the pressure and implicates another in order to make a deal and reduce his own culpability. Evidence having no connection to the crime was improperly admitted and was prejudicial to the defendant. There was no physical evidence whatever to corroborate the other defendant’s claim. http://www.victimsofthestate.org /AZ/

Christopher McCrimmon **** Acquitted

Convicted 1993 **** Exonerated 1997 **** (4 years in prison)

In this case, there seems to have not been enough evidence to convict. A”witness” is found among convicts willing to give information to prevent a 25 year jail term. A police investigator committed perjury and a judge even coerced a reluctant juror to find the defendant guilty.

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3424

raykrone

Ray Krone **** Charges Dismissed

Convicted 1992 **** Exonerated  2002 **** (10 years in prison)

Defense attorneys for the defendant claimed Maricopa County “obtained the conviction and death sentence… by prosecutorial misconduct, the use of altered and manufactured evidence, expert shopping, a refusal to adequately investigate… through the concealment and destruction of evidence, through perjured documents and statements, and through the unfairly prejudicial inflammation of public opinion.”

“Among other deficient acts, the crime lab failed to test and/or analyze “hair, blood and fingerprints” that when examined years after Krone’s second conviction, excluded him and implicated another person in Ancona’s murder.”

In this case, again, there seems to be not enough evidence to convict. The public was inflamed against the defendant. The investigation was predicated on saving money and time. Tremendous media and political pressure came to bear on the prosecution. There was an inadequate investigation and evidence manipulation. Perjured documents and statements were also used in the attempt to get this conviction.

“Expert shopping” means that there were a number of witnesses the prosecution hired who found fault with the prosecution’s theory of the crime. The prosecution continued seeking experts until they found the one who would say what they wanted.

http://justicedenied.org/issue/issue_32/krone_jd32.pdf

prion000Lemuel Prion **** Charges dismissed

Convicted 1999 **** Exonerated 2003 **** (4 years in prison)

According to the Supreme Court, “There was no physical evidence identifying Prion as the killer,” and the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing the defense to submit evidence that a third party, John Mazure, was the actual killer.

Prion’s conviction was based largely on the testimony of Troy Olson, who identified Prion as the man who was with Vicari on the night of her murder. However, when police first showed Olson photographs of Prion, Olson could not identify Prion. This information was not admitted into evidence.

In this case there seems to be an effort by both the prosecutor and the judge to allow a man to testify as an eye witness even though they knew there was a serious problem with the testimony of this witness.

Debra-Milkedebra milke 2

Debra Jean Milke **** Charges dismissed or reduced to time served ?

Year convicted 1990 **** Year exonerated ? **** (23 years in prison)

Debra Jean Milke is a German immigrant convicted of the murder of her 4 year-old son Christopher Conan Milke in 1990. On March 14, 2013, Milke’s conviction was overturned on March 14, 2013 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

debra milke 3“The Debra Milke case out of Maricopa County, Arizona caused a stir earlier this year when the 9th Circuit threw out Milkie’s conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct.”

“The Court handed down a biting critique of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its failure to disclose evidence that the lead detective in Milke’s case had a long and sordid history of misconduct, including lying under oath and accepting sexual favors for leniency.”

Milke’s alleged confession to Armondo Saldate, was the only direct evidence linking Milke to the crime. The only evidence was Saldate’s word. Saldate had been implicated in the past for lying under oath and other serious violations The prosecution withheld this evidence from the defense.

debra milke“Milke’s roommate, Jim Styers, had Milke’s permission to take Christopher to allegedly see Santa Claus at a shopping mall. Styers and an accomplice took Chrisopher out to the desert and shot him. Styers and an accomplice have both been convicted of the murder and are currently on death row in Arizona. Nether has testified against Milke.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debra_Milke

http://www.prosecutorialaccountability.com/az-milkes-lawyer-says-maricopa-county-attorneys-office-ought-to-be-recused-from-retrial/

There is a significantly higher amount of faulty convictions when there is a higher amount of media attention, political pressure, or a focus on a particular case because of a political agenda. In these cases, more than one tactic is usually applied to get and hold onto a conviction. Different offices will coordinate and cooperate to achieve the conviction.

