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Defense Pressing For Mistrial...Again

This morning the Jodi Arias murder trial took another turn towards a full blown circus. When I tuned in this morning, the jury was not present and instead of a defense witness on the stand a senior producer for HLN was on the stand! Yes, that's right - the defense is continuing to waste valuable time and resources bringing in members of the media to try to support their motion for a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct. HLN senior producer Grace Wong took the stand while Kirk Nurmi asked her questions relating to her participation in following this murder trial. The issue at hand is whether or not any jurors witnessed prosecutor Juan Martinez signing a few autographs on the court house steps. Martinez took a few photos with members of the public, and the Arias defense team has been pressing for a mistrial based on his conduct.

Nurmi asked Grace Wong if she was familiar with the jurors and could identify them by face and number. Ms. Wong testified that she did know many of them by face but there were a few she wasn't able to see from where she sits in the courtroom. So to summarize, as with In Session's Jean Casarez - both have testified they saw no jurors outside the court house while prosecutor Juan Martinez was signing autographs and taking photos with the public.  Next, the defense recalled a previous witness named Brian Neumeister. Neumeister is the defense expert who worked to extract the phone sex audio recording from Arias's phone. He apparently did some work to enlarge and enhance a photo Arias took of Travis Alexander in the shower. The particular photo was that close-up of Travis's face.

Before Neumeister took the stand, Kirk Nurmi asked if Jodi Arias could sit in the jury box so she could better view the screen where the enlargement was being shown. Jodi Arias and Jennifer Willmott then moved to seats in the jury box. Travis Alexander's two sisters and brother were also seated in the jury box, and they were seated directly behind Arias and Willmott. It was a strange thing to see, the Alexander siblings sitting mere feet away from the woman who murdered their brother. It was quite a sight. Neumeister explained how he enlarged the photo and why he enlarged it. Could it be that the defense team IS in fact reading the many theories being posed on social media that Arias may have taken those shower photos at gun or knife point?

Neumeister showed another blown up version of Travis's left eye, and focused on the pupil. The way the photo was taken created somewhat of a mirror, the defense believes. Neumeister explained about further enhancement capabilities available in the lab he uses in which he made an outline of what appears to be a standing figure holding something up with raised arms. The defense wants to use the photo to "prove Arias was indeed taking a photo of Travis as she testified, not holding a gun or a knife". Has anybody testified in court that she wasn't taking photos? What is Nurmi talking about? I don't think anybody is challenging that Arias was taking photos. The problem with today's witness is that Nurmi is stretching this into "Jodi Arias was telling the truth about taking the photos and therefore she is telling the truth about what happened". That's just not the case.

It seems the defense team is willing to do just about anything to get a mistrial. Kirk Nurmi went on the offensive today when Juan Martinez cross examined Neumeister about the outline he drew on the pupil of Travis Alexander's enlarged eye. "Isn't it true that people may see other things than what you outlined? In fact, to me it looks like a dog, maybe a German Shepard". Good one Juan! Martinez then questioned Neumeister's status as an "expert" in photo enhancements/enlargements asking "why did you testify the first time in this trial? Isn't it true that one of the reasons you wanted to testify is to become qualified as an expert in the area of audio enhancements"? No, I've testified in many other cases, Neumeister said. What are the other cases you testified in? The witness could not recall the specific case names. Martinez asked "what is the name of the judge in the case you testified in"? "I don't recall, I'd have to look at my notes" Neumeister answered. You can see how this exchange went.

Kirk Nurmi pressed the Judge to admit the four enlarged photos into evidence to present to the jury. Martinez objected to the last photo with the outline drawn by Neumeister, because he believes it shouldn't be interpreted by the witness but rather let the jury decide what they see on the photo. Nurmi nearly exploded that Juan Martinez saw a German Shepard in the enhancement, he accused the prosecutor of "character assasignation" of the witness. Nurmi said, and I quote "the State is afraid of the bite of this dog", referring to the photo reference. The Judge didn't rule on this matter yet.

