Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jodi Arias Is Dangerous, Says Former Cellmate Cassandra Collins

**UPDATED**

We knew it would only be a matter of time before Jodi Arias took to Twitter to comment on the interview Fox 10 News' Troy Hayden had with one of her former cellies.  In a Tweet posted 1 hr ago, she says:



"Really, @troyhaydenfox10??? A woman who was found by the court to be incompetent to stand trial?"
(Huffingtonpost.com)

Cassandra Collins, a former inmate at the Estrella Jail complex who once shared a two bunk cell with Jodi Arias was interviewed recently by Fox 10 News' Troy Hayden, and she provided some chilling insight into the odd thoughts and behaviors of the convicted murderer.  Collins, who is no longer in custody was Arias' cellmate before her infamous murder trial and believes she is dangerous - even behind bars.

She described Arias as a manipulative person, who tried to manipulate every inmate she came into contact with into believing her version of what happened to Travis Alexander.  Collins said "she manipulates...tries to manipulate every inmate in there...and tried to control how they think about her case.  She'll try to suffocate you with her version and her side". 
She saw the effect Arias had on her fellow inmates when she visited her jail pod back in January and saw the "Jodi is innocent" and "free Jodi" signs the inmates had made.  

Collins also says Arias made what appeared to be a veiled threat against prosecutor Juan Martinez - a threat she believed Arias was serious about, serious enough that the ex-con would recommend that Juan Martinez get some extra security. "He needs to get good security staff around him to make sure she can't get anybody on the outs to solicit something...to harm him or hurt him".  

Collins told Hayden "she (Jodi Arias) once said if she was given the death sentence, she wanted to get her revenge.  She knows inmates on the outs to do a mafia bow-tie...yeah, cut his throat", Collins said.  When the reporter came out and asked her if she believed Arias was referring to prosecutor Juan Martinez, she said "yes, I do.  I really do think she would try to hurt someone".  In an odd twist, Arias once reportedly asked Collins "why doesn't Juan Martinez love me?" Collins was shocked, and answered "love you? He's the prosecutor, he's there to prosecute you for a crime".  Wow, seriously, if this is true - Jodi Arias may be even more delusional than anybody knew.  "She's dangerous, and out of her freakin' mind", Collins said of Arias. It has been reported that back in July of 2009, Arias had a disciplinary write up for being involved in a physical altercation with a cell mate.  Jodi Arias claimed that the other woman pushed her up against the wall and kicked her, and anything she did was basically in self-defense. I wonder how many cell mates Arias has had in her 5 1/2 years? We know she once shared a cell with a Kimberly Ross, and now we know about Cassandra Collins.


Troy Hayden reached out to defense attorney Jennifer Willmott, but she wouldn't comment on the statements made by Cassandra Collins but acknowledged the defense would be looking into it.  The Maricopa County Attorney's office will be looking into the statements as well.  Is it possible that Collins interview was an opportunistic way to get her 15 minutes of fame? It's very possible. Collins says her genuine concern for the safety of prosecutor Juan Martinez is what prompted her to come forward.  As Jodi Arias prepares for her sentencing re trial and attempts to paint herself as a model inmate who teaches other inmates Spanish and sign language (not braille, thanks NancyB!!), and openly states on her online book review site that she donates books and magazines she receives to "less fortunate inmates" - this portrayal of Arias isn't the one she wants the jury pool to see.

Parts of this story ring true, I can imagine Arias manipulating other inmates into first believing in her innocence, and later as the wrongfully convicted who was battered and abused to the point where murder was an option. "Survivor" t-shirt anyone?  Pa-leeeze. The Fox News interview doesn't say how long Cassandra Collins shared a cell with Arias or what Collins was incarcerated for. I have serious doubts that Jodi Arias has the kind of reach it would take to get to Juan Martinez. However, it shouldn't be completely dismissed since there are nut-bags out there!  I'm referring to people like David Lee Simpson, the man who was arrested in July for making threats against Nancy Grace and Jane Valez Mitchell for the way they covered the Jodi Arias murder trial.  When he was arrested, he was reportedly armed. 

This man became so obsessed he quit his job in Bath, NY and was driving south when he was stopped by law enforcement. In his car, officers discovered several guns, shotgun ammunition, zip ties, handcuffs, binoculars, a knife and a police radio (guess the police radio wasn't working).  Simpson left a Twitter trail of threats that led law enforcement right to him, so a criminal mastermind he is not. But the fact that people like David Lee Simpson are out there is enough cause to take some extra security.