The reasons for these faulty convictions fall under the following categories:

Other Defendants and Suspects

-Forced or manufactured confessions  (Milke)

-Defendants implicating others

to lessen their culpability and / or make a deal  (Robison, Milke, Granis)

-Inadequate investigation of other suspects

Improper Evidence                                                                                                                  

Improperly admitting evidence more prejudicial to the client than probative (Cruz, Granis) Alltered and / or manufactured evidence (Krone)                                                                     Concealment and destruction of evidence (Krone)                                                               Failure to collect or test crime scene evidence (Krone)                                                             Not allowing exculpatory evidence to be admitted into trial (Milke, Prion)

Misconduct by Witnesses and Prosecutors

Lying by the prosecutor (Arias – Alleged)                                                                                Perjury by prosecution witnesses (Milke, McCrimmon, Arias – alleged)                                   Manufactured “witnesses” (McCrimmon)                                                                         Shopping for experts (Krone)                                                                                               Witness intimidation (Arias – alleged)

Improper Police investigators and technical evidence

Perjured documents and statements  (Krone, Arias – alleged)                                     Incomplete testing (Krone, Arias – alleged)

Faulty testing and investigation (Krone)

Incomplete investigation (Arias – alleged)

Problems with Judges and juries

Judge makes a bad ruling                                                                                                           Judge fails to make a ruling (Arias – alleged)                                                                                   Judge uses coercion (McCrimmon)                                                                                             Jury problem at selection (Cruz)                                                                                                       Jury problem during the trial (Arias – alleged)                                                                             Media bias affects jury (Krone, Arias – alleged)

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row

The current District Attorney is pressured to hold onto the conviction and death sentence of Debra Milke even though there is no credible evidence of her guilt. The D.A. wanted to limit embarrassment and the liability of his office by insisting on retrying a case that is unlikely to be winnable. Refusing to take responsibility for past wrongs in this case shows a clear conflict of interest. The continued prosecution of Debra Milke is clearly politically motivated and not in the interest of justice.

grand jury 2Prosecutors, in order to secure a quick arrest and trial will also deliver false or incomplete testimony to a Grand Jury. They will make an arrest without probable cause. The prosecution will depend on wresting the needed evidence out of the defendant after they are under arrest. This is especially true in Arizona when an upstanding Mormon or a child is the victim of a violent crime.

2005GrandJuryThere are other ways of gaining an advantage used by prosecutors over defense attorneys. This includes withholding evidence, offering a mile-long list of witnesses, most of whom will never be called, and delivering witness lists to the defense just days before the trial. The prosecution also uses last minute surprises, evidence dumps and massive paperwork dumps to overwhelm the defense attorneys prior to trial.

In a harsh political climate such as Arizona, all these factors pushing towards faulty convictions are attenuated. In Arizona, they fight amongst themselves. Prosecutors fight against judges, the County, the legislature, and law enforcement. We only need to look at the latest headlines in Maricopa County to see the political outfighting, infighting and constant scandals to see this is fertile ground for the misapplication of justice.

Please see What’s going on in Arizona, Maricopa County (Part 2)

All Rights Reserved

Unlike some Blogs, ALL comments are accepted and will be posted.

The Executives and the Executed (part 2)

The Executives and the Executed (part 2)

Meet Arizona’s Recently Executed Death Row Prisoners

Fact Based Reporting

by Amanda Chen and Rob Roman

The Arizona Executive Board of Clemency

can reduce sentences for any prisoner convicted of a felony. For death sentences, it’s almost impossible. For doing such things as reducing a 7 year sentence to a 5 year sentence, here is what a popular Arizona newspaper says:
symington 4“Statistically, if you are convicted of a felony in Arizona, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than granted clemency by the governor. Excluding the cases of inmates nearing the end of a terminal illness, Governor Jan Brewer is on track to grant the fewest clemency cases in more than two decades – even when a judge and unanimous board recommend a shorter sentence.
Recent board members interviewed by The Arizona Republic believe clemency will be granted even less frequently in the future.
Indeed, (Governor Jan) Brewer’s decision to replace three of the five clemency-board members at once last month (April, 2012) has led to legal and political turmoil: Departing board members say they were ousted for voting to grant clemency; and attorneys for an inmate scheduled to be executed Wednesday will be in Maricopa County Sperior Court on Monday, seeking a court order to nullify the appointments, arguing that they violated state laws. If the court agrees, it would invalidate dozens of board decisions from the past three weeks and could stall the clemency process.”
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/04/12/20120412arizona-prison-clemency.html#ixzz2i8iEj2RK
Jane hull(web)-150Less than four months later, two of the new members resigned after having controversies with the longstanding board members. This is motly about the shorter term felony sentences. For the prisoners facing an execution: forgetaboutit!
images (1)The other controversy revolves around the drugs used to execute prisoners. More and more companies are refusing to supply the drugs for the purpose of taking as life. States have had to change theit drug protocols and they have even shown a willingness to “improvise” if needed.
jan brewer 5These are the last   7 prisoners executed in Arizona from 2012 – 2013. A quick look at these brief but interesting histories tells us something about how the death penalty works and does not work in Arizona.

