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Jodi Arias Trial - Aggravation Phase Delayed Until 5/18/13!

The aggravation phase of the Jodi Arias trial was set to begin today at 1:00PM - the families were there, the jurors were waiting, the attorneys were there and from what I understand they were ready to roll when it was announced that they were unable to proceed! No reason was given for the cancellation, but May 18th is the date cited for the aggravation phase to begin.

Hmmm.  Could this have anything to do with the interview Jodi Arias gave yesterday following the guilty verdict, where she told a local reporter with KSAZ that she'd prefer death to spending life in prison? The 45 minute interview stunned everybody. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom", Arias told the reporter. This interview had to have been planned in advance. It's not easy to gain access to a murder defendant and it's virtually unheard of for somebody to give an interview just minutes after being convicted of first degree murder.  Is this the final card Jodi Arias has left to play? It has been reported that due to what Arias said during her interview, she was put on the "protocol suicide watch". I also heard a report about a possible bomb threat at the Superior Courthouse this morning - the building is routinely checked for such threats, particularly during a high profile case such as this one. Seems strange that Dr. Janeen DeMarte's house was broken into and her laptop stolen before the trial began, and a bomb threat the day after a guilty verdict? Maybe Arias has more fans than we thought she did. 

My question to Jodi Arias would be this: you have publicly stated more than a dozen times that you wanted to kill yourself, you wanted to be dead and gone. "If I hurt Travis, I'd beg for the death penalty" were your exact words. You were found guilty of first degree murder, yet as your death wish becomes more plausible, you are now unable to assist in your own defense? What gives  Jodi? I hope my words don't sound overly callous, despite my personal feelings about what justice should look like in this case - I don't wish death upon anybody.  She is a human being, just like the rest of us. She's made some monumental mistakes in life, mistakes that took a loved and valued member of society from this world. At trial, she has shown little if any remorse. She has fabricated rancid tales about the man that she claimed to love and admire. 

It appears that Arias was so shocked at the verdict that she didn't know how to react. Appearing somewhat defiant following the verdict, Arias looked back at her family in the gallery - something she didn't do often during her trial. The family she has thrown under the bus, a la Casey Anthony - "my mom kept a wooden spoon in her purse and hit me with it", "my sister is stupid". In an interview between Det. Flores and Jodi Arias' father Bill, it was revealed that Arias lashed out at her mother frequently and furiously. You can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they treat their family. Lack of respect is a big red flag. Taking for granted the love of your parents is a red flag. There were all kinds of red flags going up around Jodi Arias as she grew into adulthood. Tragically, Travis Alexander didn't see those red flags in time to escape the danger that lurked just beneath the surface of ex girlfriend Jodi Arias.

I don't know why the delay has me stumped and surprised. This trial has been full of these sort of oddities. The problem is, Arias has manipulated the system and cried wolf so many times that we are becoming numb to the suicide threats. Today was supposed to be an abbreviated court session, described as a "mini-trial", where evidence is presented by the prosecutor relating to the manner in which Travis Alexander was killed - Martinez will argue that he was murdered in an especially cruel and depraved manner.

That's stating the obvious and it would be outrageous to describe it in any other fashion. The jury needs to unanimous on their decision. If they are unable to reach an unanimous decision, a new jury would be empaneled to decide on the aggravation phase.

If the jury finds the murder was cruel and depraved, they would then move on to the sentencing phase. The jury would be charged with deciding if Arias receives a death sentence. If the jury decides in favor of the death penalty, the judge is bound by their decision. If the jury decides against the death penalty - sentencing would then be in the hands of Judge Stephens who would have two options:


  1. Life in prison without the possibility of parole
  2. Life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 25 years

The best Arias can hope for is the potential for parole after serving 25 years behind bars. It's difficult to believe this came as a such a surprise to her. During yesterday's interview, she said she was overwhelmed that the jury found premeditation - yet she said she understood the felony murder decision but blamed that on how the law is written. After the countless number of delays in getting this case to trial and Arias' migraines that accounted for several cancelled court sessions this has to be the final insult to the murder victim who is finally receiving justice after nearly 5 years.