 Arias who seemingly loves to shares her random thoughts and quotes with the outside world via her Twitter account has yet to comment on Collins interview with Troy Hayden.  Will Arias turn on Troy Hayden?  If you recall, Hayden was one of the reporters Arias hand picked for her post conviction interviews - so it will be interesting to see how she reacts.

It will also be interesting to see how the inmates in PRISON react to Jodi Arias' arrival - it's only a matter of time before she ends up in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Goodyear.  I don't believe it will be as easy for her to manipulate the prison population the way she has manipulated the Estrella jail inmates.  I've never been in trouble with the law or incarcerated, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that prison is very different than jail. Arias' time outside of her prison cell will be very limited during the first five years of her sentence, and maximum security prisoners are only allowed one 15-minute phone call per week, with calls being brought to the inmates cell. 

Death row and maximum security inmates eat all meals in their cells, no chow lines - and interviews can only be done over the phone.  She will still have access to the outside world and whoever these people are who are running her websites via the mail. My point being that her circumstances will be changing regardless of the sentence. The best possible outcome for Arias is life in prison, I doubt the possibility of release after serving 25 years is in the cards for her. And prison is prison, and prison is much different than jail. The inmates in jail are generally either being held pending trial, or serving short sentences. In prison, inmates are serving longer sentences for more serious crimes - such as murder. Jodi Arias has lived at the Estrella jail complex for 5 1/2 years now. Even in jail, I'm sure people acclimate to their surroundings and get comfortable with their routine. In jail, Arias has people to talk to - people she has undoubtedly gotten to know and may even consider friends.  When her trial finally concludes, her life in jail will be uprooted and I think when the prison gate shuts behind her the gravity of what she has done may finally hit her.






Sunday, November 24, 2013

George Zimmerman Arrested After Domestic Violence Incident

George Zimmerman is in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.  He is currently being held without bail in Seminole County jail after being arrested for threatening his live-in girlfriend with a shotgun last week.  Zimmerman, who was acquitted in July of second degree murder charges for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin has had several brushes with the law since the acquittal - including an incident in September where his ex wife called 911 after he threatened her with a gun as she was moving her things out of the home they shared.
George Zimmerman


Did the justice system cut a mad man loose? You've got to wonder - if both stories are in fact true, George Zimmerman should not be allowed anywhere near a firearm.  And it really makes me question his self-defense claims in the Trayvon Martin shooting just a little bit more.  George Zimmerman became the poster boy for gun advocates across the nation with his stand-your-ground type defense and he escaped punishment for shooting an unarmed teenager. To now hear that Zimmerman points a gun in the faces of two women in his life is just outright scary.  It sounds reckless and he sounds like a hot head who has no business owning a gun!

According to the 911 call placed by Samantha Scheibe, George Zimmerman broke a glass table and her sunglasses at her home before pointing a shotgun at her face.  During the call, she told Zimmerman "you put your gun in my freaking face", "get out of my house", "do not push me out of my house" and "please get out of my house!".  Zimmerman then reportedly forced her out the door and locked her out - before barricading himself inside with furniture against the door.  Only after police responding to Scheibe's 911 call arrived did George Zimmerman call 911 himself, telling them that his girlfriend "had gone crazy on me".  When responding officers spoke to Zimmerman, his version of the story was much different than Scheibe's. He denied pointing a gun at her and breaking the table - instead, he says that she is pregnant with his child, and she told him she was raising the baby by herself but she became angry when he tried to leave the house.

Which story sounds more plausible?  Combined with what we know about George Zimmerman and his ex wife's allegation from the September incident, I tend to believe the girlfriend.  Zimmerman was never charged with a crime following his ex wife's 911 call in September because authorities could not prove a crime was committed.  Are they listening now?  I certainly hope so.  Let's hope this isn't another case where the writing is on the wall and law enforcement is too slow to act.  At the very least, charge him for this incident and for God's sake, take away all of George Zimmerman's firearms! If Zimmerman is found guilty of any domestic violence crime, he will not be able to buy a gun from any federally licensed dealer. If he is convicted of any gun related charge, it could prevent him from from being able to renew his concealed weapon permit in Florida. That's right, not would, but could prevent him from renewing his concealed weapon permit. That's just wrong.

By the way, Samantha Scheibe denies being pregnant with Zimmerman's child.  


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jodi Arias Continues To Cash In From Behind Bars

As days turn into weeks, and then into months as we wait for word on a start date for the much-anticipated penalty phase re trial of convicted killer Jodi Arias, she continues to orchestrate her online ventures from Sheriff Joe's Estrella Jail.  While the public information officers and jail officials continue to deny that they can stem the flow of "personal property" out of Arias' cell to the hands of her visitors, I seriously doubt this is something they couldn't better manage!