Kirk Nurmi then pressed on again for a mistrial, calling it a "cumulative" request. In addition to the "celebrity or rock star status" of Juan Martinez with the public, Kirk Nurmi is accusing Juan Martinez of attacking, bullying and "witness tampering" defense witnesses Dr. Richard Samuels and Alyce LaViolette. Juan Martinez told Judge Stephens that the State has no control over social media or is discussed by the public. He also talked about defendant Jodi Arias "fanning the flames" of the media through the use of a Twitter account managed by a female friend. He then asked Judge Stephens to issue a court order to preclude her from tweeting. She is a witness in this case and should not be discussing testimony in this trial. It seems to me that Arias is making more money from behind bars than she made on the outside. What does that say about her, effectively cashing in on her crime? Isn't the jury entitled to know this?

Juan Martinez argued that on the eve of Dr. Samuels testimony, he happened to walk by and see a Power Point presentation the defense planned to use that had not been disclosed to the State! I've been talking about the double standards by the defense team throughout this trial and this is another such example. Jodi Arias has blatantly been using Donavan Bering to tweet quotes to her followers, taking shots at the prosecutor via her small man syndrome and anger management references. I can't believe the Judge is not aware of this Twitter activity, is the court aware of the online art auctions? Somebody needs to contact the IRS at the very least. If she's going to accept a free defense from the taxpayers, why shouldn't she contribute?

The defense didn't outright deny Arias has been tweeting, but asked the Judge to request that motions be properly filed if the State has an objection of that sort. Juan Martinez said that he doesn't have a Twitter account but his office has received information of the activity but he didn't want to "investigate" the activity and be accused of prosecutorial misconduct for doing so. This has turned into a huge tit-for-tat session today. With Kirk Nurmi complaining about how his client is being portrayed in the media, "she's being tried in the media instead of the court room", isn't she contributing to that herself through the use of these third party supporters? She can't have it both ways! Urrgh, frustrating.

I see the popularity of social media as the single most significant change in the way these trials are discussed by the public. I think of the online backlash towards Alyce LaViolette as little more than well organized boycotts, not a "lynch mob" as the defense would have you think. Although I don't condone making threats towards any witness regardless. Are Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott sensing they are losing this trial, that their experts were not as effective as they hoped they would be? They now seem to be flailing their arms for a mistrial at every opportunity. Juan Martinez has been aggressive when questioning the witnesses, even his own witnesses. But nothing he has done would be construed as misconduct. He has a job to do, and that's exactly what he's doing. Just as Arias is entitled to a "vigorous" defense, the State is entitled to a "vigorous" prosecution! Judge Sherry Stephens agrees, and once again denied their motion for mistrial.

The defense then played some audio from an interview between Juan Martinez and Dr. Richard Samuels and claimed Martinez bullied and was disrespectful to him by calling him "Mr. instead of "Dr" Samuels. This seems ridiculous to be wasting all of this time going over the same issues. The Judge has already ruled that the prosecutor's autograph & photo session was not seen by members of the jury, yet Nurmi keeps bringing in members of the media to prove otherwise. I think they are really reaching for any reason for a mistrial because they sense the jury isn't buying what Arias & Co. are trying to sell them. Court is in recess now.

What will happen next? Will Nancy Grace be called to the stand and sued for slandering Jodi Arias by calling her a "she-devil"? Will "cane lady" be called to the stand to talk about her autographed cane? Will Jodi Arias trim her hair to match Jennifer Willmott's and auction it on her website? Will Judge Stephens order a time out and a diaper change for Kirk Nurmi? Will the jury see Elvis in the enlarged photo of Travis's left pupil? Anything is possible in this trial. Stay tuned.....