Were Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott aware of the scheduled interview yesterday? Why are they having such a difficult time keeping their client quiet during these crucial junctures in this trial? Or is this just another ploy for  sympathy, or is Arias falling back on a potential mental health defense now since the self-defense and heat of the moment arguments failed? The timing of it all is curious, and that's a generous statement. Some may say its just more manipulation from a desperate woman who is running out of options. If all else fails, play the crazy card. It's only a matter of time before Arias starts pointing the finger at her attorneys and plays the blame game.

She already began her Twitter campaign against the prosecutor and the State of Arizona, who turned down her offer to plead guilty to second degree murder. Juan was right, it's never Jodi's fault. Once again we are waiting on Jodi Arias. The trial WILL go on, delays or no delays. Justice is patient and it's willing to wait. The public may not be as forgiving. Delay, deflect and deny. Anybody seeing a clear pattern with the defense?  Jodi Arias was competent yesterday while she sat down and spoke to a reporter for 45 minutes. What happened? What do you think?

What's going on behind the scenes out there in Phoenix? If you have the inside scoop, please feel free to post a comment and share it with the rest of us. I will post more information if it becomes available! By the way, a few people asked about sources for alerts when the verdict was in - I posted one, and I checked it out myself as well and it does work. It isn't specifically for the verdict, it was for any breaking news relating to the Jodi Arias trial. I used a similar service during the Casey Anthony trial and it was effective. I'm re posting the information here, in case anybody would like to receive text alerts via your cellphone if there is breaking Jodi Arias news. 

Text the word BREAKING to 23765. The news source has been great. I received a text message right after I saw the announcement on television. The text message  you receive will tell you how to cancel or stop receiving breaking news alerts. OK, that's all I have time for now. UUUGGRRR! Frustration and disappointment are good descriptors of how I feel about the delay. Have a great day!

Who Is Maria De La Rosa - Mitigation Specialist For Jodi Arias?

Now that Jodi Arias has been found guilty of first degree murder for the June 4, 2008 killing of 30 year old Travis Alexander, we should be seeing and hearing more from the woman who has been seated directly behind Jodi Arias and the defense team throughout the 5 month long trial.  Maria De La Rosa is Arias' mitigation specialist, and I wanted to take a look at her profile explore her experience and how she hopes to help Jodi Arias avoid Arizona's Death Row.

According to information obtained from LinkedIn, De La Rosa has been a "Capital Mitigation Specialist" for seven years, beginning in May of 2006. From June of 1999 to May of 2006, De La Rosa worked as a probation officer with the Maricopa County Adult Probation Office.  From November of 2004 through May of 2005, she worked as a "Victim's Advocate" for the Maricopa Office of the Prosecutor's office.

Her educational background on LinkedIn indicates that she attended Northern Arizona University from 2004-2006 and holds a "Master of Education" (M.Ed).

Jodi Arias & Maria DeLaRosa (Knoxnews.com)

In an ironic twist, the website I got this photo from, knoxnews.com posted a "Dense Fog Advisory" almost directly above this photo. I had to chuckle! I've spent several hours pouring over the "minute entries" for the Jodi Arias trial on the Maricopa Superior Court's website. There is a 4/30/13 court document that discusses how many hours Mitigation Specialist Maria De La Rosa has billed the county for - in case you are curious, the court has ordered De La Rosa to be paid for 100 hours for work done during the guilt phase of the trial alone. Some of the minute entries are mundane, but some of these minute entries are very interesting. If you would like to check out the numerous viewable court minute entry documents, just go to the Maricopa County Superior Court website, type in Jodi Ann Arias' name and there will be pages of dated court minute entries that you can view, download or just read.

