Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jodi Arias: How Does The Appeal Process Work?

First a shout out to all my readers and commenters—my previous blog, Jodi Arias: Where's The Outrage? had almost a 50% increase in readers over other blogs I've posted in the last few months. I thank all of you who retweeted, commented, read and supported the effort. One request that I saw over and over again was a blog about the appeals process and how it will work in this particular case. This blog seeks to accommodate that wish.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and I'm not involved in the legal field. The following blog is not meant to give legal advice, merely to provide information and help unravel the mysteries of the appeal process. Each state has slightly different rules, and the information I provide it to give a general overview. For the most part, Arizona follows the guidelines of other states, and any substantial differences will be noted.

I'm going to start with a little background so we're all on the same page:

On April 13, 2015 Jodi Arias was sentenced to Life in Prison Without The Possibility of Parole after an approximately 6-month long sentencing trial. Previous to that, she was convicted in May 2013 of First Degree Murder with the special enhancement of Cruelty. That trial last approximately 5 1/2 months. In the end 24 people—2 juries of Jodi's peers found her guilty of 1st degree murder with the cruelty enhancement.  The first 12 found outright that a murder charge was appropriate and the sentencing jurors confirmed that by their votes (11 believed the death penalty was appropriate, therefore we have to assume they agreed with the  conviction, and the 1 juror who voted for Life had the right to nullify her vote, which she didn't do and therefore one has to assume that she felt the conviction was appropriate but the crime didn't rise to the level needed for a death sentence.

Keep that in mind going forward—Jodi has sat before 2 juries and a total of 24 people felt the facts of the case met the burden to convict her of 1st degree murder. 

So where do we start in talking about this case that has gone on for almost 7 years? Let's start by talking about what we're not going to talk about—

1. We're going to throw out the sentencing phase. It doesn't count. Why?

An appellant attorney has several options to appeal. One of the options is appealing the sentence. The lawyer can appeal by saying the sentence if far longer or harsher than similar cases and therefore is unfair. Jodi's sentence is the lesser of sentences for her conviction. There is no real option of Life with parole in the state of Arizona and so it would be a hollow victory to go through all the trouble to appeal something that likely will never change in that state. As Willmott helpfully pointed out when she asked the judge to consider 60 other cases that were similar in circumstances; a life sentence was appropriate for those, therefore she argued a life sentence was appropriate for Jodi. We now have it on record that the defense feels the sentence is appropriate—they can't back out of that now.

2. For the same reason we will throw out the penalty phase. The penalty phase again was a way to present a case to the jury to decide life or death, Jodi got life, and therefore she got the lesser sentence and there's really no lower sentence for that crime.

3. That leaves the main trial where all the evidence and witness were presented and the jury decided that a Murder 1 conviction was appropriate. This is where the appeals will be found, if any.

Let's now look at what the appeals process is about—the who's, what's where's and why's. Moving forward, I will refer to Jodi as the "appellent"—the appropriate title for her status:

In Arizona, the defense attorney has 20 days after the sentence has been rendered to file a Notice of Appeal on behalf of their client. Jennifer Willmott indicated that she would be working on this and filing it, (in the absence of Nurmi who has already pulled out of the case).

Within about 40 days after the Notice of Appeal is filed, Jodi's new appellate attorney will submit the Appellate Brief. This is a summary of why he believes the judgment was in error or illegal and this is where all of Nurmi's many motions will come into play. The attorney will enumerate each motion and explain why they feel it is in violation of Jodi's rights and further why her conviction needs to be changed in some fashion. Now you see why Nurmi was filing all those ridiculous motions—perhaps each one individually wasn't worth anything, but taken as a whole, the hope is that they will be overwhelmingly show an imperative to change the conviction.

The appellant has a wide variety of material to chose from for the basis of their appeal—starting at the pre-trial conferences when evidence and witnesses were discussed and either accepted or rejected. The appellant can argue that evidence or witnesses they required was somehow barred from going forward and it was to the appellant's detriment.

The prosecutor's office will then have the opportunity to go over the Appellant Brief and respond to each issue with their reasons the court should uphold the original conviction.