Although Jodi Arias has taken to Twitter and her online book club website that features a Twitter feed, recent comments posted by the felon evidence her activities - how much more evident does this need to become before they put an end to it?  She's convicted now, and as such she should not be allowed to profit from her new found notoriety.  She's been actively tweeting about her limited edition prints:

Oct 29:   "Angel" is now available at jodiarias.com

Oct 31:   At this time, I won't be offering limited edition prints of "Angel"

Oct 29:   If you pre-ordered a limited edition print of "Sailing at Sunset", shipping has begun.

Oct 23rd:  Donations are now being accepted for my appeals at .......

Come on now, Sheriff Joe and posse. Make it stop! You CAN stop her from releasing personal property - knowing full well that it is being sold for Jodi Arias' profit. Doesn't matter if she's using it for her "appeal" or her family's travel expenses - it's wrong. Shame on you for allowing this to continue. There, I said it.

It seems that Jodi Arias now sees herself as the self-anointed spokeswoman for inmate rights as well:

Nov 12:   The ACLU of AZ stopped by today to ask the women if they are receiving adequate medical care.  Note to Jodi Arias:  did you even have medical coverage through prior employment when you were out in the free world?  Many people work and still don't have medical care!

Yes, I'm completely cranky over these comments made by Jodi Arias.  She is complaining about things she's actually lucky to have in these hard economic times. AND she is bilking the public out of cash for her commissary account, family travel expenses - and I've yet to see her allocate one red cent of said proceeds to pay back the taxpayers who are footing the bill for her current defense.  Jodi Arias lost her right to free enterprise the day she was convicted of murder. I think it's telling to note that Arias' previously photography business didn't appear to be providing her with enough income to live on her own and she did not sell "artwork" prior to her incarceration. Therefore, any proceeds are directly and forever tied to her crime.

Other recent tweets are about Former President Jimmy Carter's call for a fresh moratorium on the death penalty, and her belief that her trial is a prime example of one where a jury should be sequestered. Both self-serving comments.  The last tweet I will note from Arias came on Nov 20, when she recited her horoscope:  "What seems unjust in the moment may be absolutely perfect in the large-scale scoring system of the universe". What I get out of that nugget is that she feels her guilty verdict and incarceration is unjust. Get real!  Still embracing the victim role.

While I patiently wait for the re trial, I also look forward to the day that jail officials put their collective foot down on Jodi Arias - no more art sales period. While they may be unable to stop people from contributing to her commissary fund, I'll never believe they can't control what she gives to visitors at their jail. Their staff should be checking visitors as they leave, and anything that could end up being sold for her profit should not be allowed to leave the Estrella jail - period.  

Below, I've copied and pasted the most recent entries relating to this case from the Maricopa County Criminal Court website. I'd love to see the transcription of that 10/24/13 settlement conference.

11/22/2013 023 - ME: Order Entered By Court - Party (001) 11/22/2013  
11/15/2013 023 - ME: Order Entered By Court - Party (001) 11/15/2013  
11/15/2013 022 - ME: Order Signed - Party (001) 11/15/2013  
11/15/2013 018 - ME: Findings Of Fact And Conclusion Of Law - Party (001) 11/15/2013  
11/15/2013 023 - ME: Order Entered By Court - Party (001) 11/15/2013  
11/6/2013 005 - ME: Hearing - Party (001) 11/6/2013  
10/31/2013 SDO - Order to Seal Documents - Party (001) 11/6/2013  
10/30/2013 021 - ME: Nunc Pro Tunc Order - Party (001) 10/30/2013  
10/25/2013 PPM – Pro Per Motion/Notice/Mail - Party (001) 10/28/2013 Defendant (2)  
NOTE: MOTION TO CHANGE COUNSEL
10/24/2013 SDO - Order to Seal Documents - Party (001) 11/6/2013  
10/22/2013 REQ - Request - Party (001) 10/22/2013  
NOTE: REQUEST FOR TRANSCRIPTION OF THE OCTOBER 24, 2013 SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE, AND FOR THE TIMELY RELEASE OF A TRANSCRIPT THEREOF

The Jodi Arias case was featured recently on 20/20, I'm sure we will be seeing and hearing about this tragic story for years, or decades to come.  For now, it's like reading a book with the last chapter left unwritten.  We'll have to wait to see how it all ends.  I for one, will be waiting and watching when it all resumes!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arias Judge Rules On Several Outstanding Motions

It's about time.  It appears that several pending motions have ruled on at last relating to Jodi Arias' penalty phase retrial - and this thing may actually happen.  But not until January of 2014.  Outlined in court minute entries, Judge Sherry Stephens ruled on the following:

1)  Ruled in favor of Arias, in precluding or limiting live media coverage of the penalty phase retrial. It was nice to see the Judge acknowledging that Jodi Arias herself was responsible for much of the media interest around her case; contacting them to arrange interviews before, and after her trial. There will be use of Twitter or electronic devices inside the court room in this trial.

