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Jury Selection Begins March 17 - Jodi Arias Penalty Phase Re Trial

Jodi Arias' defense team lobbied for a delay before beginning her sentencing phase re trial and it looks like they what they wanted. It's hard to believe the re trial was originally supposed to begin in July of 2013!  After months of near silence out of the Maricopa County courtroom where attorneys and Judge Stephens have been meeting in closed door sessions, a date has finally been announced to begin jury selection and get this trial going again.

It looks like March 17th is the date folks, but this trial will be a lot different than trial #1 where we could watch it in real time as the testimony unfolded. There will be no live television coverage in the rematch, and it remains unclear how the media will handle covering the conclusion of one of the most sensational trials Arizona has seen.  I've got to believe that Jodi Arias herself will miss the cameras in the courtroom watching her every move.  As hard as Nurmi & Willmott pushed to ban live coverage, Jodi Arias remains in the public eye through her social media shout outs and the many websites she runs from the Estrella jail complex. How will she handle being just another criminal defendant in a courtroom?

You know this has to be a blow to her ego. She has become quite accustomed to the attention she has received, the good the bad and the ugly.  She seems oblivious to the fact that she is facing life in prison or a death sentence as she continues to peddle her wares and fund raise for her expected appeals.  It will be interesting to see Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott's demeanor when they get back to the courtroom.  Arias has publicly slammed attorney Kirk Nurmi and his treatment of her and his insensitivity towards her feelings.  We can already see the writing on the wall in that Arias will argue ineffective assistance of council, perhaps she forgot how hard she lobbied to keep Nurmi on her case when he went into private practice before the trial began?  I personally am looking forward to the resolution of this case once and for all.  

It's 2014 for God's sake - Travis Alexander would be 36 years old if he were still alive.  He might have been married with children by 2014 had he been given the opportunity to break away from Jodi Arias. There's no telling the things he may have accomplished in the past 6 years.  When I hear former Arias juror Diane Swartz talking about how certain jurors believed Jodi Arias had a difficult childhood and a not-so-great family life as a mitigating factor in favor of giving her life, it really makes me wonder why those same jurors don't feel for Travis' truly appalling and tragic childhood.  He didn't use his upbringing as a crutch or an excuse, instead he used it for motivation.  Why is that so hard to see?  How does Jodi's upbringing as a mitigating factor outweigh the aggravating circumstance of how absolutely brutal this murder was? How terrifying it must have been for Travis Alexander, who fought for his life and tried to escape Jodi on his hands and knees down that hallway - only to have his neck slashed and a gunshot to the face? I don't understand how anything about Jodi Arias' upbringing or how Travis may have treated her comes close to mitigating the method in which she butchered this man.

Add to the non-mitigation of the case the perjured testimony and the lies Arias told to law enforcement during the course of the investigation and I don't see how this isn't a death verdict unless you are just an anti death penalty juror. Judgement day for Ms. Arias is coming, and it will get a lot closer when March 17th rolls around.  So what does Juan Martinez have to do differently to get through to this jury?  He has to hammer home how absolutely brutal of a murder this was. He has to demonstrate that Travis was completely ambushed in that shower stall.  He has to drive home the fact that Jodi sentenced Travis to death and carried out his execution without the benefit of any type of trial. She knew what she was doing, and she brought the murder weapon with her. The idea that Travis would be enraged by the dropping of his camera is ridiculous - she destroyed his BMW and didn't body slam her for that. Travis needs to be humanized in that court room. He was trashed so badly during the first trial and if you recall the prosecution wrapped up their case fairly quick. The remaining months became the Jodi Show. Do not give her the same opportunity to let jurors develop a bond with her.

No doubt, Jodi Arias has been sitting in her jail cell fine tuning her story. Thanks to all of the books and magazines people are sending her she has probably studied her Psychology Today for information that could help her. She is cunning, and I believe she will do or say anything to keep herself off of Death Row - I think she actually can see herself walking out of that prison some day. The State of Arizona has the death penalty, to be used for the worst of the worst murders. For murders committed in a cruel, depraved or heinous manner. Whether or not you agree with the death penalty, those jurors have to follow the law. Is this a death penalty worthy murder? If not, what does a death penalty murder look like?

Garfield Allen Arrested After Cold Justice Heads To Altus

The premiere of Cold Justice aired last night, and the first case profiled for Season 2 has already netted an arrest warrant on a 13 year old cold case. This is great for TNT and producer Dick Wolf, but it's even better for the family of Tracy Allen.  27 year old Tracy Allen vanished in May of 2001, leaving her two young daughters with her next door neighbor while she went to talk to her ex husband Garland Allen. She was never seen alive again.  Garland Allen told friends and family various stories about what happened to Tracy the last night she was seen alive, but he basically said that Tracy left with a boyfriend and left her kids behind.  This is a story nobody really believed, but without evidence that a crime had been committed police had little to go on.

Garland Allen had a history of domestic abuse with Tracy, and people who knew Tracy say she'd never have left her daughters to be with another man. That May night in 2001, a neighbor watched Tracy's two small daughters Rainey and Stormy - when Tracy hadn't come home she took the kids to her house next door so they could sleep. Garland Allen showed up at 3:00AM to get the children and when the neighbor asked where Tracy was, he told her that their vehicle had gotten stuck in the mud and Tracy was taking a bath because she had gotten muddy. She didn't buy that story, so the next day she went next door to check on Tracy and she wasn't there. There were no signs that she had taken a bath or shower, and there were no muddy clothes or towels in the house. Her belongings were still there. It didn't look like she had planned on being gone for a long period of time.

