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Arias Attorneys Pressing For Sequestered Jury In Retrial

This is not anything new being reported by, but they confirmed yesterday that attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott are pushing hard to get the new jury sequestered for Jodi Arias' penalty phase re trial.  The lawyers are asking Judge Stephens to shield the jury from the intense publicity surrounding the first trial.  The motion filed by Nurmi cites thousands of television news shows and news articles about Jodi Arias throughout the trial. Did Nurmi cite Jodi's self-initiated interviews, including the one that famously was given minutes after her guilty verdict?  Hmmmm.....

The motion also makes mention of the 3.1 viewers who tuned in to Lifetime's "Dirty Little Secret: The Jodi Arias Story.  Attorneys for Arias fear the second trial will be just as sensational and interfere with her ability to get a fair trial.  If I were Judge Stephens, I would just feel a need to call Nurmi and Willmott on their media allegations and question the effect Arias' own actions have had on her ability to get a fair trial. She seemed to bask in the limelight, oblivous to the fact that so many people believe that she perjured herself on the witness stand, completely fabricated the claims that Travis Alexander was a pedophile and exaggerated greatly or lied altogether about the abuse.

If you are going to point fingers at the media, I really feel strongly that Arias played a big role in making sure the media remained interested in her story! Arias' attorney wrote "This integrity is in the most danger of being compromised when the process is contaminated by outside influences. Given what took place during the last trial and the propensity for history to repeat itself, it is certainly beyond legitimate dispute that the threat to the integrity of the retrial is severe". Also at issue is where the retrial will be held. Attorneys for Arias have filed a motion for a change of venue, in addition to a motion to compel the seated jurors to disclose Twitter account information. Who is going to be charged with monitoring juror Twitter accounts?  While they are at it, Ms. Arias has a little disclosing to do as well.....

With the next status hearing approaching next week, we should be hearing the prosecution's response to these motions. How long will Judge Stephens take to rule on the remaining issues?  How long will it take before a new jury is seated? There seems to be a lot of work remaining before this thing gets going again.  There's the matter of jury questionnaires, individual voir dire? I'm sure they will battle tooth and nail over every last detail - they may actually get their January 2014 start date, as they originally requested. Stall, stall, file a motion - stall, have a hearing where nothing is resolved and set a new date for a status hearing.  This is our justice system?  Please tell me this will end at some point. The jury decided Arias killed Alexander, it was premeditated and committed in a cruel, heinous and depraved manner. Yet they were split on a life sentence or death.  

Yet in the same county a former death row inmate walked free on $350,000 bond recently - after being found guilty and sentenced to death for her alleged role in the execution style shooting death of her young son. Of course, I'm speaking of Debra Milke - one of 3 women who were on Arizona's death row. Milke's conviction was thrown out after she was imprisoned for nearly 25 years. Milke has always denied having anything to do with the murder of her son, yet she was convicted in part due to testimony from Detective Armando Saldate.  Saldate had a less than stellar conduct record and says Milke confessed to him. There was no audio or video recording of the interrogation or the confession - rather, the jury had to rely on the word of a law enforcement official who they more than likely believed. His testimony undoubtedly held a lot of weight with the jury that convicted Milke.  Two other men were found guilty of the actual shooting of the child, however the state's theory was that Milke had her son killed to collect on a $5,000 insurance policy, and because the child was an inconvenience to her. 

Sounds like a very circumstantial case here,yet she was convicted and sentenced to death for her alleged role. It goes to show how different the outcomes can be when it comes to murder trials. 

Regardless of whether you believe Milke was involved in this tragic murder, it appears she did not get a fair trial. The jurors were not given the benefit of knowing the officer's questionable conduct record. This is something that may have given them pause to consider whether the alleged confession ever happened, or if this was an over zealous detective who railroaded Milke onto death row.  Milke has asked that Saldate's testimony be disallowed at her retrial, and she still professes her innocence and says she never confessed to Saldate or anybody else.  Her next court date is slated for September 23rd.

"Cold Justice" Looks Like The Real Deal

It's no secret I have been looking forward to TNT's new reality crime series, "Cold Justice". I really admire former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and that initially drew me to the show, but now that I've seen two full episodes, it really appears Kelly Siegler, Yolanda McClary and Johnnie Bonds can make an impact and bring closure to some of these long suffering crime victims.