After the prosecutor has submitted their counter-brief then the appeal is considered by a quorum of judges, not just one. The appeal is far different from a trial—there is no jury, no witnesses and no evidence. The judges (as few as three) consider the points brought up by the appellant and the counter-points brought up by the prosecution.They weigh the issues and determine if those issues didn't exist, would the appellant have been given the same verdict. If they believe the appellant was unfairly or illegally convicted or sentenced then they will seek to right that injustice.

 An appeal is not a "do-over". New evidence and witnesses are not brought in for consideration. The facts are not in dispute, the fairness and the legality of the judgement is. The question isn't whether the defendant committed the crime, but whether the judge made a mistake by allowing evidence in that it shouldn't have been, by a constitutional error, by a legal error or if the attorneys didn't do their job.

Every defendant convicted of a felony has the right to appeal their conviction, the sentence or both. Let's face it, few people feel they deserve the punishment they are given—but that doesn't mean they have a basis to appeal.

There are three  basic failures in the system that allow for appeals—the court made a legal or constitutional  error (judge allowed in prejudicial evidence or didn't allow in crucial evidence or witnesses, for example) or the conviction was based evidence that doesn't suit the verdict (in other words the jury didn't have enough evidence to convict 1st degree murder, but may have only had enough to convict of 2nd degree manslaughter) and lastly, ineffective counsel.

1. Court error:

What mistakes in judgement did Stephens make that affected the verdict? She was thorough in accommodating most defense requests (even over-accomodating when she allowed the secret testimony that was later reversed). She allowed in pretty much everything the defense wanted in, again over-accomodating by allowing all the pedo and sex crap in. She even allowed Jodi's mitigation witnesses the option of submitting affidavits instead of attending open court and anonymous testifying.

Supporters will complain that Martinez was allowed to object to different things the defense wanted to get in and Stephens sustained those objections. All objections by either party have a legal basis (that's the statement that usually follows "objection, your Honor") and includes prejudice, assuming facts not in evidence, mis-stating testimony, and so on. Just because Martinez's objections are sustained, doesn't necessarily mean an error in law has been made.

Should an appeals attorney want to bring up any of these objections or anything the judge allowed in or didn't allow in—it's not enough to say "this was unfair" but he has to prove that the ruling was illegal or unfair (according to legal rules) AND that the jury would have found a different verdict had it been allowed. This is a huge undertaking and if there was anything that was obvious, we would have already been talking about it.

2. The evidence falls short of the conviction (i.e., there wasn't enough evidence for a Murder 1 conviction):

There was more than enough evidence to show that this was a cruel and premeditated murder. Jodi did herself the biggest disservice when she made the statement that she now remembers why she slit Travis's throat and then asks the court to believe that a man who had been shot in the head, stabbed in the heart and then stabbed over a dozen times in the back, and then over a dozen times more—that that man was still such a threat that she had to slash his throat. If any juror had a thought that maybe she's not as bad as all that–that thought was dashed when Jodi made that statement moments after Martinez revealed that Travis's family hoped beyond hope that he was already dead when the terror of that moment went down. I can't imagine anyone with a brain in their head believing Jodi was in mortal danger when she had no wounds compared to Travis's many mortal wounds.

This is where Jodi's attorneys will likely spend a lot of time. While supporters and fans are sure that this will be a clean sweep for Jodi, they discount that it will be an uphill battle to convince at least 3 judges that the evidence doesn't support a 1st degree murder conviction.

Remember a few paragraphs back when I mentioned the 24 community members who served on the jury who felt that Jodi not only committed the crime she was charged with, but that the majority believed she deserved to die for it? Well judges will take that into consideration too. If there was a 50-50 split between Murder 1 and Murder 2, a savvy appellant attorney might be able to make a case that there was so much misunderstood evidence or even misunderstood jury instructions that the court should err on the side on caution and in the interest of justice argue for a Murder 2 conviction. That didn't happen here. It was unanimous that the evidence supporters a Murder 1 conviction.

But what about Flores and Horn and all the nonsense about gunshot-first, gunshot-last? That makes the appeal a shoe-in, right? Jodi will be out by the weekend!