2)  Ruled against Arias in her change of venue motion; the trial will remain in Phoenix.

3)  Ruled against Arias in her request for Individualized Voir Dire.

4)  Ruled against Arias in her request to sequester the jury.

5)  Ruled against Arias in her request for fire attorney Kirk Nurmi.

They are calling 400 potential jurors the first two days of jury selection. The first 100 are scheduled to appear at 10:00AM, the second 100 at 1:30, the third 100 at 3:00PM and the last 100 will appear at 1:30 on day two if they haven't yet chosen a jury from the first 300 potential jurors.

Looks like the only motion Arias' defense really won was the motion against cameras in the courtroom - which means we, the viewing public will not get to watch the conclusion of this trial as it unfolds. No doubt it will still be covered heavily from gavel to gavel the old fashioned way, the way they did it before Court TV and In Session were around. 

I particularly liked Judge Stephens response to her media complaint - she stated "In this case, the Court has granted the defense motion to preclude live camera coverage of the trail. As noted by the State in their response, much of the media interest in this case was generated by the defendant contacting media outlets. Defendant now complains she cannot receive a fair sentencing phase retrial because of the media interest in her case and wants the jury sequestered for the duration of the sentencing retrial. The parties estimate the retrial will last at least two months."

I have to admit that I'm highly disappointed that the trial will not be televised live - it's as if we are missing the end of a cliff-hanger.  I think the coverage is the least of Jodi Arias' worries. This new jury (hopefully) won't have time to form any "connection" with her - they will be hearing an abbreviated version of trial #1, the conclusion of which we already know, she was found guilty. They only get to decide punishment. Hopefully this new jury will be able to weigh the heinousness of the killing, and carefully weigh it against the mitigating factors and nothing else and return a verdict one way or another.

No trial date has been set that I could find, just "January", which is what the defense wanted all along.  What's next for Jodi Arias? Will Sheriff Joe ever crack down on the art business Arias is running right under his staff's noses? Will the IRS catch up to the jailed artist who has been making money and more than likely not filing tax returns? Let's hope so. I doubt she's worried about that. What are they going to do, put her in jail?



Monday, November 4, 2013

Amber Hilberling Sentenced To 25 Years For Pushing Husband Out Window

Since I watched MSNBC's Lockup last weekend, I started reading about the horrible death of 23 year old Joshua Hilberling in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Josh died on June 7, 2011 after crashing through the living room window of the 25th floor apartment he shared with his 19 year old wife Amber. The Lockup staff featured Tulsa's massive jail system, and Amber happened to be one of the inmates featured on the show.  I hadn't heard anything about this case before I saw Lockup, however this case has also been featured on NBC's Dateline. Lockup talked to Amber about her case and what happened to her husband Josh, and why she turned down the State of Oklahoma's offer for a 5 year sentence for a guilty plea.  That's a question that many people wonder about, given at the time of the Lockup shooting, Amber had not yet been sentenced.

Amber explained to producers that the reason she didn't take the plea deal is because that would mean she was guilty of intentionally killing her husband Josh, something she adamantly denies having done. Lockup filmed Amber being loaded into the Sheriff's van with other inmates who were going to the courthouse, and they talked to her after she returned from sentencing.  She received a 25 year sentence.  She plans on appealing the sentence. Had she taken the 5 year plea deal, she would've been out of prison while her son Levi was still young. The 25 year sentence means Amber will miss all of Levi's milestone dates. His first day of elementary school, junior high, school dances, the Junior and Senior balls, high school graduation and even college.
Unless her appeals are successful, Amber will likely be in her mid 40s when released, less any time credited for good behavior. I'm not sure how the Oklahoma prison system works or how much of their actual sentences inmates there serve.  