So let’s take a look at the Arizona’s most recently executed prisoners:

Robert Henry Moormann

moormann 1Crime: January 13, 1984

Sentenced to Death: May 7, 1985

Executed: February 29, 2012

This man went on a trip from Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada, no problem with that. He stopped at several hotels along the way, no problem with that. He took a female companion with him, no problem there. The female was eight years old and he didn’t know her. That’s a BIG problem.
3 aggravating circumstances:
Prior conviction punishable by life imprisonment
Pecuniary gain
Especially heinous, cruel, or depraved (all three prongs)
 motelMoormann was incarcerated and his mother would make the three hour drive to see him from time to time. He was granted a temporary 3 day humanitarian release to visit his ailing mother. While visiting his mother at a hotel within eyesight of the prison, he smothered her with a pillow and dismembered her body. He tried to hide the body parts at various places around town, including at the prison. There was a BIG problem there, too.
And this was the end of humanitarian releases for violent convicts.
moorman 2There were issues of mental incompetence and he was found to be mentally retarded by an IQ test administered when he was in grade school. There were also reports that his mother had sexually abused him throughout his life.
Just before he was put to death, Robert Henry Moormann used his last words to apologize to his family and to the family of the eight-year-old girl he kidnapped and molested in 1972. He said: “I hope this brings closure and they can start healing now”.
“I just hope that they will forgive me in time.”
Most states use a 3-drug combination for lethal injections:
1)      An Anesthetic (either Pentobarbital or, formerly, Sodium Thiopental),
2)      Pancuronium Bromide (a paralytic agent, also called Pavulon),
3)       Potassium Chloride (stops the heart and causes death).
Moormann became the unintended first recipient of Arizona’s new single drug protocol, a lethal dose of an anesthetic. This occurred because it was discovered on Monday that one of the three drugs had expired. Moormann was given only two days notice of how he would be put to death instead of the usual 7 day notice.
Moorman is considered to be severely mentally handicapped. He was probably not completely sure of what was happening to him. The U.S. Supreme Court refused his request for a stay of execution just 2 hours before he was put to death.

Robert Towery

robert-towery

Crime: September 4, 1991

Sentenced to Death: November 20, 1992

Executed: March 8, 2012

This man robbed a 6 year-old man, injected him with a veterinary syringe filled with an unknown liquid, then strangled him to death with a zip tie.
4 aggravating circumstances:
Prior convictions for offenses involving the threat of violence
Prior convictions for which life imprisonment was impossible
Pecuniary gain
Especially heinous, cruel or depraved (cruelty prong only)
towery 2Also known as “Chewey”, Robert was usually high on meth. He enjoyed mayhem and made use of strong arm robberies to finance his lifestyle.  During one robbery, he targeted a well known philanthropist named Mark Jones who financed the college education of hard-working graduate students. He had even lent Robert Towery some money in the past and gave him advice about starting a business.
With an accomplice, Towery tied up and injected him with a substance before strangling him with a plastic zip tie. This substance was rumored to be battery acid, giving him the name of “the Battery Acid Killer”. However, it was found at trial that neither the syringe nor the victim’s body had any traces of battery acid.
Most of the evidence against Towery, including the idea about battery acid, came from his accomplice who served only 10 years for 2nd degree murder.
towery sisAt his commutation hearing before the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency, a prosecutor again brought up the battery acid rumor. He also explained that Towery’s mitigating claims of severe child abuse were unfounded and a phony plea for mercy. These were lies told by Juan Martinez to secure a death sentence. At this same meeting were Towery’s two sisters, who each explained in vivid detail the horrendous abuse endured by Towery. He often protected his two sisters by taking beatings that were meant for his sisters.
PHP4F5395C5EB2AARobert Towery in his last words, apologized to his family and to the victim’s family and friends. He regretted having made so many mistakes in his life and continuing to go in the wrong direction.
Remeber that Towery had injected his victim with a liquid filled syringe? Curiously, the execution team took an unusually long time finding a vein and stuck him many times, finally arranging injection portals in both his arm and his groin. The one hour delay was not attributed to the struggle to find a vein but to ‘extra time Towery spent with his lawyer and a minister’.
Towery cried before being injected, but this was attributed to his emotions about his family. His final words were “potato, potato, potato”, perhaps a reference to his last visits with his family ot to his childhood with his two sisters. Robert’s final words were “I would like to apologize to Mark’s family and friends for what I did to them. I would like to apologize to my family,” Towery said. “So many times in my life I went left when I should have gone right and I went right when I should have gone left. It was mistake after mistake after mistake.” “I love my family”. “Potato, potato, potato”.