One of the jury instructions is that jurors are allowed to accept or reject all or some portion of testimony by any witness. In other words, the law says "if you believe a witness is lying or for some reason not creditable, it's left to your discretion what testimony you will accept from that witness. You can reject their whole testimony, you are under no obligation to consider any of it." An appeals panel will consider if the juror's followed the instruction or not. If testimony is confusing, jurors will reject it and find other testimony that is more clear and credible.

But the gas cans! The gas cans were a red herring and the jury convicted Jodi because she wanted to be safe in the desert and anyway she returned the gas can and I once returned a sweater at Walmart without a receipt....does that mean I'll spend the rest of my life in Perryville?

Nope. If you didn't understand the importance of the gas cans, that's on you. If juror's didn't understand the importance of the gas cans, they can disregard the testimony. This case was not made on gas cans (sorry Geebee).

If the appellate attorney wants to allege Flores/Horn lied on the stand, first they would have to prove that allegation in the Appellant Brief. Then they would have to prove that if it was a lie, that it was a lie that was absolutely key in the jury finding Jodi guilty, and that had there not been a lie or a confusion, that the jury would have convicted Jodi of a lesser charge, if at all. The appellant team will have to first hire a medical expert to review all of Dr. Horn's findings, and then refute them and then the appellant team will have to prove had the jury known the gun shot was first that they would have found her innocent or not guilty of Murder 1.  Flores/Horn was a very small point. I don't even agree that the gunshot was last, but it's not crucial to me believing that Jodi premeditated Travis's murder. To me, there is far more evidence that supports Murder 1, then not. You'd be hard pressed if you empaneled 10 more juries to find any one of them to come back with a different verdict—the shear volume of just the stabs wounds and that slit throat seal the deal for most—couple that with just Jodi's testimony and few of us need anymore to come up with Murder 1.

But surely the jury was unduely and illegally influenced because one of Travis's sister's was rolling her eyes when Jodi was on the stand—that's testifying and she should have been cross-examined for all her eye rolling! It can also be considered 'tampering with the jury', right?

No body cares that the victim family was rolling their eyes. No one. First of all the jury was more intent on looking at Jodi while she was on the stand and were far enough away that they weren't looking at the gallery the whole time. Second, the jury expects the victim's family to dispute the defendant's story. No one saw someone rolling their eyes and thought 'omg she doesn't believe Jodi, therefore I won't believe Jodi and I'm going to make sure she dies for it".

But this isn't about refuting the evidence, it's about challenging the law—so gas cans, Travis's computer and other issues the defense felt proved Jodi's story, won't work unless there was a shortcoming from a legal standpoint. The fact is, the jury spoke unanimously when they said they simply didn't believe anything out of Jodi's mouth, or that they were so unsure of what to believe, they discounted all or part of it. Nothing at all illegal there. Nothing. Nothing illegal means nothing appeal-able. Just because the defense is now playing Monday morning quarterback and rethinking their strategy doesn't mean they get to wipe the slate clean and start over.

At the end of the day, throughout the appeals process, the burden of proving the legalities of the case shifts from the prosecution to the appellant. The appellant has to prove that any offenses they can prove as illegal would have also resulted in a different conviction. That's a tall order. the judging panel will use the 'reasonable man' standard to guide their judgement and they have enough evidence that the jury exercised the reasonable man standard throughout their deliberations.

3. Ineffective counsel: 

Ain't gonna happen.Nurmi put on a vigorous defense. Jodi admitted in her motion to the judge that Nurmi had tried visiting her on two occasions and she denied his visits. She whined that he wasn't sensitive to her feelings. She felt he put his secretary up to hanging up on her (how would she know that unless the secretary told her?). Nurmi is under no obligation to babysit and pacify his clients—he doesn't have the time or inclination to act as their therapists.  As Willmott stated in her interview, criminal defendants are often "difficult or challenging". Many have some level of mental illness or personality disorder and are counter-productive to their own defense. Nurmi can't be expected to bend over backwards for Jodi's every whim—he knows the best way to approach her case, and if she doesn't like it and stops being cooperative, the only recourse is to try to remove himself from the case. Stephens considered Nurmi's many motions to be removed and she rightfully kept him on—she recognized that Jodi was frustrated in her attempts to manipulate Nurmi and she knew that it wasn't going to matter what attorney she had—it would just  push back the trial further.