I've also read the State of Oklahoma Sentencing Memorandum and Victim Impact Letters, the link is attached below. There is a heartfelt letter from Josh's brother - which really gives you a sense of how volatile Josh's relationship with Amber was and how she treated him in front of friends and family.  If she treated him so poorly in front of his family, I can only imagine how bad things may have gotten when they were alone.
http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/griffin/NEWSon6/PDF/1304/Hilberling-sentencing.pdf

While it seems to me that the windows on that apartment building should have been much stronger than they were, Amber should have known they were not unbreakable - and being on the 25th floor, it would be very dangerous to push an individual towards one.  Factor in that one of the Hilberlings had recently broken another window in the apartment, and building maintenance man Armando Rosales was there on June 7, 2011 to give them an estimate on replacing the window and it does seem to point to a reckless disregard for Josh's life when Amber pushed him while he was anywhere near a window. I'm not 100% convinced that she meant for Josh to crash through the glass and fall to his death. But her actions did cause his death, and it didn't have to happen. She pushed him with force, and he crashed through the window and fell 17 stories to his death. Was it an accident?

Amber seemed to admit to this during candid moments in the interrogation room with her grandmother. "I killed Josh", "Josh is dead", and "I pushed him", and then she said "what kind of person am I?" I think she was feeling the devastating reality of what had happened, and she knew it was her fault.  She kept talking about wanting a time machine, wanting to go back in time and just leave the apartment instead of staying and arguing with Josh. What really happened in the moments before the fall? According to Amber, Josh was the one who was upset and yelling at her. While talking to her grandmother, she seemed to let it slip that Josh was messing with the television before she pushed him - which seems more plausible since there is no evidence of a struggle and Josh seemed to have been blindsided and unable to stop the momentum of being shoved. At trial, Amber called on the old standby "self defense", which took the State by surprise. Especially given the fact that Josh himself had gone to Domestic Violence Intervention Services looking for help. While Josh was stationed in Alaska, the pair had frequent contact with local police because of their tumultuous relationship and loud arguments. One such official gave Amber an ominous warning: "if you stay together, you are going to end up killing him". 

One thing is certain. In the minutes before Josh fell to his death, he had called his father and several friends asking for a ride away from the apartment. He had bags packed, planning on at the very least separating from Amber for some period of time. Is that what caused her to lash out at Josh? Was she angry that he was leaving her alone, while she was 7 months pregnant? All we can do is look at her previous behavior, and she HAS some prior bad behavior according to court documents and Josh's family. In an emotional letter written by Josh's brother Zach, he talks about how Amber treated Josh in front of his own family and friends. Zach was serving in Afghanistan when Josh was killed. He wrote a victim impact letter that gave some insight into Amber's behavior with Josh. He said that even on the day of their wedding reception, Amber yelled at Josh and talked down to him. After they were married, they went to live with Amber's parents but days later Amber's mother kicked her out of their house. They went to stay with Scott, Josh's older brother from there. He was getting ready to leave for Afghanistan and wanted to spend as much time with Josh and Scott as possible, but found it very difficult to watch how Amber bullied Josh. He said that every time he saw Amber and Josh together, Amber called him names, made fun of him, punching him and pinching him. It was embarrassing for the brothers to see. Yet Josh acted like it didn't bother him, although they knew it did bother him that Amber treated him so poorly and the family could see. 

In October of 2010, Josh and Amber left for Alaska where Josh would be stationed. By November, Josh was calling and saying that Amber was ranting and raving and throwing objects at him. In December, Josh told his brother that Amber was pregnant - not initially thrilled at the prospect but Josh quickly grew excited over becoming a father. On New Years Eve, Josh called his brother crying - something he wasn't used to hearing. He said that Amber pushed him down the stairs and then punched him in the face. She then called security forces on him! The phone calls from Josh about Amber's temper grew more frequent, although security forces were not always involved or informed of the domestic violence. On February 5, 2011 Josh called to tell him that Amber was again throwing things at him and hitting him and he asked him for advice. He told Josh to leave the house, call security forces and get out of that house. He was growing tired of hearing about the abuse, and he couldn't hide it in the tone of his voice. Sadly, this would be the last time he ever heard Josh's voice. He left for Afghanistan, and would talk to Josh via Facebook.  During a call home to his mother and father, he learned that the violence had escalated and Amber hit Josh over the head with a lamp, requiring staples and stitches to close the wound. Josh finally had enough and briefly moved home with his parents and filed for a protective order.