Thomas Arnold Kemp

kemp 1

Crime: July 11, 1992

Sentenced to Death: July 9, 1993

Executed: April 25, 2012

This man with an accomplice killed an illegal immigrant named Hector Juarez and left him naked in the desert.
3 aggravating circumstances:
Prior convictions for offenses involving the threat of violence
Pecuniary gain
Especially heinous, cruel or depraved (cruelty prong only)
Kemp and his accomplice abducted their victim from his community college. They forced him to withdraw $200.00 for his bank account and drove him into the desert. They forced him to remove his clothes and then Kemp shot him twice in the head.
After the murder, the two kidnapped a couple in Durango, Colorado and sexually assaulted the man. They separated and his accomplice was arrested after contacting the Police about the murder.
kemp 2He did admit to having regret and remorse about the incident. He was remorseful that he had become too good of friends with his accomplice to summon up the will to kill him, too. He stated he very much regretted not killing his accomplice, who was the only witness to the murder.
Kemp stated that his victim was not legal to be in the U.S. and so was “beneath my contempt.” He further stated “If more of them wound up dead, the rest of them would soon learn to stay in Mexico, where they belong”.
az_kemp_thomasKemp refused to ask for mercy and refused to appear before the Arizona Board of
Executive Clemency. He told the judge and the court at sentencing that the victim was in the United States illegally and did not deserve to live. He told the judge “I spit on the law and all those who serve it.”
Kemp also had something to say to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency. In a handwritten note, he said, “I, Thomas Kemp, state that I decline to seek executive clemency due to the futility of that process. In light of the board’s history of consistently denying requests for commutations, my impression is that a hearing in my case would be nothing short of a dog and pony show.”
In that regard, he was exactly right. Perhaps it’s easier to have a death sentence commuted to life than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. More than likely, after anyone meets with this board, the needle is going into you, and in one hell of a hurry, too. His final words were “I regret nothing”.

 

Samuel Lopez

samuel lopez 2

Crime: October 29, 1986

Sentenced to Death: June 25, 1987

Executed: June 27, 2012

This man raped and murdered a 59 year-old woman, a grandmother and poor seamstress who lived alone.

1 aggravating circumstance:
Prior conviction involving violence
(struck on appeal because the past violent conviction was for “resisting arrest”)
Especially heinous, cruel, or depraved (all 3 prongs of the aggravator)
samuel lopezShe was found by the police in her home half-naked, gagged and blindfolded. There were 3 stabs to her head, one to her face, and twenty three stab wounds to her left breast and chest. Her throat had been slit. There was blood all throughout the home, especially in the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen. The victim had been raped and he was caught in a separate rape case less than a week later, matching his DNA and tying him to the murder case.
The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, had previously dismissed two members of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency, and substituted her own members.  Lopez’s attorneys successfully won a delay in execution by arguing that the new members of the board had not received their training at the time of the scheduled hearing. The court ordered a temporary stay of execution, while the new board members received their mandatory 4 week training, like that was going to make any difference.
Lopez then sought a second stay arguing that Republican Governor Jan Brewer had appointed “political cronies” to the board, making a fair hearing impossible, which was rejected by the state Supreme Court.
In earlier executions, witnesses only saw the prisoner after the catheters had been inserted.
Samuel LopezHis execution was the first in which witnesses will watch, via closed-circuit TV, the insertion of the catheters that deliver the fatal drug pentobarbital. Attorneys for inmates in prior executions condemned the practice of inserting catheters into the prisoners’ groins. Officials said the executioners had found it difficult to find suitable veins in the arms and legs.
Prior to Lopez’s execution, witnesses only saw the condemned inmate at the time the of the injection. Lopez’s execution was the first time Arizona set up a closed-circuit TV camera so witnesses could view the insertion of the catheters into the arm, leg, or groin. In light of what happened to Robert Towery, maybe this is for the best.
Daniel Wayne Cook