Garland Allen picked up his kids around 3:00AM and took them to his mothers house, telling her that Tracy left with her boyfriend and left the kids behind. He took off for some period of time and when he returned he was disheveled and was acting strangely. I think Garland's mother knew in her heart that he had done something bad, but she was actually afraid of him too. She later told law enforcement that he had a look on his face that she had never seen before when he came back early that morning. For some reason, Tracy Allen was not even reported as missing until 2002.  For the next 12 years, Garland Allen told his two daughters that their mother had left them for another man - a black man.  Garland Allen was said to have been a racist, in addition to being a wife beater.  Tracy's friends say she had been dating a black man, but his identity was unknown to the police who later investigated the theory.

When the Cold Justice team rolled into Altus, they had no body, no crime scene and no evidence that a crime had even taken place.  All they had was a suspicious disappearance and an ex husband with a violent past and a whole lot of unanswered questions.  They interviewed family and friends of both Tracy and Garland. It quickly became apparent that Garland's story of what happened the night Tracy disappeared did not add up.  One witness told the police that shortly after Tracy vanished, Garland abruptly moved out of the mobile home he had been renting - when they went to clean up the place there was a large square of carpet that was missing from the center of the room.  Allen reportedly said "sorry about the mess, shit got out of hand", or something to that effect.  Working with local police, the team then began to try to determine who the unknown black man was that Tracy was reportedly dating. They had to find out who he was in order to rule him in or rule him out. They came up with a name, and although the man is now deceased they were able to verify he was in jail during the time Tracy vanished.  That ruled him out, it also proved that Garland's story of Tracy driving off with her boyfriend was a lie.

Tracy and Garland's daughters were interviewed two years after their mother's disappearance by the police. The interviews were tape recorded, and after some digging around they were able to get their hands on the tapes.  What 5 year old Rainey said on the tape blew the case wide open. She was asked a series of questions about her family.  When asked about mother, Rainey said that her mommy was rolled up in the carpet, with a towel around her head - and then she was put in the ditch.  When they asked her who rolled her mother up in the carpet, she said "daddy".  The tape was heartbreaking to hear, the honest words of a 5 year old girl who had obviously been witness to her mother's death at the hands of her father. The story was spot on, corroborated by the missing carpet at Garland's trailer - they were building a strong circumstantial case against Garland Allen.  The Cold Justice team headed to Texas where Garland, Rainey and Stormy were now living and under the ruse of asking him to come to the police station to retrieve some of his stolen property that had been recovered, they caught him completely off guard and he had no time to try and remember the story he had told Altus police in 2001.

When Garland Allen entered the police station in Texas, he was accompanied by his second ex-wife and his now teen aged daughter Rainey. Garland found himself face to face with Altus police detectives and a fresh round of questioning about the night Tracy disappeared. At first he stuck to his original story, that she had taken off and left the kids behind. When confronted with the question about the carpet that was removed, he tried to say he was just changing the carpet and didn't have time to remove it all. This sounded so completely ridiculous you could almost see the wheels turning in Garland's head while they were questioning him. He continued to deny having anything to do with Tracy's disappearance.  In another room at the station, police were talking to Rainey. They asked her if she knew what happened to her mother, she had been told for years that her mother basically chose another man over her kids. She seemed bitter towards her mom, very sad that Garland did this to his own daughters.

When they played the tape recording of that 2003 interview and she heard her own voice as a child, she seemed genuinely shocked at the content and what she had told the police about what happened to her mother. Had she blocked it all out over the years because it was too painful of a memory? Once she heard that tape, you could tell that her world would never be the same because she did love her father - the man who killed her mother and rolled her up in carpet and threw her in a ditch.  The Altus PD took their case to the DA and an arrest warrant was issued for Garland Paul Allen for second degree murder. When the police went to arrest Garland, they were too late - he was on the run. The police went to Garland's ex wife who was caring for Rainey and Stormy and Rainey was able to get her father on the phone. She told him the police were looking for him, he simply said "I know pumpkin". Rainey begged him to turn himself in, he insisted he didn't do anything to Tracy. Garland spoke to the police, who told him that if he turned himself in, they would let him visit with Rainey before they booked him. He said he'd be at the police station in an hour. He was a no-show.

Garland was eventually apprehended after a brief police chase. When detectives questioned him this time about what happened to Tracy he finally admitted that something happened the night she went missing. He told the detectives that they had been arguing and he pushed her and she fell down the front steps and hit her head. Why do killers always try to minimize their actions when they finally confess? It seems in more cases than not, they try to turn their murderous actions into an accident or self defense. In the end, Garland Allen led the police to Tracy's burial site. At least Tracy's mother has some closure in finally knowing what happened to her daughter and having her remains back. What a tragic story for these two daughters who lived with their mother's murderer for all of these years, and even worse - they were told that their mother basically abandoned them for another man. I can't think of a more hurtful lie.  I hope Garland Allen rots in jail for a very very long time. He thought he could just erase Tracy's existence and that nobody would miss her?  Think again.  Way to go Kelly, Yolanda, and detective Allen Brown. 

One of the things I really love about this show is how much these people seem to care about the work they are doing. It seems clear to me that Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McCleary aren't doing this show to become big stars or to launch their acting careers. They care about these murder victims. And there is something so humble and real about Kelly Siegler - in addition to being a ferocious former prosecutor, she shows a very human side on this show. In last night's episode, she revealed that she was a witness to domestic violence and abuse when she was growing up with her mother and an abusive stepfather.  She's a self-made success story and I really admire her for all she's accomplished and how much she seems to care about crime victims. You rock Kelly! Although it's unrealistic to think that every episode will nab a killer, it's a fascinating look into how a criminal investigation works and the problems unique in solving cold cases.

My Apologies for Yesterday's Offensive Photo

I wanted to apologize for the photo posted with yesterday's story about a large mural that appeared suddenly on Christmas Eve in NYC.  I...

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