Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jodi Arias Settlement Hearing - NO DEAL!

Jodi Arias and her defense team met with prosecutor Juan Martinez and retired Superior Court Judge James Keppel on October 24, 2013 for the mysterious settlement conference.  No progress or deals were reached during the conference, and Judge Keppel assigned the case back to Judge Sherry Stephens for resolution.  And so it appears that Arias will be heading back into court for the highly anticipated penalty phase retrial she's been hoping to avoid since her the first one ended in a mistrial.

Here we go again! Judge Sherry Stephens has had numerous motions that have been on the table for months that she has yet to rule on - let's hope she does so at the next scheduled hearing on November 1, 2013 so we can begin the jury selection process!  We can bet that once the motions on change of venue, cameras in the courtroom, juror social media account disclosure etc. have been ruled on - the jury selection process will be lengthy.  I've been saying this all along, but it looks like Arias is going to get the "early 2014" trial delay they have been gunning for since late May.  Shouldn't this case be history by now?

The only real "news" to come out lately is that Arias is trying to fire lead attorney Kirk Nurmi - although that's not really NEW news. It's no secret that Nurmi seems to have been disconnected from the case for some time now.  But until now, it was hard to tell if that was just Nurmi sulking over the defense motions that were being denied, losing the case or if he really meant what he said during his closing statement about not liking Jodi Arias 9 out of 10 days himself.  It appears the feeling is mutual. Arias wrote a 12 page hand-written letter to Judge Sherry Stephens, asking her again to allow her to "fire" Nurmi as the lead attorney in her case. Judge Stephens has denied Nurmi and Willmott's requests to withdraw from the case, but this time it's Arias who wants Nurmi off her case!  Wait a minute....didn't she write a letter before begging the Judge to keep Nurmi on her case, saying that nobody knew the case as well as he did back when Nurmi wanted his hourly rate to be higher since he was no longer working at the Public Defender's office?

Well, well, well.  Has it come full circle yet?  Arias blasted Nurmi this time:  "utter poverty of people skills", and saying Nurmi has "little tolerance for my emotional and psychological shortcomings".  For example, she cited Nurmi's lack of empathy over her emotional reaction that the now infamous phone-sex audio tape that was played for the jury, the courtroom and eventually the public, despite Arias' wishes for it to NOT be played for the television viewing public.  She shouldn't have taped that phone call to begin with, just my opinion!  Arias does have kind words for Jennifer Willmott however, who she believes bore the brunt of the work load in her case.  Has Kirk Nurmi seen Jodi Arias since the mistrial, and does that really matter?  I don't see many scenarios in which Judge Stephens would allow either Arias attorney to walk away from the case at this late stage.  That would set the trial back, and it's unnecessary. 

The re-trial can't start fast enough for my liking.  I want to see this case resolved.  What will Judge Stephens decide? Will she move the trial to another venue, or bus in jurors from another county?  Will there be cameras in the courtroom for this phase?  Will jurors be forced to disclose their personal social media and Twitter information, and if so, who will monitor the usage?  PS - I hope they monitor Jodi Arias' Twitter activity as well.  Will Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott continue on as Jodi Arias' defense team?  Will this trial ever end, or rather will it ever START? Why doesn't Arias have any family or friends speaking up for her in the courtroom? Where are those mitigation witnesses?  Wouldn't you know it, Ms. Arias is now asking for donations for her APPEALS!  Yes, that's right...."I'm filing for bankruptcy" but "send me money for my appeals".  While you're at it, wanna buy a t-shirt or piece of original artwork? 

Just when you thought you'd seen it all.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Arias' Online Ventures - What's Wrong With Our System?

I can sense that some people aren't going to agree with what I'm about to say, but what the heck - that's never stopped me from speaking my mind before.  As we watch and wait for Jodi Arias' punishment to be determined for the murder of Travis Alexander, her attorneys continue to battle the State of Arizona over trial coverage, juror social media accounts, which venue the re-trial will be held in and a few other pending motions, it appears the convicted murderer has been busy updating her "Jodi's Book Club" website and putting up new "artwork" for sale.  Her most current piece is "Sailing at Sunset" and is listed for a whopping $1,500.00 (last time I looked) and depicts a sailboat done in watercolors.  According to a recent tweet, Arias announced "100 limited edition prints of "Sailing at Sunset" are now available at jodiarias.com/#!currentlyoffered". The limited editions are priced at $39.00 each, so if she sold all of them, that's $3,900 in her pocket - add in $1,500.00 for the original print and she's looking at making $5,400.00!  All of this is being done out in the open, why don't the authorities seem to care?

(abcnews.com)


Out of sheer curiosity and a lack of other related news, I looked at this website recently and noticed that she has added a number of pages such as:


  • Send Books to Inmates
  • Report on Correctional Education
  • Inmate Mags
  • The Arizona Department of Corrections Educational Program
  • Read Between The Bars
  • Prison Book Program
  • PEN American Center
  • Inside Books Project
  • Books to Prisoners
  • Prisoners Literature Project
Is this Jodi's attempt at showing what an asset she can be to other prisoners, if her life is spared? Maybe.  I continue to be amazed at the communication she has with the world despite her circumstances. Her latest tweet says that when/if she can ever afford it, she is planning on filing for bankruptcy. Apparently she is offended that the public believes she or her family is cashing in on her crime, thus the tweet. IF Arias' artwork is selling, where is the money going?  Can she really order and consume $5,400.00 worth of commissary items or is this money, along with donations her various websites are accepting going to her family? I have nothing against free enterprise, but when a convicted murderer has cost the taxpayers of Arizona over a million bucks in defending her, and that price tag will almost certainly continue to swell as the penalty/sentencing phase drags ever so slowly forward - how is this being allowed to happen? Arias, now as a convicted felon should not be able to profit in any way from her notoriety. And to be clear, none of us would know Jodi Arias existed if she hadn't slaughtered Travis Alexander.  

I've read various articles and quotes from Arizona officials who seem to be wringing their hands about her very public online ventures.  In the October 17, 2013 article from abcnews.com, Maricopa County Sheriff official Chris Hegstrom says "she's able to have access to paper and purchase colored pencils, and if she wants to release her property to someone outside she can". He further stated "she's not physically running a business from our jail....I can't stop her from talking on the phone or releasing property."  This seems like an end run around the Son of Sam laws that are designed to prevent things like this from happening. I've been saying this all along and I'd really love to know who is tracking the funds that Arias has received via donations and from selling artwork while she has been incarcerated. While I can understand jail officials being unable to enforce the Son of Sam laws before Arias was found guilty, there is no excuse for allowing this to happen now.

After all, Arias doesn't seem to be making any attempt to hide the fact that she's creating and selling her doodles on the taxpayer's dime, all the while claiming to be unable to financially afford to even file for bankruptcy.  Come on Sheriff Joe, she's making a mockery of your jail and she's claiming to be indigent while pocketing money from sales of her "Survivor" t-shirts and her artwork - and those are the things she is doing out in the open. Who knows what else she has going on to bring in money. During her mitigation speech to the jury, she told the jurors that 100% of the proceeds from the "Survivor" t-shirts would go to domestic violence causes, however -  before that day, the website clearly read "a portion" of the proceeds would be donated to domestic violence causes. A PORTION.  Only when she stood before the jury to ask them to spare her life did it change to 100%. While it's unclear exactly how much money these Jodi Arias related websites have taken in via donations to her, her family, her artwork sales and the Survivor t-shirt sales, I firmly believe all of it should have been seized the moment she was convicted of murder. Who's tracking this money? Do the good folks at the Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona State tax regulators know Arias has been earning money since 2008 from her jail cell?  Has she even filed tax returns for those years?  Selling any arts/crafts for money constitutes income and she should be paying taxes on the funds she has received.  Has she filed returns since she's been behind bars?  Why are Maricopa County officials continuing to allow her to "release property" to people who are in turn selling it on websites that are run FOR HER by others?

It's a well known fact that Charles Manson has created dozens of pieces of "artwork" while he's been incarcerated in California.  Jail officials seize those items. They have a virtual collection of Manson spiders, fashioned from strands of hair and string from sheets that have been dyed black - I've seen these items on MSNBC's "Lockup".  The guards who regularly search Charles Manson's cell confiscate these items as soon as they find them so he won't be able to sell them to people who collect articles from these high profile murderers.  In contrast, you have Jodi Arias selling artwork out in the open on the internet and jail officials do nothing?  All I have to say about this is WTF??

To jail officials in Arizona who say there is nothing they can do about Arias releasing personal property to visitors, I say that is just not true. They may not be able to stop her from drawing, but they CAN prevent her from selling this stuff by confiscating it, or at the very least they should not allow her to release it to visitors when they KNOW it's being sold online. Any and all money Arias has made should be paid to her victim's family, but I fear by the time the State or jail officials do something about this, the money will be long gone. Do we need to alert the IRS ourselves, as concerned citizens? I don't live in the state of Arizona, but their local tax entity should also be alerted to the fact that an inmate is earning income from the Estrella jail and require her to file tax returns for the last 5 years.