az_cook_d

Crime: July 19, 1987

Sentenced to Death: August 8, 1988

Executed: August 8, 2012

With an accomplice, this man beat, tortured and killed one of his roommates in an argument over money and then beat, sodomized and killed a second friend because he walked in on the scene.
3 aggravating circumstances:
Especially heinous, cruel, or depraved (all 3 prongs of the aggravator)
Multiple homicides
Pecuniary gain
Carlos Froyan Cruz-Ramos was tortured by Cook and his accomplice, John Matzke. He was tied to a chair and then stabbed and beaten with a metal pipe for a few hours. They also burned his genitals with cigarettes. Finally, they crushed his throat with the metal pipe.
When Kevin Swaney arrived on the scene, he was forced to view the scene and the body. Swaney was tied to the same chair. He was beaten, sodomized, and then strangled to death with a bed sheet.
cookedCook’s accomplice, John Matzke, furnished the prosecution with much of the evidence. The acquaintance served just 20 years for the two brutal murders, and he’s free today.
daniel_cookCook won a stay of execution in April 2011 when the U.S Supreme Court explored claims of ineffective assistance of counsel during both the trial and appeals. There were claims of child sexual abuse by family members and a foster care worker that were never presented for mitigation. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, and the execution was rescheduled.
Cook’s last words were: “I’d like to say sorry to the victim’s family. I know that’s not enough . . .  . . . Where am I? To my lawyers, thank you. Red Robin, yum. I’m done. I love you”.

Richard Dale Stokley

stokley000

Crime: July 8, 1991

Sentenced to Death: July 14, 1992

Executed: December 5, 2012

This man, with an accomplice, abducted two 13 year old girls at a county fair. The two kidnapped, raped and murdered the young girls and threw them down a mine shaft.
3 aggravating circumstances,
Especially heinous, cruel or depraved (all 3 prongs)
Multiple murders
Age of victims (under 15)
richard-stokely-crimetickerAfter the rapes, they decided to kill them for fear of being caught. They each strangled one of the girls to death. According to his accomplice, Stokley made sure the girls were dead by repeatedly stomping on their bodies and stabbing each girl in the right eye.
Stokley turned himself in and confessed to the murders. Even so, Stokley’s accomplice turned State’s evidence against Stokley. The accomplice served just 20 years for the two rapes and murders, and he’s free today.
Stokely did say he was sorry for the victims and their families. He did not meet with the Arizona Executive Board of Clemency, and he declined to ask for mercy of the board which has the power to delay his execution or commute his sentence to life in prison.  A clemency request would be futile because the board hadn’t shown mercy to other death-row inmates, he told the board in a handwritten letter. ‘I don’t want to put anyone through that, especially since I’m convinced that … it’s pointless,’ he wrote. ‘I reckon I know how to die, and if it’s my time, I’ll go without fanfare.’
Stokley has said he thought his life was worth saving, that he knew he had made ‘grave and irreversible errors’ and that he was sorry he ‘was mixed up in these awful events that brought me to this’.
stokely 2On his execution day, Stokley had plenty of time to socialize and joke with the execution team as they spent 52 minutes trying to find veins that could be used to administer the drug pentobarbital. “I grew up a long time ago,” Stokley said. “I do wish I could die doing something meaningful, you know. This seems like such a waste.”
When Stokley was asked if he had any final words, he simply responded, “Nah.” He refused to look at the victims family members and said nothing at his execution.