I'll post the link at the end of this blog entry. The 4/30/13 entry states:

"IT IS ORDERED the Office of Public Defense shall pay the mitigation specialist, Maria De La Rosa, compensation for 100 hours of services rendered during the guilt phase of the trial".
http://www.courtminutes.maricopa.gov/docs/Criminal/052013/m5750389.pdf

We now know that Kirk Nurmi's pay rate more than doubled when he went into private practice but was ordered to remain on the Arias case. I believe Nurmi is making more than twice the hourly rate of counterpart Jennifer Willmott. Is it any wonder the defense team insisted on keeping the specifics of the trial costs under lock and key? Scott Peterson's high profile death penalty murder trial was conservatively estimated to cost more than $3,200,000. The trial of Richard Allen Davis was estimated to be $2,300,000, and the trial of serial killer Charles Ng cost a minimum of $10,900,000, of which more than $6,000,000 was paid to his defense team. This information was obtained from another interesting document I stumbled across this morning. If you have an interest in seeing the detailed accounting of these high profile trials, here's the link to the document:
https://www.aclunc.org/docs/criminal_justice/death_penalty/costs/trial_cost_case_studies.pdf

What exactly is a Capital Mitigation Specialist's job? 

According to the American Bar Association guidelines for the appointment and performance of defense council in a Death Penalty Cases, a Mitigation Specialist is a mandatory part of the defense in any capital case, per ABA Guideline 10.4(C)(2)(a). ABA Guidelines require that any criminal defense team facing a capital punishment sentence have at minimum 2 defense attorneys , a private investigator and a mitigation specialist. 

A mitigation specialist's role in a death penalty case is vital and they are considered an indispensable member of the defense team, although it is important to remember they are not a defense attorney. Mitigation specialists possess clinical and information gathering skills and training that most lawyers do not have.  They have the time and ability to elicit information the defendant may have never disclosed.  They are supposed to have the clinical skills to recognize congenital, mental, or neurological conditions and to understand how these conditions may have effected the defendant's development and behavior. 

Most importantly, having a qualified capital mitigation specialist assigned to every death penalty case insures that the presentation to be made at the penalty phase is is integral to the overall preparation of the case.  The mitigation specialist should prepare a well documented and comprehensive psycho-social history of the defendant. The results of which are analyzed, including what impact the findings have on personality and behavior. The mitigation specialist looks for mitigating themes in the defendant's life history, identifies the need for expert assistance and in locating appropriate experts, provides social history to experts to assist them in conducting competent and reliable evaluations, and works with the defense team and experts to develop a comprehensive and cohesive case in mitigation.

Mitigation specialists usually have advanced educational degrees in a form of social work or psychology as well as a background in criminal justice , particularly capital defense matters. The mitigation specialist must identify, locate and retrieve all records ever generated relating to the defendant, including records of their immediate family members. The following are examples of required records they must retrieve:  birth certificates, hospital birth records, all medical records, school records, social services records, records from agencies and foster homes, juvenile records, adult criminal records, probation and parole records, employment records, psychological and psychiatric records and military records.

The mitigation specialist conducts interviews with family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors, church members, co-workers, employers, spouses or ex's, boyfriends/girlfriends or ex-boyfriends/ex girlfriends, physicians, nurses, mental health providers, social services personnel, military peers, probation officers, parole officers, attorneys, guards and police officers. The mitigation specialist compiles this enormous amount of information and reports back to the defense attorneys and discuss areas that may need additional exploration by outside experts. 

The mitigation specialist on the Arias case must have her hands full. Her job is one of monumental importance. We have seen her sitting quietly behind the defense table throughout the trial, often taking a seat next to Arias when one of her attorneys was questioning or cross examining a witness. She is there to support Jodi Arias and by the general job description of a Capital Mitigation Specialist, we know she has not been simply observing the trial - she has been very involved throughout. It will be interesting to see how the defense will take on the challenge of arguing Travis Alexander's death was not especially cruel and/or depraved. It's the equivalent to saying the sun doesn't always rise. They would be wise to back off of the theory that Travis somehow provoked Jodi Arias - or that she had to kill him or be killed. Clearly the jury does not believe that theory.