This was bad enough when Arias was running these websites before and during her trial, but the fact that it continues after she was convicted is just not acceptable.  Why don't Arizona jail officials and the State Attorney General's office seem to care?  Hey, she shouldn't be able to make any profits after May 8, 2013.  That's the date she became a convicted murderer.  From 2008 through May 8, 2013, she had earned income and should be required to pay taxes like the rest of us.  I've heard the Alexander family is going to be filing a wrongful death claim against Arias when her criminal trial wraps up.  By that time, I'm afraid every dime she has raked in will be long gone - and it could have been easily avoided. The Estrella jail should simply NOT be allowing her to give anything to a visitor that could wind up being sold on her websites.  People, she's not even making an attempt to hide her activities, she's doing it out in the open!  There is simply no excuse for allowing this to continue.....I don't know exactly why I find this so extremely distasteful and disgraceful, but I do.  Is the Estrella jail staff simply understaffed?  Do they really not realize the pieces going up for sale on her website were created from their facility, and released during jail visitations where guards were present? Where's the accountability here?

This is just hard to stomach, because Arias continues to refer to herself as the victim and she continues to deny having any assets and says she can't afford to file for bankruptcy.  Come on.  Really? How stupid does she think we are? The State of Arizona should be seizing her assets, to help offset the cost of her costly defense.  It's not as if she's using the money she's earning to help pay Kirk Nurmi or Jennifer Willmott - and I highly doubt she would turn over the money to the Alexander family short of a court order seizing the funds. I'm simply outraged.  This is shameful and it should not be happening. As we inch closer to the October 24 settlement conference, I'm now hopeful that the State will not make any deals with Jodi Arias.  Let the citizens of Arizona decide her fate. I only wish they were privy to everything we know. There may be those out there who think Jodi Arias is articulate and a talented artist. But let's be real.  Nobody would be buying "Sailing at Sunset" if she hadn't killed Travis Alexander. And that is profiting from the notoriety of your crime.  Plain and simple.

I'll close this post with three recent tweets posted on behalf of Arias:

Oct 10 - "That rumor that somehow my family profited from my trial? Absurd"

Oct 10 - "I'm filing for bankruptcy (if I can ever afford to do so)"

Oct 16 - "100 Limited-Edition prints of "Sailing at Sunset" now available

Need I say any more?


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cast of Characters Expected For Martin MacNeill Murder Trial

Martin MacNeill's long awaited murder trial is slated to begin on October 15, 2013 in Provo, Utah. Prosecutors and family members have long suspected that MacNeill was responsible for drugging and drowning his former wife, 50 year old Michele in their Pleasant Grove Utah bathtub, and finally - MacNeill was arrested and charged after being released from serving time in a Federal Prison for a slew of white collar crimes including fraud, writing phony checks, identity theft to name a few.

The witness list includes a cast of characters straight out of a bad romance or crime novel. Here's a partial list of names we can expect to become familiar during the estimated 5 week long trial:

Michele MacNeill (HLNTV.com)
Michele MacNeill:  the victim of murder, although a judge has ruled she cannot be referred to as the victim at trial. 50 years old at the time of her death, Michele was a devoted mother, a former beauty queen who certainly did not need to undergo the face lift her husband Martin pushed her to have. Michele was allegedly preparing to divorce Martin, and told her daughter Alexis "if anything happens to me, make sure it wasn't your father". She feared her husband was preparing to kill her, she even tried to identify the pills he was giving her by feeling each one when her face was bandaged and she couldn't see well.

Martin & Michele
Martin MacNeill:  Michele's husband, and the defendant in her murder trial, charged with first degree murder and obstruction of justice. MacNeill was a physician and held a law degree, although an investigator discovered MacNeill gained entry to medical school in Mexico using falsified college transcripts. This calls into question his entire 30 year medical career. MacNeill used a phony transcript to get into a medical college in California, where he graduated after 3 years with a degree in osteopathic medicine. In 1984, he landed a residency at a New York hospital and built a 30 year career as a doctor. But don't call him "the good doctor". His resume includes a stint at BYU Health Clinic, but a complaint from a former patient caused him to resign from that position. Was this one of the several alleged sexually inappropriate relationships he had with female patients? Investigator Doug Witney also uncovered more dirt on MacNeill, after the fake credentials came to light. He found that MacNeill served in the US Army for less than 2 years in the mid 1970's before being discharged for a psychiatric disorder. Martin MacNeill collected more than $100,000 in disability payments from the Veterans Administration. At the time of that discovery, MacNeill was collected around $3,000 per month from the VA! His record of white collar crimes dates back to the 1970's. In 1977, he was on felony probation for 3 years for writing phony checks in California.  Prosecutors and Michelle's family believe Martin MacNeill arranged for his wife's plastic surgery in order to obtain a lethal cocktail of powerful pain medications and sedatives which he used to drug her and drown her in the bathtub.


Gypsy Willis
(HLNTV.com)
Gypsy Willis:  Former mistress to Martin MacNeill, she moved into the MacNeill home weeks after Michelle's death and became the children's "nanny". A former roommate of Willis told investigators that Willis once said she wanted to cut Michele MacNeill's brakes.  She did time in Federal Prison for stealing the identity of one of MacNeill's adopted children!


Alexis Somers
(HLNTV.com)
Alexis Somers: One of the MacNeill's oldest children, 29 year old Alexis has long believed her father killed her mother. As an outspoken woman who questioned her father from the start, she was "banned" from the family after Martin decided he no longer wanted her speaking to her siblings, because she stood firmly against her father. Alexis and sister Rachel would team up with Michele's sister Linda Cluff to begin building a "file" against Martin MacNeill. They would later present their findings to the Utah County Attorney's office, where investigator Doug Witney agreed to review the file and the official reports. Witney is the one who discovered MacNeill used somebody elses transcripts to gain entry to two colleges, including a medical school in Mexico Alexis was at her mother's side in the days following her face lift procedure, and began questioning her father when it was clear her mother was being over medicated and appeared "listless".  Alexis had to return to Las Vegas on April 10, 2007 where she was attending medical school. Just a day later, her she received the call that her mother was dead. She immediately suspected her father had killed her mother.

Doug Witney: Investigator with the Utah County Attorney's office, Witney is the one person who agreed to take another look into Michelle's death and the file compiled by Alexis, Rachel and Linda Cliff. He uncovered many skeletons in the "doctor's" closet.

Linda Cluff:   Michele MacNeill's sister, who joined forces with her nieces to get the goods on Martin MacNeill and find justice for her sister Michele.

Rachel MacNeill
(HLNTV.com)
Rachel MacNeill:  The oldest of the MacNeill children, now 33 years old. Rachel was taken to a Mormon Temple with her father to "pray" for a nanny, when out of nowhere Gypsy Willis appeared. She would move in and become the nanny just weeks after Michele's death. What kind of scumbag father would do this to his own daughter? 


The MacNeill Family
(HLNTV.com)
Damian MacNeill:  Martin & Michele's only biological son, Martin had Damian and his girlfriend remove and dispose of evidence relating to his mother's death. MacNeill asked his son to remove all of Michele's medications following her death, and Damian complied. In January of 2010, Damian MacNeill is believed to have committed suicide by taking an overdose of prescription medications. Anybody sensing a dark theme in the MacNeill family yet??

Rufus "Roy" MacNeill:  Older brother to Martin MacNeill, Roy was found dead in the family's New Jersey home - an apparent suicide. Several of Martin's former girlfriends told investigators that Martin MacNeill confessed to killing Roy after he found him in the bathtub with both wrists slit - he allegedly drown his brother because he felt suicide was a family embarrassment. Although investigators have confirmed Roy MacNeills' death, it is not known if Martin was involved.

Randall Spencer & Susanne Gustin:  Martin MacNeill's defense attorneys; they filed a successful motion to disqualify Judge Samuel MacKay, and have filed motions that prosecutors withheld evidence they were entitled to (prosecutorial misconduct) and fought to have the murder charge dismissed. That motion was denied.

Chad Gruander & Sam Pead - Utah County Attorney's Office, says their office was "sideswiped" by the defense's motion that the Utah County Attorney's office be disqualified from prosecuting the case against Martin MacNeill for withholding evidence, including information that the County Attorney's office informed Damian MacNeill's law school that he was believed to be "a dangerous" individual, among other allegations. Gruander said that his office hand delivered a letter to the defense inviting them to come to their office and review any and all evidence. The defense motion claims a thumb drive was given to the defense by one of the state's own witnesses in the case.

Judge Samuel V. MacKay - the first judge assigned to the case, he was later disqualified from the case as a result of motions filed by the defense.

Judge Derek Pullan - the new judge assigned to the MacNeill case, after Judge MacKay was disqualified.

Dr. Todd Grey:  A medical examiner who testified during a preliminary hearing that he was surprised the State was filing murder charges because he didn't believe there was enough evidence to support the finding. The State has filed a Motion to preclude his testimony. Prosecutor Sam Pead argued that Grey is not a legal expert, and it is inappropriate for him to speculate to a jury during a trial. The judge found that Grey could testify, but not about the prosecution of the case.

Michelle Savage & Brandi Smith:  Both women testified at the preliminary hearing that they overheard Gypsy Willis talking about wanting to sever the brakes on her boyfriend's wife's car.

Inmate #1 and Inmate #2:  Expected to be key witnesses for the prosecution, the judge ruled these witnesses identities will remain secret to protect them from retaliation in federal prison where both are serving time - and served time with Martin MacNeill. Cameras will not be allowed to record their faces and their names will not be disclosed during the trial.