Next in line for execution in Arizona:

Edward Schad

schad 1

Crime: August 1, 1978

Sentenced to Death: December 27, 1979

Executed: October 9, 2013

 

This man was convicted for the 1978 murder of Lorimer Grove, 74, an Arizonan on his way to WashingtonState.
Grove was driving his Cadillac when Schad allegedly hitched a ride or asked him to stop for help. Grove was strangled to death. Schad was AWOL from the Army and was found in New Yorrk driving Grove’s Cadillac, with the victim’s ID in his wallet, and having made purchases with the victim’s credit card. Schad had served time for second degree murder in the strangling death of a fellow Army member. He claimed it was an accident during rough sex.
3 aggravating circumstances:
Prior conviction punishable by life imprisonment
Prior conviction involving violence
Pecuniary gain
Schad has consistently denied murdering the victim. He admitted that he was a thief and he had stolen cars before, but he claimed he had not hurt anyone he stole from.
Schad, at 71 years-old, was the oldest man on Arizona’s death row. He had spent 35 years behind bars. There was a stay of execution, while the appeals court determined if Schad’s attorney had failed to bring up Schad’s mental illness as a mitigating factor.
Schad’s attorney also brought up the issue of whether it was impossible to get a stay or commutation to life in prison from the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency. He charged that the Governor’s office had improperly influenced the Clemency Board to refuse any requests for postponements or leniency.
schad000The lawyer also demanded to know what drugs were going to be used and for the court to make the state reveal the source of the drugs. The state was very reluctant to comply and only complied in part.
“A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix ordered the state to reveal the source of the drugs – the state begrudgingly complied in part – but she did not stop the execution.”
Schad’s execution was stayed in March by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow time for appeals. The appeals were denied and Schad was executed October 9th at 10:00 AM.

Robert Jones

robert jones

Crime: May – August, 1996

Sentenced to Death: February 17, 2000

Executed: October 23, 2013

 

This man was served with six death sentences by the court, one for each of his victims.
scan0019fm1Robert Jones is a Texan who was just released from prison when he teamed up with an accomplice to rob a smoke shop in Tuscon. Five people were shot and two of them died of their wounds. Two weeks later, Jones and his accomplice tried to rob the Firefighter’s Union Hall in Tuscon, shooting and killing four people.
5 aggravating circumstances and 42 felony counts:
Convicted of other offenses for which life sentence or death penalty imposable
Convicted of other “serious” offenses
Pecuniary gain
On parole at time of offense
Multiple homicides
The killings were mostly execution-style. Robert Jones seemed to enjoy shooting people in the head even more than the robberies. Jones and his accomplice, Scott Nordstrom were turned in by Nordstrom’s brother, David, the getaway driver in their burglaries.
jones 1Robert Jones was first jailed in 1972. The murders were committed in 1984. He has served 26 years on death row in Arizona. His accomplice, Scoot Nordstrom, remains on death row. It seems that Scott Nordstrom’s execution date will also arrive in 2013.
Jones’ execution date is set for October 23, 2013.

Let’s compare to Jodi Arias

jodi arias jail

Crime: June 4, 2008
Sentenced to Death:
Executed:
This woman committed a domestic homicide. She shot her ex-boyfriend, stabbed him 16 (not 27 and not 29) times and slit his throat during a violent altercation. She has a long term mental illness and had been mentally and emotionally abused by the victim. Arias also was possibly sexually and physically abused by an ordained elder in the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in a secretive sexual relationship.
1 Aggravating circumstance
Especially heinous, cruel or depraved (cruelty prong only of the aggravator)
No prior convictions. In the four years prior to meeting the victim and over five years after, has shown no signs of violence, instability, or rage.
It’s true that most women who murder do not rob, rape, or torture their victims, and most are domestic violence homicides. It is also true that most women who murder do so in either self-defense, out of fear, or to protect children. Many times in self-defense, the murder is disproportional to the attack (overkill). This is most often because the woman is reacting to prior acts of violence committed against her, or due to the woman’s smaller size and inexperience at committing violence and in processing the inevitable adrenaline rush.

We will continue to update the list of the executed as Arizona cranks up their execution machine in the months to come.  Will Arizona become more like California, which has rarely used it’s execution powers and now faces a proposition on the ballot to eliminate executions? Maybe Arizona will remain like Texas, Alabama and Ohio, where it’s full steam ahead on executions. Only time will tell.

Sources: http://www.azcentral.com  www.murderpedia.org

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/pending_death_penalty_cases_weigh_against_maricopa_county/

http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/74/CCTF/FinalRpt092007.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/jan-brewer-arizona-execution_n_1610924.html