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Did Kirk Nurmi Cross The Line In Questions To Travis Alexander's Ex?

We are another day closer to closing arguments in the Jodi Arias murder trial as the state continued their rebuttal case with some powerful testimony from one of Travis' close friends, an ex girlfriend, a representative from WalMart and a member of the Mesa police departments forensics unit.

Jacob Mefford was a close friend of Travis Alexander who recounted on the witness stand that Travis was affectionate with Jodi on many occasions. He is the owner of the clip that has been televised where Travis is sitting on his couch with Arias' curled up with her head on his lap. Friends are there and he recounts a traumatic near death experience where a gun was held to his head. The jury saw that clip today, although they were not allowed to hear the audio. What Juan Martinez got out of Meddford's testimony is that contrary to how the defense has portrayed Travis and Jodi's in-pubic relationship, his friends did in fact see them being affectionate towards each other.

A representative from WalMart took the stand and testified that the store had no record of any returns for the 5 gallon gas can Arias insists she took back on June 3, 2008. The representative further stated that she searched the register records for more than a week and the record of the return does not exist. Could WalMart be wrong, or did Jodi Arias lie to the jury under oath? This was crucial for the potential lying under oath. She looked the jury in the eyes and lied. I suppose she could have been mistaken about which WalMart she returned it to or when, but she was fairly certain as to the particulars when she testified and answered those jury questions. 

There was also testimony from a representative from the gasoline company regarding Arias' gas purchases, but I missed that witness and her testimony.

Travis' ex girlfriend Deanna Reid was a big witness for the prosecution. She had a fairly long term and serious relationship with Travis and she testified that he was never violent or abusive with her nor did he call her names or raise his voice to her. They had fights, just like most couples do but they were civil. They met in 1998 when Reid was 20 years old and Travis was 21 and they attended the same singles ward and church. Reid was brought up in the church, in contrast to Arias who joined after meeting Travis Alexander. The two were friends for two years before their relationship turned romantic. It was difficult for her to testify that she did in fact have a sexual relationship with Travis, but explained that "we are all human and we make mistakes, but they were in love".  The pair disclosed all to their respective bishops and dealt with the consequences of going against the "laws of chastity" as Reid referred to it (vs. "vows of chastity" we've heard as well).

Reid went on a 1 1/2 year mission to Costa Rica and during that time away she and Travis corresponded via letters. Shortly before she was due to return home, he expressed a desire to date other people. Kirk Nurmi was particularly sensitive in his cross examination of Reid, even apologizing for asking about their sexual relationship and allowing her time to fill her water glass. But before long, he was pointing out stark differences in the relationship she had with Travis and the relationship Jodi had with him. He referred to some of the nastier sexual comments Travis made to Jodi, asking Reid if Travis ever made similar comments to her. I don't want to repeat the statements here, but he clearly made her uncomfortable and it seemed he really didn't need to point out the xxx-rated comments yet again to this witness.

During Reid's testimony we learned that the laws of chastity is discussed at church and through teachings and sermons. What I got out of that is Jodi Arias clearly should have known that all forms of sexual contact was prohibited - yet, she would have the jury believe she relied on Travis as her spiritual advisor, the implication being that he misled her into thinking certain acts weren't as bad as others. Big win all the way around for the prosecution. I felt a little bad for Reid, from what I've read she really loved Travis Alexander and was even caring for his beloved dog Napoleon after his death. Nurmi didn't have to make those references to make his points, and the jury frankly has probably had enough of the sex talk.

Last up, Michael Valendez of the Mesa police department. He's the man who testified during the state's case about the recovered photos from the digital camera. Today he talked about what he looked for when he analyzed the laptop computer he seized from Alexander's home. He testified there were no photos of women's breasts, or "photos of women from the waist up" - no peer to peer software that would allow photo or file sharing capabilities, no adult content websites or photos or documents containing photos of children.  On the digital camera, the jury asked a question about the photos that were not deleted from that camera. He said he believed there were approximately 90 photos that had not been deleted on June 4, 2008.

Overall it seemed like a banner day for the prosecution. Still waiting to see if the Judge is going to allow the surrebuttal expert witness. I noticed Arias actually looked up from whatever she is sketching or writing during key parts of Deanna Reid's testimony. She seemed to be interested in their intimate details and the discussion about marriage. Hmmm...go figure!  Have an excellent evening!