Social Media "Lynch Mob" Alleged As Jodi Arias Murder Trial Continues

People across the country and around the world are talking about the Jodi Arias murder trial. The trial of 32 year old Arias began on January 2, 2013 and has captivated a national audience through extensive gavel-to-gavel coverage by the HLN network. The trial is streamed online as well. For those of you who are just now tuning in, Jodi Arias is standing trial for the June 4, 2008 murder of her 30 year old former boyfriend Travis Alexander. The brutal nature of the murder and the sordid details of the relationship the two once shared has drawn in viewers and catapulted ratings.

But for many people who have been waiting more than four years for this case to go to trial, it has become somewhat personal. I find it fascinating that you don't have to have known the murder victim to be passionate about justice being served. People on both sides seemingly have drawn a virtual line in the sand, with those lined up on the side of the State on one side and those who support Arias, the defendant on the other. It's interesting to say the least. We have seen similar public interest and outrage in other recent trials, the Casey Anthony trial, the Scott Peterson trial, the Drew Peterson trial and the mother of all media trials - the OJ Simpson trial. The interest in criminal trials may explain why television shows such as "CSI", "Law and Order" and other popular shows have enjoyed long running rating success.

Those involved in high profile criminal trials often become household names. Remember Kato Kaelin and Judge Ito from the OJ Simpson trial? Catchphrases are coined, think "if it doesn't fit you must acquit". Witnesses on both sides are put under the microscope and lives are often turned upside down. Jurors were barred from public restaurants after delivering an unpopular verdict in the earlier referenced Orlando trial of Casey Anthony. In the Jodi Arias murder trial, it's the defense's expert witnesses who are feeling the red-hot heat from the public.  Dr. Richard Samuels was highly criticized for shoddy reporting and errors in his assessment of murder defendant Jodi Arias. Alyce LaViolette is the latest defense expert to feel the public backlash for her testimony in the high profile case.

LaViolette appears to have done some good work in her chosen field, working with battered women at a time when even law enforcement discounted "domestics". She spent more than 30 years working in this area, she's a published writer and paid speaker. However, her one-sided assessment of this case seemed flawed and her refusal to admit that data provided by a lying client could render her opinions as incorrect cost her dearly in the court of public opinion. LaViolette reportedly has been overwhelmed by a barrage of negative e-mails, scathing reviews of her upcoming book on Amazon.com and a wave of negative comments throughout social media channels caused her to seek treatment for anxiety and palpitations at an emergency room last weekend. She and the defense team have reported receiving death threats. 

AZCentral.com quoted retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields who said "It's the electronic version of a lynch mob", in speaking about the negative attacks on LaViolette. Sree Sreenivason, chief digital officer and professor of journalism at Columbia University said she's never seen anything like the attacks on LaViolette.  The onslaught of online attacks were serious enough to prompt a meeting in Judge Stephens Chambers last week. Could this be the ongoing issue Judge Stephens was referring to when she ordered LaViolette to return to court on Tuesday of this week? Hmmm. Just wondering.

Rick Kenworthy confirmed that ABIP Training in Los Angeles has received numerous calls requesting that LaViolette be removed from their speaker's list, according to AZCental.com. As we know from this trial, ABIP provides training for abuse counselors. A friend of LaViolette's also confirmed that their Long Beach office has received numerous angry phone calls and at least one threat serious enough that police were called. My question is this:  are people going too far? How can you tell when a line is being crossed? I have my personal thoughts and opinions about Alyce LaViolette's work in this case. However, if these threats become an issue for this trial, then I'd say things are going too far.

People can choose not to buy her books and not to seek her out for therapy. But threats of a violence nature should never happen. Who will be next on the witness stand? Will LaViolette testify that Humpty Dumpty's fall was caused by Travis Alexander? Will Arias tweet an apology to Alyce LaViolette, or will she have pal Donovan Bering create a positive review of Alyce's book on Amazon? Will Arias sketch a photo of Jennifer Willmott dressed like her twin? Will Kirk Nurmi actually fall asleep in the court room? Anything is possible in this trial.

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