I will be adding to this list and updating the information as the trial unfolds. This case has so many scandal-like stories tied to it, it could fill 10 blog entries just to get up-to-date. 


A Look Into Jodi Arias' 2011 "Settlement Conference Memorandum"

As the October 4, 2013 status hearing for convicted (but unsentenced) murderer Jodi Arias has come and gone without any real progress made, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the "Settlement Conference Memorandum" filed by the Arias defense in July of 2011. To me, it reads like thinly veiled threats to destroy Travis Alexander's reputation if she were taken to trial. The document makes many assumptions on how the jury will view the evidence, and calls into question if a guilty verdict on first degree murder is even possible.

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone following this case. Although this document has been around for quite some time, it's interesting to look back on these issues a few years later - given we know more about what happened, and what Arias said happened. I am going to post the link to the full court document, which I located on grahamwinch.files.wordpress. Before I get caught up in writing this post and forget to post the link, here it is: 

http://grahamwinch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/jodiariasngfile.pdf

The document begins by stating the following:  In advance of the settlement conference currently scheduled for July 15, 2011, Ms. Arias submits the following memorandum which details her position relating to resolving this case short of trial.  Ms. Arias submission of this memorandum and her willingness to participate in this settlement conference is done with the understanding that this court will order the State to comply with the dictates of Rule 408, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure....the opening basically says that all participants in the settlement conference are prohibited from discussing anything that occurs during the conference with any listed witnesses/and or in any public forum.

OK, that is the shell of the document - let's get to what's inside. 

1.  Facts Relevant To Resolution  - Ms. Arias is confident that this court has a firm grasp of the facts of this case, thus they will not be relayed herein. Instead, she will focus on the facts she views as relevant to resolution of the matter.  (uuhmm...focusing on only the "facts" she views as relevant to resolution? That's a new way of dealing with criminal murder issues)
On October 26, 2010, Ms. Arias submitted a plea proposal to the State wherein she pointed out;

  • Jodi is charged with First Degree Murder under two theories, premeditation and felony murder. She is not facing any other charges. 
  • After an evidentiary hearing, the only aggravator remaining is cruelty. (it only takes ONE aggravating factor, Ms. Arias & Mr. Nurmi)
  • While felony murder is a legal and factual possibility, the probability is the State will have a difficult time convincing a jury to find Jodi guilty of capital murder. It will require quite the feat of mental gymnastics to get a conviction under this theory. (does the defense have a crystal ball? Arias' lie about the gun being Travis' is about to come back and bite her on the ass...at least a few of the jurors didn't have an issue with the mental gymnastics she referred to)
  • Understanding this dynamic, if the state focuses on the "easier sell", premeditation, this too is full of difficulties, and here is why:
  1. Expert testimony will be presented regarding the extremely demeaning, degrading and abusive behavior Travis exhibited towards Jodi and it's effect on Jodi. (said "experts" were shown to be prejudiced towards Arias, having spent more time with her than necessary and relying on her word at the expense of all others. Experts for the State would bring forth testimony on Arias' stalking-like pattern of behavior and her borderline personality disorder.)
  2. Not only will expert testimony be provided, Travis' own words will paint a tawdry picture not of a choir boy steadfastly practicing his faith, but of a playboy expert manipulator and sexual deviant. Even if the letters are precluded, Travis' own words through texts and voice mail/recordings will show the dynamic. (notice the language they use "tawdry picture", "choir boy" and "sexual deviant"? Travis' own words could only be used against him if they were taken out of context - and the audio recording they were counting on for it's shock value was obviously recorded without Travis' consent or knowledge. This made Arias look like the sexual deviant, drawing him into a sexual conversation and having him repeat the pieces of conversation that were most damaging)
  3. Once the factual information about Travis's behaviors and thoughts regarding Jodi come into play, the expert testimony regarding the effects of Travis' thoughts and actions on Jodi's psyche will become that much more relevant and compelling. (what Arias' defense refers to as "factual" information was proven to be completely false - such as the alleged incident where Arias walks in on Travis pleasuring himself to a photograph of a young boy dressed in underwear. Remember her dramatic testimony about the way the pages on the bed around Travis fell "in the chaotic way"? Did anybody in the courtroom buy that story? I don't think her attorneys believed that story)
  4. Given the timeline of the incident, the premeditation angle becomes more difficult for the State to prove. (actually, just the opposite. The timing of the gun being stolen from the house Arias shared with her grandparents, her trip to Utah to see Ryan Burns - showing up a day late, with hair color changed - cell phone turned off while in Arizona state lines, the purchase of the gas cans at WalMart? And the State didn't really ever push the concept of the June 10, 2008 Cancun trip on the jury, that Travis was taking Mimi Hall and not Jodi. Premeditation was not a difficult sell, once the jury heard Jodi testify for those 18 days)
The memorandum goes on to say:  If we look at the other evidence, that evidence can realistically lead to a conviction of a lesser included charge of manslaughter. Certainly the judge will have to give the jury lesser included offense instructions and there is evidence to support that:

  • Text messages between Travis and Jodi show that while he was upset with her and told her to get out of his life and called her names, he also wanted her for sexual purposes as evidenced by their encounter on June 4, 2008 (Jodi Arias brought a gun, and a knife to that sexual encounter. She wasn't invited to Travis' house, she showed up unannounced, and according to her the stop was not planned. Who wanted the sexual encounter in this scenario? Was it Travis who drove to Yreka? I don't think so)
  • During the unaired portion of his interview with CBS, Detective Flores makes admissions that there is anger involved in this. (what are they referring to? The crime scene photos show that there was a great deal of anger involved in the murder of Travis Alexander. Defensive wounds to his palms and hands show the one-way nature of this "fight to the death")
  • We have an e-mail from Travis to Jodi wherein he tells her the only thing she is good for is oral sex and he calls her a "three holed wonder". (again, they use his statements without giving any context. Travis had been harassed and stalked by Arias, there was just as much evidence to show HE felt used by her for sex as vice versa)
This is where the memorandum gets outright ridiculous. They cite case law (State v. Baylee White CR2010-113971 and State v. Dwight Wesley CR2010-1122333). Ms. White stabbed her boyfriend once in the chest during an argument, she was charged with Second Degree Murder and was offered a plea to Manslaughter as a dangerous offense and was sentenced to 12 years. OK, the Baylee White case, as described is not remotely similar to what Jodi Arias did to Travis Alexander. White stabbed her boyfriend ONCE in the chest during an argument. Jodi stabbed Travis more than 28 times, slit his throat and shot him in the face! 

In the Dwight Wesley case, he stabbed his wife several times and drove her body to the Phoenix Police Department and was charged with Second Degree Murder and it appears he plead to the court. Again, not remotely close to the circumstances of State v. Arias. Jodi Arias lied to investigators, not once, not twice, but I believe all three stories she told police were false. First, she wasn't in the state of Arizona, had nothing to do with killing Travis. She acted like she was shocked that he was killed. When backed into a forensic corner after evidence began coming back, she switched to the 2 masked intruder story - she stuck to the second story for several years, before the battered woman's/self defense story. They are comparing apples and watermelon with their case law. Even in State v. Wesley, he drove his wife's body to the Phoenix PD and turned himself in! Arias was deceptive throughout, and remains deceptive.

You can read the document's contents, there is too much to comment on in this blog post. But throughout the sophomoric writing, there are threats to tarnish the memory of Travis Alexander - almost to the point of extortion. There is a reason that we don't negotiate with terrorists. Here are a few other examples of the threats:

  • One of the things that struck me is the amount of collateral damage to others that would occur during a trial....
  • ..marriages would be effected, standing within the religious community would be effected, personal relationships would be effected, and most of all the cherished memories of Travis would be tarnished...
  • e-mails sent to Travis by Chris and Skye Hughes demonstrate their concerns over how Mr. Alexander treated Ms. Arias have been discovered..
  • e-mails sent to Travis by his onetime girlfriend Lisa Andrews demonstrate that not only was he dating Ms. Andrews at the same time as Ms. Arias, but that she had concerns over the way he was treating her and how the sexual aspects of their relationship made her uncomfortable....(Lisa Andrews testimony clarified the context of this e-mail. She testified that Travis never forced himself on her and he respected her wishes concerning having a sexual relationship outside of marriage)
Did the defense really believe that these relatively normal relationship problems, in which one person wanted more of a commitment that the other one did rose to the level of explaining away such a savage attack and murder? The evidence did not support any such theory. That is why Jodi Arias had to insert the physical abuse incidents, the photo of the little boy incident - complete fabrications that were invented in her head during her long incarceration in an attempt to fit a battered woman's profile or support a self-defense theory. We cannot forget that if not for the camera's memory card, and if not for the palm print that would link Jodi Arias to the crime scene, I have no doubt Jodi would have EVER admitted to being Travis' killer.