It is extraordinarily difficult to appeal based on ineffective counsel. The appellant basically has to prove that a jury would have decided their case completely differently had a more effective attorney tried the case.  The facts of Jodi's case convictd her, there was nothing Nurmi could have done differently to alter the outcome. The evidence would have had to be substantial in Jodi's favor that she didn't commit the crime, and that her attorneys didn't present her case properly. Her attorneys were at a huge disadvantage because there was so much evidence that proved she did it, it was hard to argue against it—that's why all the pedo and porn red herrings. They hoped to show that Jodi was telling the truth about the porn, so then they could say 'ergo, Jodi was telling the truth about everything'. Telling the truth about one point, doesn't mean you're telling the truth about everything. The jury would still have had her credibility to weigh—the credibility they witnessed on the stand.

The weak link of Jodi's defense, in my opinion, was her mitigation specialist. It could be her mitigation specialist did all she could to find mitigators, and there's wasn't any to be found and therefore it's not her fault Jodi had no mitigation witnesses who could vouch for her. But would it have mattered anyway?

One of the challenges of this case is that it's languished for almost 7 years and there has been a lot of motions, and trial docs and evidence that Jodi's appellant attorney will have to sift through to find the legal issues to appeal. Nurmi filed motions for every little thing, so at least the new attorney will have a journal, so to speak of issues Nurmi was concerned about. Most of those motions were rejected by Stephens and the appellant attorneys will have to consider if they're worthy of being considered. One of Nurmi's motion was about Juan Martinez signing autographs out front. Stephens already found that no jurors saw it, therefore she denied it and therefore a higher court will also.

So what happens if the appellant team finds some legal loophole that they can work in their favor?

The appellant judges will decide if the loophole rises to the level of being instrumental to the verdict. If it does they send it back to the trial judge with recommendations on mitigating the errors. That mitigation might involve sentencing her to a lesser degree (Live With Parole) or re-trying the whole thing. The panel will only require a re-trial if they believe the illegalities have been so egregious that the appellant would be best served by re-trying the case.

What??? Retrying the case, what does that even mean? Isn't that double-jeopardy?

Double-jeopardy means the defendant was re-tried to get a higher conviction. Jodi's trial could be re-tried but the new jury would not consider the death penalty as a punishment because that's forever been taken off the table. They could come back with the exact same verdict and the exact same punishment, but it can't be greater than what she already has. So, if Jodi was actually convicted of Murder 2 and sentenced to 12 years and she appealed and the case was retried, the jury would be told to only consider a Murder 2 or lower conviction and a 12-year or lesser sentence. No matter what the evidence showed, they couldn't convict her of Murder 1. If Jodi's case goes to retrial—she wouldn't be any worse off than she is now.

Will she get a re-trial?

Well we've all seen Nurmi's motions. His motions are the clues to what he believes are appeal-able legal offenses. Stephens ruled on every one of them and couldn't find any with merit. Martinez yelling at witnesses isn't going to set Jodi free. Jodi's friends and family not taking the stand is not going to set her free when they were given options to keep them anonymous. Stephens dotted every i and crossed every t trying to insure Jodi would have a fair trial. The appellant judges will consider those same motions and will review the supporting docs and evidence and will almost certainly side with Stephens.

If I was a betting man, I'd say no re-trial.

But she was over-charged!

Not according to the 24 people who found her guilty as charged. Over-charged won't fly when a dead man has 9 stab wounds in the middle of his back, a gunshot to the head and a slashed throat, and numerous defensive wounds and the aggressor has barely a scratch.

There are many people who believe it to be a crime of passion but Jodi's team refused to go there initially and argued for self-defense only. Nurmi was going for the all-in verdict, believing he could shoot a bunch of holes in the the Murder 1 theory by reasonable doubt, and then Jodi would have been acquitted and free. He bet the farm the jury would be dazzled by Samuels and LaViolette and his client would be walking free at this very moment.  At the last moment Nurmi ditched the self-defense and threw in the crime of passion (Murder 2) but it was too little, too late. The jury was already convinced of the cruelty and couldn't get their heads around a lesser conviction.

