WASHINGTON May 8, 2013 – After five months in an Arizona courtroom, including listening to eighteen days of thoroughly ridiculous self-serving testimony from Arias herself, an Arizona jury pronounced Jodi Arias guilty of the first-degree murder of Travis Alexander.
Good for these jurors. America has seen other sensational criminal trials conclude with wrong results. The cases of OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony are prime examples. Despite orders from the presiding judge admonishing jurors to remove themselves from the world’s commentary (do not watch the news, do not read or post on Facebook, do not tweet, do not discuss with each other), I imagine there is a firm understanding by jurors in these cases that the world is watching, and commenting, daily, even hourly.
In the Simpson and Anthony cases, while the evidence of guilt was overwhelming, jurors got it wrong. The consensus is that the prosecution blew it in those cases. I agree, and I do not otherwise believe that jurors in those cases collectively decided to return not guilty verdicts because of real or imagined media or community pressure.
Nonetheless, I wonder what effects, if any, the over the top coverage may have had. Today, despite coverage ad nauseam, this jury displayed common sense and rendered a verdict that was supported by the facts.
During today’s appearance on America’s Radio News Network, before the verdict was in, I was asked by the host, Rachel Sutherland, if all of the discussion and testimony about Arias’ sex-capades would matter to the jury. I offered that I hoped not.
Rachel wanted to know if I thought the jury would be confused or redirected by the extensive defense focus on sex. Arias’ defense was that she acted in self-defense and that she was a long time sufferer of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from a long time demeaning sexual relationship with her victim.
Bull. I’m pleased the jury didn’t bite into that misdirected apple.
This case, like most murder cases, should have been, and thankfully was about deciding a few simple yes or no issues. Did Arias cause the death of Alexander? She admitted she did, on the third round of explanations. Recall first she claimed she was not there, and second she claimed two armed men attacked.
Next, was the killing intentional? The jury decided that shooting Alexander in the head and stabbing him about 30 times and slashing his throat did not comport with self-defense.
Finally, was the killing committed in self-defense?
Credibility is often the double-edged sword in these cases. Arias could have chosen to remain silent and force the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Watching this marathon makes clear that she wanted her moment in the sun, and thus would never have remained silent. Thus, her actions and words served to destroy her credibility, and any hope of a finding of self-defense.
One example, and only one, because citing all of them would consume volumes, points up her lack of credibility. Arias took photographs, including one depicting Alexander bleeding profusely on the floor, and she then deleted them. She then threw the camera into the washing machine. Police were able to recover the photos.
How do you square these actions? How do these actions comport with self-defense? Clearly, these were the actions of a calculated sadist covering up an unthinkable and intentional rampage.
Stage two of this case is next. The jury must decide if Arias acted in a cruel, heinous and depraved manner in considering her punishment. The jurors hold Arias’ life in their hands. Arizona has the death penalty and the prosecutors are seeking that end.
“Now the odds, I think shift somewhat in her favor, because it’s a very different thing to sentence someone to die than to convict them,” CNN senior legal analyst Jeffery Toobin said after the verdict was read.
I agree with Toobin that it is harder to sentence someone to death than to declare their guilt, but I disagree that the odds are now in Arias’ favor.
Prosecutors will now be allowed to present additional evidence (you ask, how could there possibly be more?) and jurors will decide whether Alexander’s death was caused in a cruel manner.
Jody Arias is the photo next to the definition of depraved. I do not believe this jury is going to vote for life in prison.
Now, we await the next sensational case. The women who escaped a decade of captivity in Cleveland probably will not capture our collective attention in such a grand manner. This will not be a murder trial, thankfully.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show, the featured legal analyst for America’s Radio News Network, heard in 165 markets nationwide, and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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