There was concrete evidence that she was there on June 4, 2008. She concocted much of her defense from behind bars, there is little doubt in my mind. How else can you explain the three very different stories she has told the police about Travis' murder? She only came up with self defense after her other lies failed her. If this last "settlement memorandum" is any indication of what we may see on or around the October 24, 2013 hearing, here is what I expect her defense to argue - they will argue that Jodi Arias cannot and will not get a fair trial in the Phoenix area. They will argue the difficulties and expense of empaneling a new jury, they will argue the likelihood of a young woman such as Jodi Arias being sentenced to death - and the time and expense of the appeal process makes a strong case for life and not death. 

I'd expect them to argue that Arias has been a model prisoner, who donates her hair and teaches other inmates English, Spanish and sign language. They may even refer to her "online book club" website as an example of her putting her courtroom proposals during the mitigation phase of her trial to use. They will argue that Arias should have the possibility of release after serving 25 years, based on her age at the time of the crime, her lack of prior criminal record and her childhood family trauma - and the alleged trauma suffered as a victim of domestic violence (choking out those words, you know I don't believe that). I can just hear Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott still going with the Jodi-as-a-victim theme.

I don't know what will happen when October 24 rolls around, I have no idea what to even expect. I don't know if settlement conferences are commonplace for convicted murderers. The only thing I do know is that Judge Sherry Stephens will be sitting the settlement conference out. The trial judge does not hear settlement conferences.  What does Arias have to bring to the table? It's doubtful that the Alexander family or Juan Martinez would entertain anything less than life without the possibility of release - ever. That's IF they would even consider taking death off the table. I can't envision a scenario that sees Arias outside a prison setting during her lifetime, but hey - stranger things have happened.

Considering Kirk Nurmi has been pushing for no media, review of juror Twitter accounts, I find it ironic that his client continues to tweet to her hearts desire from her jail cell. Her latest tweet was just a few days ago:

Oct 1  "Canteen/commissary, known by short as "store", known in jest as "ex-store-shun"....

Sept 30   "The hardness of God is softer than the kindness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation".... -C S Lewis

Sept 25   "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself".....Dr.Wayne Dyer

I noticed a long time ago that Arias' tweets are often times quotes of other people. Does she believe that quoting other people makes her sound more intelligent? It just makes it painfully obvious that she has a lot of reading time on her hands, and she doesn't seem to have an original thought in her head.  Just like with the artwork, several pieces have been identified as less than original.

So there you have it.  The 2011 settlement memorandum has the tone of an extortionist.  It has that "settle or else" feel to it, I guess the last card she had left to play was the sex/scandal card. That didn't work for her either, so what does she have left?

Have a great weekend!




Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jodi Arias Status Hearing Full of Irony, But No Rulings

Jodi Arias and her attorneys returned to the Maricopa County Superior Court yesterday for a status hearing relating to her penalty phase retrial.  The proceedings were not televised. I didn't expect to learn much during this trial, as we have come to expect nothing in the form of decisions or hard dates. Rather, the proceedings seem to move further and further on out into the future. Yesterday's hearing seemed to be more of the same.

I think most of us who have followed this story and the trial found the arguments made by the defense laughable and hypocritical. The defense is asking Judge Stephens to ban live television coverage in the courtroom for the retrial. CNN and other networks are crying foul. In fact, CNN attorney David Bodney addressed the judge, saying "she (Arias) has voluntarily thrust herself into the vortex of this public controversy, it's unfair to deprive the public because someone can't control her own speech".

The defense is still arguing for a sequestered jury, and disclosure of any Twitter accounts so juror accounts can be monitored. Mr. Nurmi, who is monitoring your client's Twitter accounts, and the Twitter activity done through outside proxy for Jodi Arias? The Twitter motion is perhaps the most ironic of all the defense's motions. It seems Jodi Arias can use Twitter to get her message out, but these jurors cannot be trusted to follow the Judge's admonishment? Wouldn't the admonishment have extended to Jodi Arias herself during her trial? Why wasn't her "shout outs" being monitored and addressed during the trial? 

The prosecution fired back at Kirk Nurmi & Co on the Twitter issue, noting that the defense has failed to acknowledge Jodi Arias' role in creating her own publicity about the trial. "She cannot create what she now considers a problem and then expect the court to change it's procedure to solve the problem", the State's motion read.  I don't know why I'm so surprised that Judge Stephens made no rulings on these outstanding motions. These motions have been around since late May, why on earth hasn't she ruled? This makes no sense for me, what is she waiting for? She's heard arguments from both sides on all of these issues. The main issues being sequestering the jury, Twitter account disclosure, media coverage and a change of venue. Am I missing something, or should Judge Stephens have walked into yesterday's status hearing ready to rule on these things?

I don't get it folks. True, there is a settlement conference scheduled for October 24th. That doesn't mean anything will be agreed upon - therefore they need to move forward and get this retrial on the road! I'm a little disgusted at how little progress is being made over a 5 month period. This should be over by now. I'm looking at a July 15, 2013 article from cbsatlanta.com, where it says "Judge Sherry Stephens met with attorneys from both sides in her chambers Monday and emerged saying she was not prepared to rule on motions made by defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott before setting a new trial date". At that hearing, Judge Stephens set a new status hearing for September 16, 2013. 


The hearing that was supposed to occur on September 16, 2013 was pushed back to October 4, 2013. What happens next? This all seems so shameful, and justice should not move at a snails pace.

The latest court minute entry, filed on October 1st says:  "the parties have agreed the pretrial hearings/oral arguments scheduled for October 4, 2013 and October 18, 2013 should be closed to the public.  The court finds an open proceeding for these pretrial hearings presents a clear and present threat to the due administration of justice, specifically the right of the parties to a fair penalty retrial from an impartial jury. The Court finds there is a compelling interest that overcomes the right of public access, specifically there is a substantial probability that publication of information provided during these court hearings (through arguments or evidence) could taint the jury pool and significantly impact the parties' ability to effectively present matters at trial. The Court also finds that in light of the intense media coverage of this case, there is no less restrictive means to achieve these compelling interests.  Good cause appearing; IT IS ORDERED closing the hearings scheduled for October 4, 2013 and October 18, 2013."
http://www.courtminutes.maricopa.gov/docs/Criminal/102013/m5974270.pdf

There you have it. It seems Judge Stephens made at least one decision over the last month. If this is all ordered, shouldn't Ms. Arias have to cease speaking to the public via her websites as well? That would only seem fair. She has publicly discussed her case and her cause via the website and Twitter all along and has considered to do so. What gives? Does this seem fair to you? The defendant can get her "goodwill book ambassador" word out for all to see, but the public should only have access to what she says, and not what is said in the courtroom? Shame on the justice system. Shame, shame shame.

Cold Justice Investigates 1998 Murder of Eric Baxter

The more episodes of TNT's Cold Justice I watch, the more I really love this show. In the last episode, former Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler, former Las Vegas CSI Yolanda McCleary and retired Houston detective Alan Brown traveled to Dickson County Tennessee to look into the August 20, 1998 shooting death of Eric Baxter.

Eric Baxter
Eric Baxter and his mother Joy owned and operated several local convenience stores. By all accounts they were happy and successful, Eric had no known enemies. Eric's body was discovered by his mother in the hallway of their home on Jones Creek Road. The home was somewhat remote, with lots of open space in front of and in back of the house. The house had glass french doors that opened to a patio in the back yard - which backed up to a large open field that wouldn't have been difficult to enter.  Paved roads near the property made for an ideal parking spot for the killer to hide his/her car and sneak up to the back of the property undetected. The Baxter's had two dogs, and during a phone conversation between Eric and his longtime friend Rhonda, he told her he believed somebody was outside because the dogs would not stop barking.

Rhonda was the last person to have talked to Eric on August 20, 1998. His mother arrived home less than 40 minutes later and made the horrible discovery. Eric had been shot at least 6 times with a .38 caliber handgun, the last shot was at point blank range to the right temple. Little evidence was left behind by the killer, but an unfired round was found near Eric's feet and a bullet was found lodged in the base of a large plant stand in the hallway. The Cold Justice team went to the scene and played out what they believed happened, based on the crime scene photos and the home's layout. They believe that Eric encountered the intruder in the hallway, grabbed or blocked the killer's outstretched arm and a shot was fired straight down into the base of the plant stand.

Eric was backed into the hallway with nowhere to run, no escape route existed. It is unlikely Eric would have fled to that spot knowing there was no way out from that area. That led investigators to believe the killer more than likely watched Eric from the relative safety of the backyard, and waited for him to get off the phone in the back bedroom. He likely entered from the back of the house, the sliding glass doors may have been left unlocked since Eric had put the barking dogs outside in the dog run on the side of the house, where they still were when police arrived at the home.

There were two main suspects back in 1998. Eric had a long term intimate relationship with a man named Jerry Ragsdale. Jerry was believed to have a key to the home, and he also worked for Eric and Joy at their stores. Ragsdale caught the attention of law enforcement during the original investigation because he lied to them about the true nature of his relationship with Eric. I can understand why he lied. Back in the late 90's, gay relationships were not as accepted as they are now, and this likely would have been kept a closely guarded secret. Other than the fact that he initially lied, police had no reason to believe Jerry had any reason to want Eric dead. During the Cold Justice investigation, they interviewed Jerry again and they were convinced that Jerry was not the killer. For one thing, Jerry has never owned a gun of any kind, has no knowledge of guns. Eric's killer had to have been skilled at firing a gun, only the shot fired into the ground missed the killer's target. A person with no experience with guns likely would have had many wild shots fired and there would have been evidence of that. This killing was clean and methodical, little evidence was left behind and all but one shot hit the killer's target - Eric.

