This morning, mitigation witnesses for Jodi Arias were supposed to begin testifying in the penalty phase of the death penalty murder trial - if you recall, childhood friend Patricia Womack was supposed to testify on Thursday but court was abruptly cancelled after the lunch break. The reasons for the shortened day on Thursday were unknown, but there was speculation that Womack did not want her face to be shown in the televised proceedings.
Court was supposed to begin at 10:00AM PST today, but there were several motions that delayed the proceedings - all I can say is "wow"! We have learned that the defense filed a motion for mistrial, citing three main issues:
1) Biased media coverage
2) Witness intimidation (Patricia Womack, Alyce LaViolette)
3) Failure to sequester the jury
Kirk Nurmi argued that Jodi Arias has not received a fair trial from the start. He alleged that the extensive media coverage has made it impossible for her to have a fair trial. This argument is coming from the attorney of a defendant who has actively sought out the media and the spotlight in general? Has Nurmi not seen all of his client's tweets, interviews and her website? Are you kidding me?
His second point stemmed from the failure of Patricia Womack to show up to testify in court today. He is alleging that prosecutor Juan Martinez intimidated her to the point where she does not want to appear and testify on behalf of Jodi Arias! Apparently there is some truth to those rumors about Womack's drug use and her general history with law enforcement. Much of what was argued about Womack's change of heart was discussed behind closed doors in a sealed proceeding. From what I understood from Juan Martinez's statement to Judge Stephens, he interviewed Patricia Womack on May 15 - and she failed to answer his questions about her previous use of illegal drugs. At that time, Womack left the room briefly with Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott who are Jodi Arias' attorneys, not hers. Martinez argued it was inappropriate for Nurmi or Willmott to advise Patricia Womack in any manner since they represent Jodi Arias.
When Womack, Willmott & Nurmi returned to the interview with Juan Martinez, Womack asserted her fifth amendment right to remain silent! Apparently Martinez has uncovered some of Womack's dirty laundry, and it sounds as if there may potentially be some things she could be potentially prosecuted for. There was a reference made to photographs and unreported income, but no specific details were made available. I think this may be related to Womack's media interviews and the "exclusive" photos she shared with Nancy Grace. Could it be that Juan Martinez asked her if she was paid for the photos and/or the video footage of her wedding, where Jodi Arias was a bridesmaid? Did she fail to report that as income on her taxes?
Martinez argued to the judge that they don't know the reason why Womack failed to show up but he added that an attorney, Kenneth Countryman was made available to her last week and he is the person who should have been advising Patricia Womack on whether or not it would be in her best interest to assert her fifth amendment rights. Juan Martinez submitted a taped copy of his interview with Patricia Womack from May 15, 2013.
Judge Stephens offered a remedy to the issue of any witness who may be apprehensive about testifying in the penalty phase of this trial - she said this witness could be called and testify in a sealed proceeding, which she offered as a remedy to the Patricia Womack issue.
The motion for a mistrial was denied. Kirk Nurmi promptly stated that he and Jennifer Willmott wanted to withdraw from the case. Judge Stephens denied his request. Kirk Nurmi then stated that they would not be calling any mitigation witnesses in the defense's case. Judge Stephens appeared to be getting agitated with the defense's attempts to halt the proceedings. Can you blame her? Nurmi ranted about the court's failure to protect the rights of Jodi Arias by allowing the prosecution to attack their expert witnesses in the presence of the jury (that's called a cross examination, isn't it?!), and now the court has allowed the prosecutor to intimidate a mitigation witness into not testifying by calling into question her prior substance abuse issues.
Nurmi insisted that the jury be read a statement as to why Patricia Womack would not be testifying in the penalty phase. The judge agreed to read a statement, but not the statement Kirk Nurmi wanted. She would only agree to tell the jury that Ms. Womack was unavailable to testify, and they should not speculate as to the reasons etc. The defense still has Darryl Brewer, so why is he not being called? They didn't get their way on the motion for mistrial, so they tried to withdraw from the case, that was also denied - so now they are going to not put on a mitigation case? Is this a ploy so that Jodi Arias has an argument that her defense attorneys were ineffective? It appears to be some type of strategic move on their part.
Kirk Nurmi made a final plea to stay the penalty phase, which was also denied by Judge Stephens. Jodi Arias is expected to speak on her own behalf tomorrow morning when court begins at 9:30AM PST. What a morning it was. I'll update this when/if more information becomes available. I am constantly surprised at the shenanigans of this entire defense team. I've never seen any thing like this! It was almost like a temper tantrum, listening to Kirk Nurmi this morning in that courtroom. The more denials he heard from the judge, the more visibly upset he became. It was almost as if he was threatening to derail the entire 5 month long trial, by not putting on any type of mitigation witnesses now because of Judge Stephens decisions!
How is it Judge Stephens or Juan Martinez's fault that Patricia Womack decided it wasn't in her best interest to testify under oath in a court of law? What is she personally hiding that could be that bad to make her back out of this whole thing? Whatever it is, I'm fairly sure it involves her and not Jodi Arias. That is not the court's problem, it's Womack's and it's now Jodi Arias' problem. A mistrial is not a remedy for choosing a poor character witness to speak for your client. Why not call Jodi Arias' family to speak on her behalf? They still have viable options! This whole trial has become a mockery - Arias has received more leniency than most murder defendants do. Her out of court profiteering hasn't been made known to the jury, she's received every possible consideration.
So many things happened in that abbreviated court session. Is the defense just trying to throw a wrench in the trial, fearing that Jodi Arias is likely to be sentenced to death? Do you think that Nurmi & Willmott should be allowed to withdraw from the case at this late phase of the game? What could potentially happen if Arias' defense chooses not to put on a single mitigation witness and they simply choose to rest their case? Will Jodi Arias still testify tomorrow as scheduled, or is she going to try to play the martyr card in addition to the falsely convicted?
Anything is possible in this trial! And I honestly mean that! Have a great day - I'll post updates if more information becomes available. Until tomorrow.....