The jury had the choice of determining if this was a mere Murder 1 charge (premeditated) or a Murder 1 with special enhancement (especially cruel, being one of them) and they felt it was not only Murder 1, but Murder 1 with the enhancement. The enhancement made Jodi eligible for the death penalty. All jurors believed in the enhanced Murder 1 charge, but not all believed the death penalty was appropriate and several stopped short of giving her that punishment. They sent the message that Jodi was guilty as charged but there was something about her that mitigated the punishment.

Fine. Jodi will hire a Private Investigator and he'll prove the mystery shoe print belongs to the 'real' killer and he'll find the giant Tupperware box Travis was stored in for 5 days, and he'll find the woman with the stiletto heel, and he'll get to the bottom of why Travis's friends and roommates didn't report him missing....

Too late for all that, Cupcake. No new evidence is introduced on appeal—just legal errors. If Nurmi didn't write it up in a motion, you'll likely not see it at the appeals hearing. Those motions were Nurmi's way of putting the court on notice of illegalities in the proceedings. If he didn't file the motions, then he's looking at an ineffective counsel charge by his client. You can bet Nurmi covered his bases. The appellate attorney will go off of those motions and try to find something that he can grow into an appeal that has a snowball's chance in hell of sticking.

In the end, what the defendant thinks is unfair or illegal, may not pass the legal test of substantial enough to overturn her conviction. For every motion or unfair witness or testimony fans believe fated Jodi to Perryville for the rest of her life, you have to ask if any of those things had been different if it would have made a difference in the jury's mind.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jodi Arias: Where's The Outrage?

After 2 long years of trials and almost 7 years of hell, the Alexander family was finally able to sleep this week after learning the fate of the woman who killed their brother. For most people, it's the end of a long road that ended in relief. For some people though, there should be no relief, there should be no smiling faces and 'moving on'—those people should be showing outrage, and I don't see it.

Jodi Arias claims she was a battered woman who fought back against her attacker and through courage and fortitude managed to get the upper hand and kill him in self-defense. Jodi's family has stood behind that claim, as well as her supporters and fans. Yet, we don't see the outrage from her family and attorneys that we'd expect to see when an innocent abused woman is forced to give up her freedom and endure the rest of her days in the fiery pits of hell that is Perryville Prison.

Yet, over on Jodi support sites there is outrage, and there is hope that some way, some how, some day Jodi will be free. The dissonance between the two groups—supporters/fans vs.  family/defense team couldn't be greater.

The only thing worse than an innocent person going to prison for a crime they didn't commit is for that person to be killed for that crime. Jodi escaped a death sentence, but will live out her days hundreds of miles from her family and locked in a cement box in the Arizona desert—for most of us a death sentence would be a welcome relief over that living hell.

It seems apparent that Jodi's family and her defense team never really bought into the 'self-defense' story and we need look no further than both Sandy Arias's post-sentence interview and Jennifer Willmott's several interviews for clues that support that fact.

Let's look at a snippet of Sandy Arias's interview. Is this a mother whose daughter was beaten, battered, choked and attacked by a mad man intent on killing her? Sandy starts at 2:11:00

Sandy says:

You dream of you daughter becoming a mom, walking down the aisle as a bride. Jodi's never going to see that. That's very hard for me because I come from a big family... That's something that's probably the hardest for me. But I know she's going to be ok.

The hardest part of all of this is that Sandy won't see her daughter walk down the aisle? Is that something you expect an outraged mother to say? Is that something a mother who believes in her daughter's innocence would say? No. I'll tell you plain and simple, NO! Someone who believes their daughter is innocent and a victim of a corrupt system would say "I am outraged at how my daughter has been railroaded. No victim should ever have to endure the hell she's been in for the last 7 years! Where are her rights? I will fight to my dying day to right this wrong." Instead Sandy says

Jodi's going to move on, we're all going to move on. I'm just glad it's done and over with.