The other suspect from 1998 was a man named Tommy Wortham. Wortham was leasing one of the Baxter's convenience stores in town and was attempting to buy it from them.  The deal fell through, the Baxter's did not sell the store to Wortham and according to many witnesses he was very upset about the deal falling through. Another twist to Wortham as a murder suspect: he was a former Dickson County Sheriff's Detective.  Someone who certainly had a lot of knowledge and experience with guns, knowledge of how crimes are investigated and someone who would have known how to remove all evidence from a crime scene. Former law enforcement personnel can be dangerous murder suspects because of their knowledge of how investigations are conducted.  Back in 1998, Wortham's alibi was that he was home all night with his wife Scarlett Wortham. 

The team interviewed former colleagues from the sheriff's office who worked with Tommy Wortham to see what kind of cop he was. These were people he worked with - so their opinions would hold a lot of water. Officer Chuck Talley described Wortham as "lazy", and during the time he was employed at the Sheriff's office, evidence was stolen from the evidence locker - narcotics seized during drug busts and money was missing. Many people within the department suspected Tommy Wortham was the culprit, mostly because he was known to use cocaine and marijuana and he was having financial problems after the store deal fell through. Tally and the other officers believed Wortham was a dirty cop, and they recalled an incident where they went to a bar for drinks and Tommy had a snub nosed 38 caliber gun with him that night. They saw the gun sticking out of the back pocket of his pants, they told him to put it away, and not to bring it into the bar. Wortham removed it from his pants pocket and tucked it into the waistband of the back of his pants.

Interesting. The Cold Justice team made contact with Wortham twice during their investigation. During their first informal talk with him, he stuck to his alibi that he was home all evening the night Eric was murdered. He voluntarily agreed to give a DNA sample. But he told them a number of things that directly contradicted what they learned through the interview of his former colleagues at the sheriff's office. For one, Wortham swore he never owned a 38 caliber gun. He flat out denied ever owning one or being in possession of one. The next person they wanted to interview was Wortham's (now) ex-wife Scarlett, but they couldn't initially reach her. They did reach Scarlett's sister, who agreed to come to the station for an interview. She didn't say much, but what she did say would also call into question Tommy Wortham's alibi.

According to Scarlett's sister, Scarlett told her that Tommy was not home the night Eric Baxter was killed. Tommy allegedly came home and woke Scarlett up and told her "I was here all night" if anybody asks. Scarlett would later deny having made that statement to her sister. When the investigators asked Scarlett's sister if she thinks Tommy could have had anything to do with the murder, she said "I really don't know". It was clear she had her concerns, she definitely didn't jump to his defense and say there was no way he could have killed someone. 

Next up was Scarlett Wortham. She came in to speak to investigators, and she was immediately defensive and nearly walked out of the station after only a few questions were asked of her. She denied ever having told her sister that Tommy asked her to say he was there all night. Her body language was closed off, but some of what she disclosed was telling. She told them about the problems the couple was experiencing at the time of Eric's murder. She admitted they were both involved with drugs and she was pregnant! She says that their relationship was further strained when Tommy lost his job at the Sheriff's office, and soon after they lost the store they were leasing from the Baxters. They were definitely in financial trouble, no income coming in and expecting a child - and with a drug habit to support.

Tommy Wortham told the Cold Justice investigators during that first interview that he didn't know where Eric Baxter or his mother lived. Not the case, says Scarlett. One of the most telling things Scarlett revealed is that Tommy Wortham did in fact know exactly where Eric Baxter lived. During a drive in the country, Tommy pointed out the Jones Creek Rd. house to Scarlett - "that's where they live". This directly contradicts what Tommy told the investigators during their first talk. Tommy reportedly told Scarlett "stop talking to them (the police), you are going to get me into trouble".  Tommy told the investigators that he wasn't upset about the convenience store deal falling through. Officer Chuck Talley said that was simply not true. He was reportedly very angry and upset about the deal falling through, and he told colleagues he lost a great deal of money as a result of the deal falling through.

When the evidence that had been submitted to the lab for DNA analysis came back, there was not enough to build a profile. The murder weapon was never recovered, there were no known fingerprints lifted from the scene, this would be a circumstantial case - but all circumstantial evidence was pointing towards the former Sheriff's Detective Tommy Wortham.  To recap:


  • Tommy Wortham's alibi fell apart, and could not really be verified
  • Tommy Wortham had been known to have a .38 caliber snub nosed revolver, seen by other officers first hand.
  • Tommy Wortham lied about having ever owned or been in possession of a .38 caliber gun.
  • Tommy Wortham lied about knowing where the Baxter's lived. He showed his wife the Baxter's home during a country drive.
  • Tommy Wortham was upset at the Baxter's when the convenience store deal fell through.
  • Tommy Wortham lied about being upset about the deal gone bad.
  • Tommy Wortham had knowledge of guns and knew how to fire them. He likely would have hit his target. Eric's killer was a good shot.
  • Tommy Wortham had the knowledge of homicide and crime investigation techniques, and likely would have known to wear gloves and leave the crime scene with little evidence behind.
  • Tommy Wortham had lost his job at the Sheriff's office and the store. He had no income and was suspected of having a drug habit to feed.
Tommy Wortham was asked to come to the police station for another interview. Approached at his home, he told the investigators that he needed to first consult with his family - he was afraid that he could be falsely accused, referring to the old saying "they can indict a ham sandwich" if they want to".  He promised to call the next day, but was a no show and he never called to reschedule.  He was looking like a man with something to hide. 

Kelly Siegler, Yolanda McCleary, Alan Brown, Dickson County Detective John Patterson and TBI Special Agent Joe Craig met to discuss where they were in the case and how to move forward. The case was completely circumstantial, some argued. Siegler pointed out that many cases are just that - and that sometimes a good circumstantial case can be more powerful than an eye witness. She took a pencil and broke it in half. She then held a pencil in her hand, adding another pencil with each new piece of circumstantial evidence they found in the case. By the time she was finished, she had a fistful of pencils and demonstrated how difficult it is to break a handful of pencils. This was her analogy for how putting the pieces of evidence together can paint a strong and powerful case pointing to a suspect. The pencils were the facts. They all appeared to point towards one suspect. They all agreed it wasn't a perfect case, but they may never find the murder weapon, the Wortham's were divorced and Tommy's wife may be less inclined to cover for her ex-husband 15 years after the murder. They concluded that now was as good as time as any to bring the information to the District Attorney's office to see if he would present it to a grand jury.

Siegler is a natural born leader. She is a confident and very competent attorney, yet she couldn't be more down to earth. She's humble for a woman who has reached the professional she has reached. I can't say enough about how much I admire Kelly Siegler's tenacity. She wrote the case up, the team went to District Attorney's office and discussed their findings on this case. The DA said this case has bothered him since it happened, and he always believed it could be/should be solved. With that, he said he believed a grand jury should hear the case. In August, a grand jury did hear the evidence, but as of the shows airing they had not taken any action to indict. That doesn't mean it's closed, it just means they need to keep working to gather more evidence to strengthen their case. It could be that one more piece of evidence or one more witness could make all the difference in this case. Although there hasn't been an indictment, I don't believe we've heard the last of this case. Eric's mother Joy died some years ago, but the people in Dickson County have not forgotten about Eric Baxter's murder. I hope to one day read about an arrest being made in connection with the case.

I guess it has to be said, there's always the chance that this was a random murder - a robbery gone wrong. But since there was nothing taken from the residence and no signs of forced entry, it's hard to believe it was random. This murder had all the earmarks of a killing that was up close and personal. The multiple shots to Eric's body, including the point blank range shot to the temple indicate the killer wanted to make sure Eric was dead. It was classic overkill.

Another great show, Cold Justice team. I was surprised to recently learn that the idea for this show came from Kelly Siegler. She says the idea came to her many years ago, alarmed by the number of unsolved homicides across the country - in particular, she felt focusing on those murders committed in small or rural towns without the big city resources might be a place they could make a difference. She was right. I don't know what their criteria is for the cases they take. I know there is an application process. Siegler pitched the Cold Justice idea and Dick Wolf liked it. That's how Cold Justice was picked up by TNT. At first, I thought Cold Justices' concept seemed to be based on Dateline's old "Cold Case Squad" which was a similar idea. This show is much better than the Dateline version in my opinion.  The pairing of Siegler, McClary and Johnny Bonds works. They definitely seem to have a chemistry between them, they seem to genuinely care about helping to solve unsolved homicides not for TV ratings, but for the victims and their families. 

Mary Ann Holmes
Next week's episode looks good. The case involves the murder of a young woman in front of her young children. Does it get any worse than that? 29 year old Mary Ann Holmes was killed on July 9, 1995 in Thatcher Arizona. Holmes had managed to escape an abusive ex and start over with her two young daughters. She seemed to be thriving in her new community, the way the killer left her for her children to see is unthinkable. I hope this case gets solved. Tune in next Tuesday!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jodi Arias Back In Court Today - Will Re Trial Move Forward?

