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Arias Jury Dwindles After First Week of Penalty Retrial

Nurmi, Willmott & Arias
The penalty phase retrial of Jodi Arias is finally under way in the same Phoenix Arizona courthouse where the murder trial was held.  After more than a year of delays and numerous changes, in the end as expected Jodi Arias chose NOT to act as her own attorney.  It's hard to say whether the move to self represent was ever sincere, or just another attempt to manipulate the system into giving her more phone calls, jail visits and time out of her cell. She had to know she would be no match against someone like Prosecutor Juan Martinez, and I didn't ever really believe they would go toe to toe.  It could also be that Arias wanted Kirk Nurmi off the case so badly that the request to represent herself was in itself another form of manipulation - Arias always seems to be trying to pile on appellate issues to use down the road.

It's disappointing that we, the public don't get to view the hearing live and instead the news trickles down through the reporters who are in the courtroom but we will eventually get to see it once a verdict is handed down.  So far the most concerning thing I've heard is the loss of jurors in only the first week of what is expected to be a 2 month trial. The jury panel of 19 has already dwindled down to 16. There are 12 jurors and now only 4 alternates.  On the first day of the trial, a juror failed to show up and was excused due to an ongoing family emergency.  My question there would be why was this juror chosen if there was already an "ongoing" family emergency? Seems to me that would be a person you would excuse given the length of this trial.

Another juror was dismissed after she approached attorney Beth Karas, who she thought was Nancy Grace.  The juror reportedly was not wearing a "juror" badge, but Karas immediately reported the incident to the Judge and it was quickly handled with the dismissal of that juror. There was another juror incident that caused Thursday's court day to end abruptly - all I've heard is that "Juror #17" was asked to remain in the courtroom while the jury was led out and court was dismissed for the day. Is this headed for a mistrial already?
Kirk Nurmi (Trial #1)

Kirk Nurmi (Retrial)

I was surprised to see a photo of Kirk Nurmi this week from the trial.  In fact, I didn't recognize Nurmi at all.  He now has hair, slightly peppered with gray and he appears to have lost a significant amount of weight.  I haven't yet seen any photos of Jennifer Willmott but a photo of she and Jodi Arias shows Arias still has long dark hair but even she has some gray hair now. Kirk Nurmi's opening statement to the jury reportedly picked up right where he left off during the previous trial in that he's trying to paint Travis Alexander as a heartless and devious man who used Jodi Arias for sex and emotionally abused her.  Arias' parents are also in the line of fire as he told the jury how Jodi was abused at the hands of both parents as a child.  Doesn't this appear to conflict with the photos Arias showed the jury during the prior penalty phase?  Remember all the family photos of happy vacations and smiling people?  Didn't Jodi Arias ask the jury to spare her life "for them"?  She can't have it both ways, either they were horrible parents who abused her so badly that she is incapable of feeling empathy or Arias was a rebellious teenager who's parents attempted to discipline for her own good. Which of these options is more likely or believable?

Nurmi attacked "beloved Travis" for causing Arias to suffer extreme emotional distress by using her for sex and not wanting her to be something more significant in his life. Even if you believe them on this point, Jodi Arias wouldn't be the first woman in the world to be used for sex - and by the sound of the infamous sex tape she seemed to enjoy having sex with Travis as much as he enjoyed her.  She just was more emotionally invested in him than he was in her.  Is this really that uncommon in the world of relationships?  Thankfully not all who are "scorned" or feel used for sex take a knife and gun to their ex lovers!  Who is the victim here?  Clearly the Arias defense team wants this jury to view Jodi as the victim and Travis as a heartless womanizer who pushed her to the brink.  The jury composition is mostly female, I think this bodes well for the Prosecution but I could be wrong.  I think most people male or female can relate to relationship issues and we've all been hurt at one time or another.  It does not excuse the methodical planning and carrying out of a horrendous homicide or the cover up that followed.