Jodi Arias will need to be humble, honest and sincere in the phases of this trial that follow. If she appears to be defiant, self righteous or wrongfully convicted, the jury may be so inflamed over the distasteful accusations she has made against Travis Alexander - and insulted that she lied to them under oath, they may find her to have no redeeming qualities. Those jurors have spoken. They did not believe her, plain and simple. To continue to argue that she was abused or attacked would be detrimental to her cause, if she wants to live. She told the press that she would rather die than spend her life in prison - I'm not sure if she really means that, or if it was just another ploy to garner sympathy from the public following her guilty verdict. 

She's had a day to reflect on the outcome of her trial. She's likely an emotional wreck. The finality and reality is beginning to set in, and it may have never crossed her mind that she could actually be put to death for her crime. Having had five years to get past the immediate shock and trauma of killing another human being, she now is facing the fact that she will likely never walk out of prison a free woman in this lifetime. That has to be a sobering thought, I truly believe that Arias did not think she would be found guilty of first degree murder. She may have believed she would receive a compromise verdict of second degree murder. 

I'd expect to be seeing and hearing more from Maria De La Rosa in the days and weeks to come. I've never heard her speak, and have only seen her whispering to Arias and trying to comfort her during emotional portions of the testimony during her trial. Is there anything she or anybody else can do to save Jodi Arias from the death penalty? Does Jodi Arias want to live, or would she really rather die than spend her life in prison? She should carefully choose her words from here on out. As well all know, she boldly predicted that no jury would ever convict her, because she was innocent - not because she planned on committing suicide as she told the jury. She also told Detective Flores that if she had hurt Travis, "she would BEG for the death penalty". Be careful what you wish for.

What will happen when court resumes at 1:00PM today? Will the courtroom be standing room only as it was yesterday for the reading of the verdict? I think it will be. Seeing Travis' siblings crying and hugging one another yesterday brought tears to my eyes as well. It's difficult to explain those tears, because you know that even with the guilty verdict, they are not happy. Their beloved brother is gone. Nothing will bring him back. The tears were probably of relief, raw emotion that they have had to keep inside during the duration of the trial - finally they were able to let it out. I wouldn't call them tears of joy. There is nothing remotely joyous about this case. At least Travis' killer received a just verdict of guilty of first degree murder and nothing less. It is a just verdict. 

Much has been said about Sandy Arias, and how she appears to be assisting her daughter in trying to sell the forged letters from Travis to the National Enquirer - and there is speculation that she has been writing a book. While I find assisting Arias in selling those forged documents, she is still a mother. Regardless of how bad your child may turn out, a mother's love is like no other love and she has to be hurting. Her grandmother has to be hurting and wondering how things got to this point. This is a situation nobody would like to be in. I think of the position Cindy Anthony was placed in during daughter Casey's trial. She was caught between her absolute love and adoration of her grand daughter Caylee, and the love she still had for Casey, despite her suspicions about her involvement in the disappearance and subsequent death of Caylee. Cindy Anthony fell on the sword for Casey on that witness stand, perjuring herself by saying she was the one who did the Internet searches for Chloroform, despite her employment records showing she was at work during the time of those searches. There is nothing that equals a mother's love.

While it's not the time to celebrate for either family because of the enormity of their losses, at least Travis' loved ones can rest assured that his killer was brought to justice and Travis may finally rest in peace. He will not be remembered for the nasty allegations made against him during this trial, rather he will be remembered for the funny, kind-hearted and generous human being that friends described him as. He continues to motivate and inspire people, in death - as he did in life. His legacy will live on long after Jodi Arias is forgotten.

RIP Travis Victor Alexander.


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