The day that she was served with the order, Amber and her mother came to Josh's parents house and made him feel guilty for considering divorce and leaving Amber while she was pregnant. Josh decided to give the marriage one more try. Zach logged onto Facebook during a rare day off duty in Afghanistan and found out his brother was dead. He received a condolence message from a friend, and he immediately went to Josh's page and saw RIP. That was how he found out his brother was dead. Zach's account of the relationship sounds a lot like classic domestic violence, with Amber being the aggressor and Josh being the victim. If she had no problem throwing things at him, hitting him over the head with lamps and pushing him down the stairs, pushing him out the window doesn't seem like such a stretch now. It sounds like Amber has an anger management problem.  She'll have the next 25 years to think about it. Josh's father Patrick wrote a similar letter to the court, telling of the devastation caused by his death. Patrick too talked about the many calls he received from his son Josh, crying and unsure of what to do about his marriage to Amber. He told his father about the mental, emotional and physical abuse he was suffering from and how he couldn't get Amber to stop using drugs - even when she was pregnant.  By the way, one of the reasons Amber's bond was revoked while she was awaiting trial is because she failed numerous random urine tests, testing positive for THC. I tend to believe Patrick's account of Amber's drug use.


The most eerie and sad part of Patrick's letter was this.  At around 3:30PM on June 7, 2011 Josh called his father and told him he wanted to leave Amber. He said he couldn't take it anymore, he could no longer watch Amber's drug use - he was going to file for divorce and try to get custody of the baby when he was born. He needed a ride, his bags were packed and he was ready to leave her for good.  Patrick asked Josh where Amber was, he said she was in the bedroom. When he asked Josh if Amber knew he was leaving, he said that she was more interested in her need for drugs than whether he was leaving.  Patrick told his son that he didn't get off work until 5:30PM, Josh told his father that he couldn't wait that long. He needed to get out ASAP. Can you even imagine how badly his father Patrick feels that he didn't leave work immediately and go pick up Josh? There is no way anybody could have known what would happen. But to live with that knowledge has to be devastating for Josh's father Patrick. Just horrible. Reading this, knowing the circumstances make it harder to believe that Amber pushed Josh away in self defense, as she told her jury. It sounds to me like that jury got it right. 

This story and trial was not covered at all in the Bay Area.  What a horrible and sad story.  Josh Hilberling will never hold his baby boy, Levi - who was born on August 7th, just 2 months after Josh was killed. 

Jodi Arias Turns On Attorney Kirk Nurmi

It's no surprise to many of us who have followed the Jodi Arias murder trial that she has turned on attorney Kirk Nurmi in such a public manner. Nurmi has been unsuccessfully been trying to have himself removed as her attorney of record since the beginning of this trial - moving from the public defender's office to his own law practice, a move that enabled him to nearly double his hourly fee for representing the now convicted murderer.  It has been difficult to tell whether these moves to be removed from the case at various stages of the trial, and now in Arias' motion to essentially fire him as her attorney are for the purposes that she has stated, or just another tactic to buy herself more time, or to set up an "ineffective counsel" appellate issue. It's hard to say what's going on in the mind of Jodi Arias.

Not much has been disclosed about the behind closed doors settlement conference that occurred on October 24, 2013.  Closed to the public and to the media, no deals were made that would take the death penalty off the table. That would lead us to believe the penalty re-trial will go on, but when? I just checked the Maricopa County website's "minute entries", and there are no such entries that speak to the next scheduled court date or status hearing.  To my knowledge, Judge Sherry Stephens has yet to rule on the numerous outstanding motions that have been on the table since the mistrial was declared back in late May of this year. What's the hold up?  As I've said many times before, the judge has known about these motions for months - why hasn't she ruled? The main issues are where the trial will be held, if the jury will be sequestered and how and if juror social media accounts will be disclosed to the court.  Arias also wants the cameras in the courtroom limited if not banned.  There are a few other miscellaneous motions, but those are the biggies.

The sooner these motions are ruled on, the sooner they can get the jury questionnaires prepared and start bringing in potential jurors and get the ball rolling.  Personally, I think the trial should be held in the county where the crime occurred, Maricopa County. If they need to bus in jurors from another jurisdiction, so be it. It worked in the Casey Anthony trial, and I don't think even Anthony's attorneys can complain that she didn't receive a fair trial - in spite of the full on 3-ring media circus that rolled into town for that trial.  Arias' trial should be no different. I tried to find one of my previous posts, where I predicted "it's only a matter of time before Arias turns on her attorneys", but I didn't have the time to read through 100 postings on this trial. It's been said, and we all knew it would happen.  But all of this from the same woman who virtually begged the judge to keep Kirk Nurmi on her case, calling him the person who knows the case best - she wrote to the judge stating that removing Kirk Nurmi would be so detrimental to her right to a fair trial, and so they retained the newly self-employed criminal attorney Kirk Nurmi and paid him an extra $100/per  hour or whatever he was charging. Arias was convicted, and now she's blaming Kirk Nurmi and wants him removed as her attorney?