Today is October 4, 2013 - and it was supposed to be the next court appearance for Jodi Arias and her defense team in the seemingly endless legal limbo since a jury found her guilty of first degree murder on May 8, 2013. It's hard to fathom how sentencing a convicted murderer could be delayed for this many months, when her defense should have been ready to go within days of the mistrial in late May.
Jodi Arias


Arias is expected to be back in court today, but it's doubtful we will learn anything meaningful about if or when her sentencing retrial will move forward. Since the last delay back in mid September, it has been reported that a settlement conference between prosecutor Juan Martinez and Kirk Nurmi, Jennifer Willmott and Jodi Arias has been scheduled for October 24, 2013. Is this something that is routinely done in cases where a mistrial has been declared in the sentencing phase, after a defendant has already been found guilty? I wouldn't call anything that has happened with this case "routine". 

Jodi Arias may be the most chatty murder defendant America has ever encountered. She has appeared before the media before and immediately after her high profile murder trial, she has used people to get her message out via social media despite being jailed since her arrest on July 15, 2008. She has doggedly pursued the media, immediately following her guilty verdict she picked and chose which media outlets she would allow to interview her and had some diva-like demands on how the cameras should shoot the footage. She refused to allow them to show her leg chains and requested makeup and hair products before telling the viewing public that she preferred death to life behind bars.

Later, she would have an apparent change of heart - but not for herself, for her family. At her original penalty phase, she told jurors sentencing her to death would only serve to hurt her family - and she laid out a multimedia-like presentation on all the good she could do if allowed to live in prison.  It's hard to know for sure if this has been her plan all along, to delay the trial long enough to let the public sentiment towards her settle down. She may have done just that, although I don't personally feel any differently now about what kind of punishment her crime is worthy of than I did 6 months ago.

So the million dollar question is, why the settlement conference? Why now? If the Alexander family has any input into whether they forge forward with their pursuit of capital punishment for the woman who killed their brother Travis, it's hard to imagine how difficult that decision has been for them. I'm sure they want to move on with their lives, the best that they can considering their worlds have been forever changed by the actions of Jodi Arias.  Has Bill Montgomery decided that life in prison is enough punishment to put an end to the circus this trial has become? Does anybody out there believe that Juan Martinez would be FOR settling with Jodi Arias? I don't. But it's ultimately not his call, it's Montgomery's call.

In today's court hearing, Judge Sherry Stephens was expected to rule on several motions that have been pending for the retrial. The defense wants a change of venue, a sequestered jurydisclosure of juror Twitter accountslimited televised media coverage and individualized voir dire during jury selection. Kirk Nurmi has been arguing that it will be difficult to find an impartial jury given the widespread media coverage during her 5 month long trial in Phoenix this year. Jodi Arias isn't the only murder defendant to become a household name as a result of a criminal trial. It's so disappointing that the original trial jury wasn't able to see this thing through to the end. Had they known how long justice would be delayed, maybe they would've kept deliberating a little longer? Maybe it's not fair to say that, I wasn't in the jury deliberation room. But it seems the jury had questions as to what would occur if they didn't reach a decision, and they never really seemed to get a straight answer.

It would've been nice either way to have a sentence. But we didn't, and now we are left with this mess that keeps getting pushed farther and farther into the future. It doesn't seem fair, certainly not for the victim and his family. The jury found her guilty, it would seem half the battle was won - but a very important piece of the puzzle is missing. This brings me back to the gender bias in death penalty cases. I feel certain if Travis had killed Jodi in such a savage manner, I wonder if the jury would have had a difficult time sentencing him to death. Like it or not, the death penalty exists in the state of Arizona. And it's there for a reason. For the worst of the worst crimes. Yes, I know studies seem to question whether it's an effective deterrent against these crimes, but it's reserved for murders that meet certain criteria. This murder met the criteria, the defendant lied to the police, she lied to the jury under oath - there was a mountain of evidence that pointed to the cruel and heinous nature of Travis' murder. If this isn't worthy of capital punishment, why not abolish it? Is it only reserved for people who look, talk or act a certain way? 
I'm beginning to wonder.

Today's hearing will not be televised. The previous two court hearings lasted only minutes before being pushed back on the calendar. Will this be more of the same? I'd be hopeful if Judge Stephens actually RULED on some of the pending motions. She's certainly had time to ponder the issues, let's get the ball rolling Judge Stephens. Take control of your courtroom, hold all attorney's feet to the fire and let's start picking a jury already. It's time to see this trial through to the conclusion, further delaying it isn't going to alter the aggravating or mitigating circumstances. This photo captures Arias' interest during her own trial. She couldn't look more bored or disinterested.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The State of Utah vs. Dr. Martin MacNeill

Dr. Martin MacNeill's murder trial is set to begin on October 15, 2013 in Salt Lake City Utah. The trial is expected to be televised, although it is not clear if coverage will be local or national.  Court documents on HLN's website give us a peek into the state's case against the bad doctor, who also happens to hold a law degree.

In a court document filed on August 24, 2012, the state alleges that Martin MacNeill administered a lethal cocktail of drugs to his wife - enough drugs to render her unable to move about or function on her own, and then he drowned her in the bathtub of their Pleasant Grove, Utah home.  Michele MacNeill had underwent cosmetic surgery approximately a week prior to her death. The state alleges Martin MacNeill used the drugs prescribed by the surgeon (at his suggestion) to drug his wife.  According to many people who had contact with Michele after her surgery, she was recovering well and functioning on her own. She did not need the prescription painkillers and sedatives any longer by the time of her death.

The evidence shows that on the morning of her death, Michele was given Valium, Percocet, Phenergan and Ambien. Martin then continued his morning running errands and dropping his children off at school. There were several periods of time when his whereabouts could not be accounted for, and he was in close proximity to the home. Martin MacNeill left a voicemail for daughter Alexis, saying he had been interacting with Michele that morning. Alexis was in Las Vegas attending medical school. Court records state that two days after the surgery, Alexis found her mother listless and unresponsive. When Alexis confronted her father about giving her mother too much medication, he admitted he may have given her too much. It is during this time when Michele reportedly told Alexis "if something happens to me, make sure it wasn't your dad". This statement has haunted Alexis and Michele's family.

Alexis returned to Las Vegas to attend classes on April 10, 2007. On April 11, 2007 Michele was dead. Coincidence or murder?  Martin MacNeill's varying accounts of what happened to Michele and how her body was discovered should have been the first clue that something was amiss.  If Michele, a otherwise healthy 50 year old woman who didn't need or want to take the medication she was prescribed for the surgery ended up with so much drugs in her system, shouldn't that have been probable cause to look into how the drugs got in her system? Why didn't law enforcement officials take Alexis' statements about her own father more seriously, and at least leave the investigation open longer? I'm not sure why this took so long to become a homicide case, but thankfully it did.

This trial should be full of shocking revelations. A Hollywood script writer couldn't come up with something so sordid. The main character in this trial, in addition to the defendant should be a woman named Gypsy Willis. She was Martin's mistress for at least a year prior to Michele's death - shortly after her death, she became the children's nanny and moved into the MacNeill home. Also expected to testify are witnesses only referred to as "Inmate #1" and "Inmate #2".  These are people Martin MacNeill allegedly confided in while he was serving time in federal prison for identity theft, forgery, misuse of a social security number and a slew of other white collar crimes.  Inmate #1 and #2's identity will be protected and they will not be photographed or shown on television.

Undoubtedly Martin MacNeill's attorneys will argue that Michele took the prescription drugs on her own, and the bathtub drowning was nothing more than a horrible accident.  The 911 call he made after he found her will take center stage, his actions or in actions in removing his wife from the bathtub will be put under a microscope as well as his alleged efforts in performing CPR on his wife prior to the ambulance arriving will all be examined. What was Martin's motive to kill Michele? She was planning to divorce him. He didn't want to lose his assets and she wanted out. They had many children, and he would've likely had to pay a great deal of money to support them. And then there's the matter of that mistress, Gypsy. This should be a jaw dropping trial. But let's not forget the reason there is going to be a trial. Michele was a mother, a sister, a daughter and a friend. And she didn't have to die.  


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Martin MacNeill Murder Trial Date Nears

It is expected to last 4-5 weeks, yet the sordid and strange life of Dr. Martin MacNeill should play out like a bad made for TV movie: a mistress named "Gypsy", witnesses referred to as "Inmate #1 and "Inmate #2" and a life so twisted it's hard to believe this is real. Utah vs. Martin MacNeill has been a long time in the making. This is a story so strange and so disturbing.

Martin MacNeill is charged with murder, a first degree felony and obstruction of justice, a second degree felony in the death of his 50 year old wife Michele on April 11, 2007. The pre-trial motions have been filed fast and furiously. The defense motion to not allow Michele to be referred to as the "victim" was granted by the trial judge. Two prosecution witnesses will be referred to only as Inmate #1 and Inmate #2 and will not be photographed during the trial to protect their identities - they both served time with the bad doctor in federal prison. Everybody knows snitches are targets in prison environments.


A defense motion to exclude improper comments during opening and closing statements was granted after they argued their concerns that the prosecutor could make statements that would "invoke the jury's passions". Court documents show the defense has requested that the prosecutors not make references to MacNeills' morality in light of his lengthy affair with Gypsy Willis. The court also ruled that some of daughter Alexis Somers statements would be allowed, and others would not - including any hearsay evidence. Alexis Somers told investigators that her mother told her "if anything happens to me, make sure it wasn't your father", or something similar.