Arias Defense Keeps Pushing The Envelope

The Jodi Arias murder trial will be remembered for many reasons, but I'm afraid the purpose of this trial has been lost, delayed and drawn out by a defense team determined to push this Judge into granting every unusual request they make.  I know, I know - it's a death penalty case. I know Ms. Arias has the right to put on her case, but at what point do we consider the rights of the (deceased) victim? With each new motion - for mistrial, a surrebuttal witness, jury instructions to include lesser included charges it seems this trial seems to have gone off the rails.

The defense has had more than three months to put their best case forward. Was Dr. DeMarte's diagnosis of borderline personality disorder really a big surprise to them? Don't they receive a copy of any report to be used at trial well beforehand? As if sensing the jury thought more favorably of the prosecution experts' diagnosis than their own, the defense now wishes to bring forth another expert, Dr. Robert Geffner PhD to dispute Dr. DeMarte's diagnosis and testimony. Like Alyce LaViolette, Geffner is from the Southern California area (San Diego).

I have no idea when, how or where this expert came into play, but like LaViolette and Samuels, Dr. Geffner has more than 30 years experience to his resume. He has co-authored several books and has too many affiliations to list in this forum but a sample of his book titles will give you an educated guess to what his testimony would be all about:  Ending Spouse/Partner Abuse Clinician's Manual, "Intimate Violence and Children Exposed To Marital Violence. Ringing a familiar bell?  To my knowledge, there has been no official ruling from Judge Stephens on the surrebuttal witness request. Attorney Kirk Nurmi told the judge "it was necessary and critical to Ms. Arias' defense after this court allowed the state to present new evidence during rebuttal via it's witness Dr. Janeen DeMarte". Does anybody out there know the rules around providing these types of reports including diagnosis to the other side? I find it difficult to believe the defense was shocked by the diagnosis or her testimony.

So I'd really love to know when Dr. Geffner interviewed or tested Jodi Arias. If this was done previously, why didn't they call him to the stand during their own case? DeMarte only finished her testimony a few days ago - how could the defense have found another expert who could have read through all the text messages, IM's, e-mails and journal entries in addition to listening to the police interrogation videos, the Inside Edition and 48 Hours interviews and all other "collateral materials"? Are you as confused as I am?

The second motion filed by the defense team on Monday involves a jury instruction to include "manslaughter by sudden quarrel or heat of passion". Wait a minute, isn't this a self defense case? OK. A look at the legal definition (legal-dictionary.com) of manslaughter tells us the following:

"Manslaughter is a distinct crime and it is not considered a lesser degree than murder. The essential distinction between the two offenses is that malice aforethought must be present for murder, whereas it must be absent for manslaughter. Manslaughter is not as serious a crime as murder. On the other hand, it is not a justifiable or excusable killing for which little or no punishment is imposed.

Under current statutes, the offense can be voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.  The main difference between the two is that voluntary requires the intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm while involuntary does not. Premeditation or deliberation, however, are elements of murder and not of manslaughter." 

The most common type of voluntary manslaughter is the "heat of passion" variety that the Arias defense would like to see offered to the jury. This is an intentional killing that has additional circumstances that may mitigate but do not excuse the killing. "In most cases, the provocation must induce rage or anger in the defendant, although some cases have held that fright, terror or desperation will suffice" (legal-dictionary.com)

If the jury believes Jodi Arias drove to Mesa with her grandfather's stolen gun, can you think of any other reason she would need to steal it if she wasn't planning something nefarious? If she was going to use it for protection, why not borrow it? For all of the expert witness testimony and the diagnostic testing involving Jodi Arias, it may boil down to that gun and where the jury believed it came from. Is it more likely that Travis Alexander owned a .25 caliber gun that nobody knew of, and kept it on an elevated shelf in his closet or is it more likely that Arias staged a robbery at her grandparents house and took their .25 caliber gun?

Let's keep the trial moving forward. I hope the Judge does not bow down to the constant threats of appellate issues, prosecutorial misconduct smokescreens and other blatant allegations meant to intimidate this Judge into going from cautious to frivilous. What will today's proceedings bring? Will we see the prosecution's case move forward with a new witness? Will Matt McCartney shock the court room and Jodi Arias by testifying for the prosecution? Will we ever get to closing arguments in this trial? 

Stay tuned, updates to follow.

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