In episode 2, Siegler and McClary traveled to Collingston Louisiana - I believe they said the population there was less than 400 people. That's definitely small town USA.  They wanted to look into the August 26, 2006 unsolved murder of 67 year old Mattie Williams. Williams was a mother of thirteen children, and she now has such a large extended family that Siegler and the team had to meet with them in a local church.  It was sad to see how many people this crime effected, and how they are haunted to this day that her killer has gone unpunished.

By all appearances, Mattie Williams lived a modest life and was a well liked church going woman who was known to help people in need.  Her murder looks like a robbery gone very bad, her blood was found in certain areas of her small home but larger smears of her blood was found on the outside of her home. The blood outside her house caused a concerned friend to contact the police back in 2006.  Inside the home, Mattie's purse was found on the floor, turned inside out and signs of a struggle were obvious. Her body was found 3 miles away, she died from stab wounds to her neck and she was hit on the head with an object that left a distinctive mark on her head. Another key piece of evidence recovered from the inside of Mattie Williams house was a pay stub belonging to Renwick Jackson.

Siegler, McClary and former detective Johnnie Bonds went back to the crime scene after reviewing the case file thoroughly, and they came up with what they believed was the most likely scenario of how this crime unfolded.  During their meeting with the family, they were told that Mattie would not open her door to someone she did not know.  There were several persons of interest in this case, one of which was one of Mattie's own sons. Family members appeared conflicted or split on whether they believed their brother could have been involved in a robbery plot - but they found it difficult to think that he could stand by as his mother was being assaulted.  Stealing is one thing, assault and murder are another. 

One thing they decided after visiting the home and the area where Mattie's body was eventually found - Mattie Williams was most likely alive when she was taken from her home.  The slashes to her neck tell a story. Had she been stabbed in the neck in her home, there would have been distinctive blood evidence in or around her home.  Rather, there was blood pooling found where her body was dumped which seems to point to Mattie being assaulted in her home, taken by force to the remote location and then she was fatally stabbed and died in the field where they found her. How could something like this happen to a decent, good hearted, church going mother?  Who could be so desperate to steal whatever little money Mattie may have had in her purse or in her house and then kill her?

It seems likely she was killed because she knew the man or men who were robbing her and they feared being identified.  I can think of no other reason. An early suspect in this investigation was a 52 year old man named Renwick Jackson. He reportedly lived across the railroad tracks from Mattie Williams, and she knew him and may have opened the door to him, although family members were split on this issue. Mattie reportedly didn't trust Renwick Jackson. Jackson was an early suspect for numerous reasons - a pay stub with Renwick Jackson's name on it was found in the home of Mattie Williams. Witnesses reported seeing Renwick Jackson and Stanley Mitchell together in the neighborhood the day of the killing. That could be explained away since Renwick lived nearby.

Suspicions were raised when it was discovered that Renwick Jackson power washed the inside of the car he was known to drive at the time of this murder. Renwick's own sister told law enforcement that she thought it was highly unusual and suspicious when he asked her to help clean the car. She told police Renwick "wildly" power washed the entire interior of that car, including the ceiling. Renwick told her, and later the police that he cleaned the car because his employer had asked him to. However, when Johnnie Bonds re interviewed Renwick's employer he denied ever asking him to clean his car and denied having ever been in Renwick's car.

Williams told investigators he was working on the day of the murder. His employers records show that Renwick was not working on any project for the company on the day in question, he was a salaried employee and they hadn't given him any assignments on that day. It would take more than 2 lies to catch Renwick Jackson. Stanley Mitchell was another early suspect in the investigation. Mitchell was a friend of Williams, as was Mattie's son John Williams.  Johnny Bonds and another detective known to be a master interrogator re interviewed Mitchell and Renwick.  A big break in this case came when a jailhouse informant provided a tip that Stanley Mitchell had told him he was involved in the robbery and murder. Mitchell told the inmate that he hit Mattie on the head with a brick he found on the side of Mattie's home. Siegler, McClary and Bonds revisited the crime scene photos and they got a big break when an oddly shaped brick was seen in the photos. Could this be "the brick"?