Another woman MacNeill had an affair with is also expected to be a witness for the prosecution - her testimony will also be limited. Anna Osborne Walthall is the woman who told authorities that MacNeill talked about his ability to kill people without being detected. She may be the same woman MacNeill reportedly told that he killed his older brother, and tried to kill his own mother. The defense also filed a motion to disqualify the prosecutor in the case. MacNeill's attorney alleged the prosecutor failed to provide requested information that may have helped their client in a timely manner. 4th District Judge Samuel McVey ruled that any issues had either been resolved or were not prejudicial - and the trial would proceed as planned.

I'm a little confused at the restrictions on the state's opening and closing statements. Don't defense attorneys routinely try to invoke a jury's passions? Recall the big trials like OJ Simpson's, Casey Anthony's and Jodi Arias' trial where bombshell allegations were made - baseless allegations, I should say. Why aren't their hands tied? And why can't Michele be referred to as the victim? I can see where that implies a crime was committed, but she was a victim of either an accidental overdose/drowning or an intentional overdose and drowning - either way, she IS a victim. This stuff irritates me.  I suppose we are supposed to see MacNeill as the victim? Persecuted because he had an affair with a woman named Gypsy, coerced his former beauty queen wife into having unnecessary plastic surgery, banning daughter Alexis from the family because she dared to question his version of events on the day her mother died? Yeah, I can see how Martin is the victim.

MacNeill IS guilty of doing some hideous things to his family. He made one of his children call Michele's two brothers who had driven from California to Utah for her funeral and tell them not to come. That's a fact. Three days after her funeral, MacNeill brought daughter Rachel to a Mormon Temple to "pray" for a nanny, and enter stage left - there's Gypsy Willis, meet the new nanny. That's a fact. He pretended not to know her, like some sort of divine intervention brought Gypsy into the MacNeill's life in their time of need. Fact.  He barred daughter Alexis from speaking to her siblings and family after she dared to ask questions about her mom's death. Fact. He instructed his son Damian to get rid of the remaining drugs prescribed to Michele shortly after she died, essentially removing potential evidence of a crime. That's a fact. He moved nanny-Gypsy into the family home within weeks of Michele's death, fact!

Will MacNeill's white collar rap sheet make it's way into the trial? MacNeill was indicted for fraud, forgery, aggravated identity theft, insurance fraud, improper use of a social security number and the list goes on. He and Willis even jacked adopted daughter Giselle's name, and Willis stole her identity after MacNeill sent her back to the Ukraine and left her to fend for herself there, away from the siblings she grew up with in America. Fact. This guy is a real piece of work. I can see why the defense has filed as many motions as they have - this is one despicable man. By all accounts, he was not a good husband and an even worse father, to at least some of their biological and adopted children. MacNeill even had a charge of sexually abusing Alexis. All of the things he did, and add to that potentially murdering his wife.

This should be a trial full of shocking and confrontational testimony.  The doctor/attorney's dirty laundry list is long. How much will the jury hear? The testimony around the 911 call and the events of April 11, 2007 are at the heart of this trial. Martin MacNeill is guilty of a lot more than he's on trial for. Stay tuned, this should be a doozy.

The Strange Life of Suspected Wife Killer Martin MacNeill

Martin MacNeill is scheduled to go on trial for the murder of his wife Michele on October 15, 2013. Looking into the background of the case, and the background of this defendant left me completely dumbfounded. Dr. Martin MacNeill's personal and family history are the strangest and most disturbing I've ever come across. I started reading about MacNeill because I wanted to become familiar with the circumstances surrounding the death of his wife Michele, but the information I found went far beyond his wife's death. Martin MacNeill is either the unluckiest man on the planet, or he is a cold blooded killer.


Michele & Martin MacNeill (ABCnews)


On April 11, 2007 Michele MacNeill was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her home in Pleasant Grove, Utah. At the urging of her husband Dr. Martin MacNeill, Michele underwent plastic surgery and at the time of her death she was recovering from the routine face lift she had eight days prior.  According to MacNeill's recorded 911 call, he walked into the bathroom and his wife was "under the water" and not breathing.  His voice sounded angry as he talked to the 911 operator, who tried to find out what was happening. She asked him if his wife was breathing, he yelled "NO, she's NOT...she's under the water". The 911 operator told him to get her out of the tub, MacNeill said that he couldn't lift her out but he began to drain the water from the tub.

During the call, the 911 operator kept telling MacNeill not to hang up the phone, yet MacNeill hung up on the operator at least 3 times. The 911 operator called him back, trying to determine what was happening with his wife and if he got her out of the tub. MacNeill told her that he was a physician and was giving her CPR.  How could he be giving her CPR if her body is still in the bathtub? Even if the water had drained, it would be nearly impossible to give CPR to a person lying in an oval shaped tub.  The 911 call would be the tip of the iceberg. The circumstances around Michele MacNeill's death are alarming, but the history of Martin MacNeill's troubled life are even more startling.

The MacNeill's had been happy once, but by April of 2007 it was looking like Michele was heading to divorce court after she discovered her husband was having an affair with a woman named Gypsy Willis.  This wasn't the first affair Michele suspected Martin of having, but it would be the last one she would stand for.  In the weeks before she died, she reportedly told two of her daughters and other relatives that she feared that Martin may want to cause her harm. "If anything happens to me, make sure Martin wasn't involved," she said. She seemed to know what he was capable of, and she was getting out of the marriage - this is the most dangerous time for a woman married to a controlling man. Martin MacNeill was not only a doctor, he also had a law degree. A dangerous combination.

Martin MacNeill convinced Michele to have a face lift, something she really didn't need but he insisted. He made all of the arrangements, even allegedly telling the surgeon what medications to send her home with when she was released into his care. She reportedly was given the following medications:  


  • Lortab syrup
  • Ambien
  • Valium
  • Oxycondone
Phenergan was also reportedly in her system at the time of her death.  The surgeon says that this wasn't what he typically would prescribe for a patient following the type of surgery she underwent. I'm not sure why the surgeon felt the need to follow the instructions or the wishes of this patients husband - if he hadn't been a MD and an attorney, I'm 110% certain the plastic surgeon would not have prescribed anything outside of what he felt was necessary. This, in my opinion doesn't get the surgeon off the hook. There is no excuse for a medical professional following the instructions of a patients physician husband!  Granted he didn't administer the drugs to Michele, but Michele was his patient and he had a duty to prescribe medication in a responsible manner.

Naturally, Martin MacNeill assured him that he would oversee her medications and make sure she received the proper dosing etc.  One of the MacNeill daughters, Alexis recalls the night after her mom had surgery her father practically kicked her out of her mom's bedroom. The following morning, Alexis says that her mom was "listless and unresponsive" - she confronted her father about over medicating her mom but he denied it.  Michele became so suspicious and fearful that her husband was trying to give her too much medication - was he trying to kill her and make it look like an accidental overdose? After reading up about Martin MacNeill, that doesn't sound like a stretch whatsoever.

Alexis MacNeill told investigators that her mother had always been very sensitive to medications and in the days following her surgery, she didn't need or want to be taking the pain medication Martin was feeding her. Michele's face was wrapped after the surgery to where she couldn't see clearly, so she actually was trying to feel the shape of the pills he was giving her because she didn't trust him at all. Alexis distinctly recalls her mother saying to her "if anything happens to me, make sure it was not your dad".  Can you imagine your mother saying that to you? I can't imagine how scared Alexis must have been, or how she felt when she found out her mother was dead.  

Just five days later, Alexis returned to Las Vegas where she was attending medical school. Within 18 hours, Michele MacNeill was dead. Looks like Martin may have sensed that Alexis and Michele were united against him, so with Alexis safely in another state, he moved swiftly. Alexis says her mother had resumed some of her normal activities, she was actually doing laundry and seemed to be in good spirits. Yet her father left her a voicemail telling her that Michele wouldn't stay in bed?  Alexis was confused by the message, so she began calling her mom's cellphone repeatedly. There was no answer, until her father answered the phone and told her he had just called 911 and was performing CPR on her mother. He hung up the phone. Alexis immediately believed that her father had killed her mother.

Where was Martin MacNeill at the time Michele ran the bathwater and prepared to take a bath? Why did the MacNeills' 6 year old daughter Ada report seeing her mother fully clothed in the bathtub, which she told an interviewer was full of "reddish brown" water? Neighbors reported seeing Michele sitting in an upright position in the bathtub. What happened in that bathroom? Was the 6 year old confused about Michele being fully dressed? According to some reports, Martin told people that Michele must have fallen while preparing her bath, and he told others that he found Michele draped over the tub with her head submerged in the water. Alexis said her father told her he found Michele submerged in water with only her feet above the water. Which, if any of these stories are true? I have a feeling none of them are true.

After Martin picked up Ada and they found Michele in the bathtub, he told the 6 year old to go to a neighbors house to get help. When she returned with neighbor Angie Aguilar, Martin said he needed a man to help pull Michele out of the tub because he wasn't strong enough to do it alone. Angie Aguilar reported seeing no water in the tub, and Michele was dressed in an "upper undergarment". Another neighbor, Doug Daniels arrived at the home and helped MacNeill take Michele out of the tub and begin CPR. Daniels later told investigators he did not see Michele's chest rise while they performed CPR. Police would later seriously question the actions or in actions of Martin MacNeill, a licensed physician who didn't seem to make any efforts to clear the airway of his wife during CPR.