Thankfully all of these statements made by Arias, in writing, are preserved and on the record - it would be hard for her to make a case for ineffective counsel when Nurmi was her first choice, her go-to guy. He lost, plain and simple. Now Jodi Arias is publicly slamming him, saying that he hasn't gone to meet with her since her mistrial was declared and pointing out his character flaws. Arias has yet to turn on her other attorney, Jennifer Willmott - she praised Willmott for taking on the "brunt of the work" in her case. When will the re trial resume? If anybody knows when the next status hearing is, or knows what's coming next, please feel free to post your comment. It appears a new mitigation specialist is listed on this case, and her name is Sue Stodola. Her name has appeared on the court minute entries and other court documents on the Maricopa County Superior Court website for some time, so I decided to look her up to see what her background is.  What happened to Maria DeLaRosa?  All we know about her is that the court ordered her to be paid for her 100+ hours of work on this case.  Doesn't seem to most people who watched the anti-climatic end of the trial that much of a mitigation defense was put on, but that may have been the choice of Nurmi, Willmott, Arias or all three.

Susan Stodola, according to LinkedIn graduated from Northern Arizona University and the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  Her brief bio/resume:

August 2013 - Present:  Capital Mitigation Specialist - Susan Stodola Mitigation Services - all facets of mitigation work, family histories, life stories, hiring of mitigation experts and preparation of testimony.

January 2011 - April 2013:  Mitigation Specialist, Office of State Capital Post Conviction Defender - all facets of mitigation work, family and life histories, interviewing clients and family as well as other mitigation witnesses, hiring of mitigation experts.

August 2008 - January 2011:  Capital Mitigation Specialist, Maricopa County Public Defender - trial mitigation for non-capital crimes. Graduated to capital work and worked as a part of a defense team assigned to represent defendants charged with capital murder.

There you have it.  Maria DeLaRosa's LinkedIn profile shows her as a "self employed Capital Mitigation Specialist.  What happened with or to Maria DeLaRosa in relation to this case remains a mystery to me.  What I do know is that Jodi Arias continues to hawk her doodles and sketches on her website. Her latest offering, "Sailing at Sunset" is priced at $1,500.00 for the original, and she advertises 100 Limited Edition prints at a price of $39.00 each. If all were sold at her asking price, this would net Arias $5,400.00.  That would buy Arias a whole lot of commissary items. It seems outrageous that she is allowed to continue these activities.  The Sheriff's office knows that it's happening, yet nobody has even tried to stop it.

Chris Hegstrom, spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's office has publicly stated "She's not physically running a business from our jail", and "we can't stop her from talking on the phone or releasing property".  Seems like a colossal cop-out to me. I know they can't stop people from sending donations to fund her commissary account, but this IS a business she's running from their jail! No doubt about it, and the IRS should be notified and expect to receive a tax return for the monies earned by Arias' art sales, as well as the agency who collects state tax for the state of Arizona. She's making money, and she should at the very least be made to file returns and pay taxes on this money!  Seems like nobody at the jail or prosecutor's office is interested in tracking these activities, but I'm hoping the attorney representing the Alexander family is on it. I can't fault Jodi Arias for wanting to help her family with their travel costs during the trial, but this has gone far beyond that now, and IT IS A BUSINESS, regardless of what Chris Hegstrom states publicly.

I've said this before - Charles Manson makes all kinds of arts and crafts items from his jail cell, and guards and prison officials confiscate them so they don't end up on eBay or other online murder memorabilia websites. The prison has an entire collection of Manson's big black widow spiders, which he fashions from strands of hair and other fibers from sheets etc. that have been painted or dyed black. They probably have enough to start a Manson Museum there, all confiscated so Charlie doesn't make a dime off his notoriety. Why should Jodi Arias be any different? Both are convicted murderers.  OK I'll stop. It just gets to me, that she continues to do this so publicly and they know it's happening. It's wrong. What can we do? Can we put the IRS on notice, the state tax collector?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

High Rise Homicide - Amber Hilberling Murder Trial

On a Tuesday in June of 2011 in Tulsa Oklahoma, 23 year old Josh Hilberling fell to his death, crashing through the living room window of the 25th floor apartment he shared with his 19 year old pregnant wife, Amber Hilberling. Amber, 7 months pregnant with son Levi at the insisted to investigators that Josh's fall was an accident. While police initially viewed Amber as a witness to an accident or perhaps a suicide, the tide changed quickly after the police watched and listened in as Amber talked to grandmother Georgia,  in the interrogation room while at the police station. "I killed him", Amber said.