During the first week of trial, the State's witnesses included Michael Melendez of the Mesa Police Department, Lead Detective Esteban Flores, Medical Examiner Dr. Kevin Horn and Nathan Mendes who is the former Detective for the Siskyou County Sheriff's Department who was involved in executing a search warrant at the home of Jodi Arias' grandparents house in Yreka, CA.  I'd imagine the testimony of Dr. Kevin Horn will be very important for both sides.  Prosecutor Juan Martinez needs to drive home just how painful Travis' death would have been, how much he suffered and how long he would have remained conscious during the relentless attack.  The defense wants the jury to believe that Jodi shot Travis first and only because he came after her - the self defense claim.  Again, even if you believe Travis was such a volatile person that he'd jump out of the shower and "body slam" Jodi for something as minor as dropping his camera the definition of self defense does not include stabbing somebody 30 times and nearly decapitating him before shooting him in the head. There is no spin the defense can put on the way Travis was butchered.  Jodi walked away unharmed.  The difference in their size and the lack of injuries to Jodi Arias versus the defense wounds to Travis' hands and the sheer number of injuries to his body tell you everything you need to know about the attack.

Jurors need to listen to the facts of the case and not forget exactly how injured Travis' body was. It's got to be a difficult decision whether to put another human being to death or not, but if you are chosen as a juror that is exactly what you are tasked with.  They need to listen to the facts and apply the law.  I personally don't know if there is any amount of mitigating factors that could justify killing someone in this manner.  Even if there was a trail of verifiable domestic abuse records with injuries that were photographed an documented, Jodi Arias drove to Mesa of her own free will.  Would she have done so if she were afraid of a volatile and violently abusive man?  Why put yourself in a position to be harmed if you have reason to be afraid?  Which brings me back to self-defense in general.  It allows you to defend yourself to the point where you are no longer in danger.  It doesn't give you a pass on murder, and the facts in evidence just do not support a "kill or be killed' scenario she is trying so desperately to paint.  Those facts haven't changed and they won't change, because they are facts!

It will be interesting to see if and how Juan Martinez ramps things up this time around.  During the original trial, there was so much evidence to convict Jodi Arias and the real task was showing the premeditation and planning that went into the killing.  This time, he needs to focus on the brutality of the murder and the suffering and absolute terror Travis must have felt as he was being stabbed over and over and over.  This was a prolonged attack, it can't be easy to stab someone that many times and to keep going in at least 3 different locations in that house.  It started in the shower, continued at the sink area and appears to have ended in the bedroom where his throat was cut with such force that it nearly decapitated him.  That's cruel and it's heinous. What mitigating factors can excuse that type of rage?  Good luck with that Mr. Nurmi.

There are also rumors swirling about Mitigation Specialist Maria de la Rosa being involved in the financial affairs of Jodi Arias - we know she was banned from the Maricopa County jail facility for some time for getting caught smuggling out artwork of Jodi Arias.  We know Arias has been selling everything from artwork to the eyeglasses she wore at trial and we know she's getting help from people on the outside.  It's surprising to me that a professional would jeopardize her career by assisting a convicted murderer auction off anything.  De la Rosa's name has allegedly been linked to a Paypal account associated with Arias.  Jodi Arias may be trying to outwit the Sheriff's Office, the taxpayers of Arizona and the IRS by not having accounts in her own name but a good forensic accountant could rip this stuff apart given a chance.  I sincerely hope they do just that, after the trial is over.  She has been blatantly selling things and asking for donations since she has been incarcerated.  All the while she claims to be indigent and not have enough money to even file for bankruptcy?  She also allegedly has been making "donations" to charitable entities - I don't know all the details around this but my guess is that she wants people to believe she cares about the less fortunate and she isn't just being a greedy opportunist cashing in on her 15 minutes of fame.

If this is true and de la Rosa has been assisting Arias in skirting the law and the rules of Maricopa County's jail, she should be severely sanctioned at the very least.  If my memory serves me, she was paid six figures for her work as the death penalty mitigation specialist for Jodi Arias.  Doesn't all of this reek of conflict of interest?  What will it take for the IRS and the Arizona State Tax people to get involved as Arias apparently is for all intents and purposes running a business from behind bars.  She wants a multi million dollar defense, she just wants YOU to pay for it.  And she set up that trust account for the public to donate towards her appeals! It's all disgraceful and distasteful to think that Jodi Arias has probably made more money behind bars than the last year she filed a tax return as a free woman. Perhaps the most disturbing "donation" I read about was one made in the memory of Travis Alexander - a $900.00 donation.  Probably anonymously made, or by one of Arias' people on the outside.

I don't know why this bothers me so much but it really does.  OK that's about it for now.  If anybody out there knows what happened to the juror that closed Thursday's court proceedings can you please comment?  Let's say a prayer that the jury pool remains where it is now and the trial will end with an actual sentence handed down by a jury and not the Judge.  Until next time, enjoy your weekend!

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