The team went back to Mattie's house to look for overlooked evidence, in particular they wanted to see if that brick shown in crime scene photos was still there. To their surprise, they found a brick that looked an awful lot like the brick in the photos. They collected it and sent it to the crime lab for analysis.  Could an overlooked brick left out in the elements for 7 years yield any DNA, fingerprints or other blood evidence? It was a long shot. McClary took the brick, and acting on a hunch she traced parts of the brick to see if she could match it up to that distinctive mark that was left on Mattie's head. Using a pencil and a sheet of paper, she made a crude tracing and the results were shocking. It looked an awful lot like the mark on Mattie's head. The team decided to write up their findings and take it to the DA to see if they had enough probable cause to arrest the pair. The DA didn't believe it was enough, and he asked them to keep working.

This is where the interrogations played a key role in breaking the case wide open.  Johnnie Bonds and former detective Armando Perez brought in Stanley Mitchell for another (voluntary) interview, Mitchell gave up nothing. He never implicated himself, and when Bonds and Perez confronted him with the statements made by the confidential (jailhouse) informant, Mitchell downplayed it. They then showed him photos of the brick and told him they had recovered that same brick and sent it to the crime lab. Mitchell insisted his fingerprints or DNA would not be found on the brick. Did he use gloves?

Bonds and Perez had one last shot at getting some type of admission when they invited Renwick Jackson in for an interview. Renwick came in voluntarily, and they needed to tread lightly since Renwick was free to leave at any time. They confronted Renwick with his whereabouts on the day of the crime and asked him why he power washed the interior of his car. Renwick continued telling the same story he had originally told investigators, that he cleaned his car after his boss asked him why he didn't keep it cleaner, and his alibi was that he was at work on the day in question.  Johnnie Bonds told him he suspected he was not being truthful, and told him about the conversation he had with his employer and his own sister. Bonds stuck to his story. It seemed he would not implicate himself - Bonds stepped out of the room for a moment and consulted with the team, who were watching the interview from another room via video feed.  Armando Perez wanted a shot at Renwick Jackson. His role was of the good cop. He tried to befriend Renwick, attempting to minimize his possible involvement in the crime and the murder.

His strategy worked.  After discussing their suspicions about Stanley Mitchell, including the statements provided by the jailhouse informant with Renwick Jackson, Jackson finally admitted something he had never admitted during any prior interview with the police. He admitted he was there at the crime scene. He placed himself outside of the house, almost to the point where he was in his car, but he described the role John Williams allegedly played in the robbery ploy that ended in murder. Williams knocked on his mother's door, she answered the door but didn't initially let him in. Mattie asked "who's out there with you"? At some point, Mitchell strong armed his way into the house and hit Mattie on the head with the brick. Jackson described things that were being said inside the house at the time of the chaotic assault - two things were becoming clear to the investigators. Number one: Renwick Jackson could not have seen or heard the things he reported had he been near or inside of his car. It's just not possible. He was closer to the home, he may have even been inside the house and possibly was involved in the assault.  Number two: John Williams was there, and he played some part in the robbery - even if he didn't participate in the actual assault or murder - he was involved.  That will be a hard pill for the family to swallow. 

Renwick Jackson admitted to Armando Perez that Mattie Williams was forced into his car.  The detectives had managed to get Jackson to place three people at Mattie's house, participating in the robbery in varying degrees.  His admissions were relayed to the District Attorney while Jackson was still at the police station.  The DA now agreed they had enough probably cause to arrest Renwick Jackson. He was arrested on the spot. This was an incredible thing to watch - prior to their involvement in the cold case, local law enforcement only had their suspicions about the involvement of Mattie Williams son John Williams.  This was the first statement ever given to law enforcement that Williams was there. It makes sense - it fits. It seems unlikely that Mattie would have opened the door to Renwick Jackson OR Stanley Mitchell.  But it appears she opened it for her son, which turned out to be a fatal mistake.

A news story reported on July 2, 2013 announced the three had been indicted on second degree murder. They face mandatory life sentences if convicted. The story does not state if they are being charged with robbery and/or kidnapping, but it seems they should be given they appeared to have taken Williams from her home injured but she was alive. How very sad. How much could they have possibly gained monetarily by robbing this loving mother and friend of the community? It just all seems so senseless.  I honestly think this team is in this for all of the right reasons. Not for television fame or fortune, but for the victims. Kudos to Siegler, McClary, Bonds and Perez. Well done, TNT. Cold Justice seems to be the real deal.

My Apologies for Yesterday's Offensive Photo

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