Witnesses at the University Club Towers high rise took photos of a distraught Amber cradling her husband's head to her chest after she rushed down the 17 floors to reach her husband's body - which had landed on the pavement of an 8 story parking garage below the high rise.  Josh died on impact.  First responders described her as confused, shocked and emotional and she didn't want to accept that he was dead. Officer Don Holloway arrived on the scene and talked to neighbors, and two witnesses outside the building who saw Josh fall from the 25th floor window.  One described Josh as "flailing and screaming, looking as if he was pedaling a bicycle", this would seem to confirm that he was alive and aware of what was happening to him as he helplessly fell to his death.  How terrifying those moments must have been for him.

A neighbor told police that he heard the two arguing before hearing a loud noise, which was the glass window breaking through.  That same neighbor provided what would turn out to be key testimony at Amber's trial.  He told the jury that he heard what sounded like running, immediately before the glass breaking, which prosecutors allege was Amber getting a running start to get some weight behind the push.  They believed the act was deliberate.  The 5'5 Amber would have had to had caught the much taller, heavier and stronger Josh off balance enough to have pushed him through that glass window. That deliberate act showed a reckless disregard for life, which equaled a second degree murder charge against Amber.

Amber met Josh at a Halloween party in 2011. Although the two seemed like a mismatch to most of their family and friends, the romance was quick and heavy. After Josh found out he was going to be stationed in Alaska with the Air Force, they headed to the courthouse and got married - they later had a reception with family and friends.  The honeymoon was short lived, however. Within months of moving to Alaska, cracks in the shaky foundation of their marriage began to surface as the two began to realize how different they really were.  Both sets of parents reported a number of late night calls, where each would confess about frequent fighting and general unhappiness.  Had they made a mistake getting married so quickly and while so young? After Josh was discharged from the Air Force, the pair moved back to Tulsa - and into Amber's mother's condo at the University Club Towers. When Amber found out she was pregnant, they tried to make the marriage work.  But it wasn't working. The fighting continued, and one fight got so heated that Amber reportedly hit Josh over the head with a lamp, which took 10 staples and 11 stitches to close the wound. He filed or a restraining order against his wife, but when neither party showed up for court the case was dropped.  That was a few weeks before Josh was killed.

Amber would later try to explain the restraining order, telling the jury that it was done in a move to make Josh's parents believe he was divorcing her - so they wouldn't take away his trust fund! Although the police didn't have much in the way of evidence at the apartment, what wasn't there was just as telling.  Near the window, considered the crime scene nothing was disrupted or out of place. No signs of a struggle, nothing pushed over or out of place.  This would become important at trial as for the first time since her arrest, Amber put forth a new explanation for Josh's fall - self defense.  She testified that they argued, and Josh grabbed her shoulders aggressively - she "pushed his chest", shoving him away from her. She was 7 months pregnant, she told the jury. This was the first time the State or anybody else had heard anything about self defense. Would the jury believe her?

The State brought in evidence and testimony about the glass used for the windows in the University Club Towers apartments.  It seems Amber and Josh had fought before, and Amber reportedly threw a laundry basket through the bedroom window.  The glass repairman said the glass used in the building should have been replaced long ago - it didn't belong in high rise apartments. This would seem to show that Amber knew, or should have known the glass on those windows was fragile and not strong.  Yet she pushed her husband towards it.  Another key piece of evidence at trial - photos of Josh's packed bags sitting next to the front door.  He was leaving Amber, and had called his father for a ride and was waiting for him when the fight began. Was Amber mad because he was leaving her?  In the end, the tape the State played of Amber's talk with her grandmother may have done her the most harm.  In what appeared to be an honest moment of complete clarity, she told her grandmother that Josh was "messing with the TV", and she pushed him and he tripped and lost his balance and hit the window and fell out. She says that her eyes met his in the moment before he fell to his death - a memory that will haunt her for the rest of her life.  She also says she rushed to the window in time to see his body hit the ground.

The State also brought in two jailhouse informants, or snitches - however you see this type of testimony.  They both claim that Amber joked about her husband's death, and the manner in which he died.  I don't know if that is true or not, but the jury seemed to agree that Amber was responsible for the death of her husband. They found her guilty of second degree murder and punctuated the verdict with a 25 year sentence. This case came to my attention last night while watching MSNBC's Lockup.  Amber Hilberling was at the Tulsa jail that was featured last night - the case was also featured earlier this year on Dateline. I don't know enough about the background of these two people to form an opinion on what may have really happened. What does seem clear is that she should have known that the window was dangerous, the glass was not thick enough and that seems reckless to me.  She will have 25 years to think about that.