As the Jodi Arias criminal trial winds down, I have to go out on a limb and make my prediction.
I have tried a lot of cases and have a good sense of which way a criminal case will usually break. Figuring out the Jodi Arias case is compounded by the notoriety of the case and the media coverage (some might say obsession).
The trial has certainly been high-profile, reminding us of past cases like OJ Simpson, the Menendez Brothers, and Casey Anthony, where the case takes on a life of its own in the media. This is even more complicated in the Arias trial by the 24-hour news coverage of the trial and all of its twists and turns, along with the impact of social media. It is hard for the court to prevent the jury from exposure to the media or social media influence.
As a former prosecutor, it pains me to watch a criminal trial so poorly managed. It is not an accurate reflection of day-to-day criminal trials, and no matter what – the trial judge bears the responsibility for this chaos. Some commentators have suggested that she is forced to incur delays and defense requests for sidebars and other ridiculous delay tactics because this is a death penalty case and she has to bend over backwards to protect the record. That point is seriously misguided.
Plenty of trial judges have conducted death penalty cases in an efficient manner without losing control of the trial. Judge Stephens has demonstrated that she is in over her head and does not have the temperament nor the intellectual capability to run an efficient trial, most especially a death penalty trial.
While I have not observed the jury and its responses to the parties, I am sure the jury is on the side of the prosecutor Juan Martinez. Why? His work before the jury has been dedicated to reminding the jury to focus on the evidence and the truth of what occurred. Jodi Arias committed a brutal murder of Travis Alexander, leaving behind a gruesome crime scene.
From press reports, the jury is distracted or less attentive when the defense questions witnesses. This reflects the jury’s determination that defense questioning is not helpful to them in assessing the testimony of various witnesses. Defense questioning focuses on picayune and immaterial issues, with little regard to an overall theme or defense. It is incredible to watch such misleading and obviously ineffective questioning of witnesses. A good defense attorney knows how to make their points, weave together a defense, and do something even more effective – make your points and then sit down and move on.
One of the most important pieces of evidence – which surely reflects Arias’ premeditation – was her borrowing and purchase of gas cans for her trip from California to Mesa, Arizona where she murdered Travis Alexander. She did so with the obvious intent to avoid detection on her return trip after committing the murder. This is a fact which prosecutor Martinez has not devoted adequate time reminding the jury in cross-examination of the defense expert witnesses.
It was amazing to watch a very effective government rebuttal witness – Dr. Demarte – as she decimated the defense experts in two-days of testimony. She was an excellent witness, very well prepared and deft at handling inept defense questioning (I especially loved when she explained to defense counsel that there was no way for her to find out what Travis Alexander meant in his emails, texts and instant messages because he was dead).
The jury questioning of witnesses is a significant barometer of who they believe and who they do not believe – Jodia Arias, Dr. Samuels and LaViolette – were asked hundreds of questions, many of them hostile.
In the end, aside from the sheer brutality of the murder, the ineffective defense questioning of witnesses, and the sponsoring of completely incompetent “expert” witnesses, Dr. Samuels and LaViolette, the case will boil down to the defendant’s own credibility.
Given the series of lies surrounding Jodi Arias, her addiction to immature publicity ploys and her eighteen day “performance” on the witness stand, no reasonable juror will ever credit her self-defense story. Trust me – she is a borderline personality, a danger to society, and she will be convicted of first degree murder.
For Travis Alexander and his family, this result will be little consolation for the taking of his life. Justice may be served but their loss will always be with them.