As emergency medical personnel began to arrive, MacNeill was quick to tell them that Michele had been taking a great deal of medication while recovering from recent surgery.  He told them he found her "hunched over the tub", with her head under the water. Martin told another doctor at the American Fork Hospital that his wife must have passed out and fallen into the tub. Pleasant Grove emergency responders reported that Michele threw up a lot of water while they were performing CPR on her. If Martin MacNeill had previously performed CPR on her prior to the EMTs, the water should have been regurgitated within the first few breaths of CPR. Apparently regurgitating water during CPR can be an after effect of "dry drowning", which happens when an airway spasm shuts off the lungs after first exposure to water, to prevent additional water from going into the lungs.

Unfortunately according to the Utah Medical Examiner, no scientific tests could be done to prove drowning occurred. After Michele's body was removed from the house, neighbor Doug Daniels recalls there were no towels in the bathroom when he tried to help clean up. When he went into the laundry room, he found a pile of wet and bloody towels! Although nobody knows when the towels were used and who used them, Daniels says that no cleaning was done after he arrived at the home. This led investigators to believe that Martin MacNeill may have attempted to clean up blood and water prior to neighbors and emergency medical personnel arriving. Cleaning at a time when he should have been trying to save his wife's life.

Alexis MacNeill has always believed that her father had help that day from his girlfriend, Gypsy Willis. There were many things that complicated this suspicious death and potential crime scene. For one thing, it took paramedics 30 minutes to arrive because Martin MacNeill gave them a bad address. Pleasant Valley police reports concluded the death was accidental. "The victim apparently slipped and fell after filling the bathtub with water", one report said.  "Martin said he found her hunched over the tub as if she passed out while preparing the tub", another report said.  And yet another officer reported "it appears the female was drawing a bath when she potentially passed out or fell". What a mess. The initial autopsy indicates she died a "sudden natural death" partly due to myocarditis. Then, in October of 2010, Michele's cause of death was changed to include drug toxicity - and under manner of death, it states that Michele could not have administered the medication to herself.

Investigators believe the original medical examiner who conducted the autopsy was not given complete or accurate information on Michele's death. The fact that she threw up water was only uncovered through investigation more than a year later! To complicate everything, the original medical examiner has since died, leaving many unanswered questions. What happened after Michele's death is even more strange. Martin MacNeill was telling people at his church that he was dying from cancer. The drugs prescribed to Michele after her face lift were found to have been administered within an hour of her death. Yet Alexis reported her mother had not needed or wanted to take any of the medications - she was doing well, and even had been resuming some of her normal activities. How did those drugs get into her bloodstream? Alexis believes her father may have crushed them up and hidden them in the food. Immediately after Michele's death, Martin had his son Damien get rid of all of Michele's medications. When Alexis questioned him about the missing pills, he told her the police must have taken them from the house.

When Michele's older brothers drove from California to Utah for the funeral, Martin MacNeill had one of his children call them and tell them not to come! Mick and Steve Somers held their own ceremony for Michele the following day. What kind of monster does this? Has his own children make this type of phone call asking immediate family not to attend their sister's funeral? Evil, despicable man. Martin MacNeills behavior on the day and evening of his wife's funeral was also disturbing. A neighbor reported going to the MacNeill's home after the funeral, and instead of being upset or saddened, Martin MacNeill gave them a full tour of the house and told them about home improvements he planned on making. Yes, I know, I know - people cope with grief in their own way, but come on...and we haven't even gotten to "the nanny" yet.  Only three days after Michele's funeral, Martin told the children that he needed to find a nanny to help take care of them. He took one of the older daughters, Rachel to an LDS Temple to "pray". And what do you know, out of nowhere, a woman appeared. This woman was unknown to Rachel and was supposedly unknown to Martin. It was Gypsy Willis. Martin's prayers were answered. Are you kidding me? Rachel quickly realized something wasn't right about this scripted meeting she just took part in at the Temple.

Within a few weeks of the meeting, Gypsy Willis was living at the MacNeill home. Alexis knew the name Gypsy, she also knew her mother suspected this was the woman Martin had been having an affair with. When Alexis confronted her father about this information, she was "banned" from the family and no longer would be allowed to talk to her siblings.  The other children would eventually learn the true nature of their father's relationship with Gypsy Willis.  Gypsy wasn't the only woman Martin had been involved with during his marriage to Michelle. Another woman Martin was involved with told investigators that she believed Martin MacNeill was a serial killer. Martin allegedly told her that he killed his older brother Roy MacNeill, and he had tried to kill his mother - but emergency medical personnel foiled his attempt on his mother's life.

Roy MacNeill was indeed found dead in the family's New Jersey home, according to Utah County Attorney's office. Martin told the woman he found Roy in the bathtub with both of his wrists cut - a suicide attempt. Apparently Martin found suicide to be an embarrassment for his family, so he pushed his head under the water and drowned him. MacNeill told some people his brother died with a needle still in his arm, yet he told others his brother was an alcoholic who drank himself to death. What really happened to Roy MacNeill? Just two months before Michele died, another MacNeill brother killed himself and Martin's sister reportedly died while in her early 20's by self-inflicted strangling? Does any of this make sense to you? Why do suspicious deaths and apparent suicides seem to follow Martin MacNeill where ever he goes? He has only one living sister, and she's not talking.

Martin's only son, Damien - the one who disposed of Michele's prescription drugs after her death, died in 2010 from a prescription drug overdose. The carnage continues. Isn't this all too much to happen to one person? Martin MacNeill may have eluded the police for some time in the death of his wife Michele, but the law did catch up to him for other white collar type crimes. In January of 2009, MacNeill was indicted in federal court on 9 counts of aiding and abetting in aggravated identity theft, misuse of a social security number and making false statements. He plead guilty to two counts and in August of 2009 he was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison. In September of 2009, Martin MacNeill plead guilty to additional charges including insurance fraud - and was given 3 years of jail time to be served after he serves his federal sentence.

You may be wondering what happened to Gypsy Willis during this time - she was indicted on 11 counts, and sentenced to 21 months in prison. She was found to be using one of MacNeill's (adopted) daughters identity, Giselle. The family would later learn that Giselle was sent back to the Ukraine, and left there to fend for herself at just 16 years of age! She was going by "Jillian Giselle MacNeill", and the pair used the date of Michele's funeral as their supposed wedding date. This is just about as low as it can get. These two deserve each other - Martin MacNeill also changed his will after Michele's death, leaving each one of his children $1.00 each - and the rest of his estate going to Gypsy Willis under an assumed name. With MacNeill and Willis both serving federal prison time, Michele's family was relentless in trying to get the police to take another look into her death. In January of 2008, the Utah County Attorney's office began investigating the suspicious death of Michele MacNeill.  

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg with Martin MacNeill, a man who has committed too many crimes to recount - who is suspected of inappropriately propositioning women he treated as a doctor. Rachel MacNeill says she has been contacted by many women who were harmed by her father, and she believes them. Martin MacNeill is also believed to have sexually abused his daughter Alexis! They have him on tape apologizing to Alexis for touching her inappropriately, telling her he thought she was his wife. Alexis has always believed her father was responsible for her mother's death. She believes he had the medical knowledge to know what drugs to give her and how to get her to take them. Alexis wasn't alone in her thinking. Michele's family firmly believes Martin killed her, and neighbors who were around the MacNeill's when this happened suspected something wasn't right in that house. This is what gut instinct is all about.  Michele's mother, Helen Somers felt uneasy about her daughter dating Martin MacNeill from the very first time she met him. Further, Somers' bishop warned Helen to not allow Michele to go out with Martin MacNeill. He was not able to elaborate, but that bishop may have had knowledge that Martin was bad news.

The trail of destruction Martin MacNeill left in his wake is only now being realized. He served his federal prison term, but didn't remain a free man for very long. He was arrested in late August of 2012, finally charged with the murder of his wife Michelle more than 6 years ago. His trial is slated to begin on October 15, 2013. Daughter Alexis Somers (she goes by her mother's maiden name) couldn't be happier to see her father finally face murder charges. Already the legal posturing has begun. MacNeill's defense filed a motion so the prosecutor can't refer to Michele as the "victim". Sound familiar? This is likely a common motion filed by defense attorneys across the country. The state of Utah vs. Martin MacNeill should be a trial to remember and hopefully it will be televised. Prosecutors believe Martin MacNeill drugged and then drowned his wife Michele on April 11, 2007.

We may never really know if MacNeill had any involvement in the suspicious death of his brother Roy, or if he really tried to kill his own mother. His son Damien died at a young age of a prescription drug overdose, and although his other biological and adopted children are still alive, he has banned one, shipped another off to the Ukraine - what kind of father does this to his family? What kind of man takes away a child's mother? What kind of man takes a child to a Temple to "pray" for a nanny, and has his mistress appear? Using religion against his own daughter, sexual abuse of another. This man deserves what he has coming to him in prison.  Let the trial begin!