Sandy also says that she believes her daughter was abused, and she personally witnessed bruises on Jodi's arms and neck from Travis's abuse, along with Jodi's step-sister and several other people, and yet the defense refused to let her take the stand.

If true, wouldn't Sandy be saying that the defense team let Jodi down? That the defense team was remiss in their duties and she can't believe they allowed Jodi to take the fall? Instead Sandy is calm and relieved—happy to get back to California to enjoy her children and grand-children, and not concerned about the injustice she believes to has been done to her daughter.

If we back up though, and look at her mother's interview with Flores we see nothing in that interview that suggests she thought those bruises she now claims to have seen were associated with a reason her daughter might kill. As a matter of fact when Sandy hears of the murder, she automatically suspects Jodi, and confronts her. Jodi's father, Bill Arias, tells Flores that Jodi had been 'crazy' since at least the time she moved to Palm Desert and struggled to make her $3000 mortgage payments. He also thought she had killed Travis, and nothing in his words or demeanor suggest he thought she was a victim of abuse or circumstances.

So my question is: Why isn't Sandy Arias outraged and pleading with the community to help her right this injustice?

Then we move on to Jennifer Willmott. Willmott gave several interviews in the last few days, but the one of particular interest is the one with ABC15 Arizona. It's two parts:

Some highlights from the interview and then my thoughts follow:

Video 1:

2:30— The fog lifted. Willmott explains how Jodi's memory of slitting Travis's throat suddenly returned soon after testifying in 2013. This is very interesting to me because Dr. Samuels was very emphatic in his testimony that Jodi was in such a state of terror that the memories of the crime were never encoded in her brain, and therefore there were no memories and nothing to retrieve. At that point Willmott stressed, "so if the memories were never encoded, there would be nothing to remember" and he reiterated that if the memories don't encode they are not stored in the brain and so it's like they were never there—"there's no way to retrieve them".

Watch Willmott at 3:12 as she averts her gaze (a sign of deception) when she says "according to experts I've spoken to..." in regards to them saying the memories can come back. During the trial she tried to ensure the jury knew those memories would never come back because they were never stored in her brain.

Willmott goes on to talk about how the piece of info about Jodi remember slicing Travis's throat would have been brought out in the trial except Jodi stopped testifying. This piece of information was to bolster her assertion that Travis was a Superman, and even with a bullet in his head, a rapidly fatal stab to his heart, over a dozen stabs to his back, 5 defensive wounds to his hands, that he was still a mortal threat and she had to slash his throat to stop him.

3:56—Now it's getting good. The interviewer asks about Sandy's assertion the day before that she, along with her step-daughter and several friends had seen bruises on Jodi's arms and neck that they attributed to Travis and that the defense team refused to allow them to testify. Willmott denies that she knew of any family members seeing bruises and corrects the interviewer that it was only one friend of Jodi's who they could never find. Willmott seems honestly perplexed at this question and it's apparent she's telling the truth. That leaves one to wonder what Sandy was talking about, and how she got info that the defense team didn't want to use her testimony. Did Jodi tell her mother that, as a way to manipulate her? One would think something as important as evidence of abuse that at least 5 people witnessed wouldn't go unnoticed by her defense team, right?

10:04—The interviewer asks, "do you believe her" and Willmott gives a tight smile (a sign of deception) and says "about what?" Willmott is smart and she's been a defense attorney for a long time. She knows the value of a poker face and to chose her words carefully, because she understands the value of not only answering only the question asked, but not providing more information that could be assumed, but taken out of context. She is too careful when answering 'about what?" which implies that there's a lot she doesn't believe.

10:29— She says looking at the evidence of text messages, journals, etc and her psychological testing "I believe that she was involved in an abusive relationship". This is very telling, her inclusion of the psychological testing as a variable. If you suffer from a paranoia disorder, for example, you are under the delusion that people are out to get you, and feel victimized, even though no one is out to get you—it's your faulty perception that makes you a victim, not the actions of another person. Similarly Willmott seems to be saying that it's Jodi's perception that she was a victim (remember she had very high psychopathic deviant, paranoia and schizophrenia scales on the MMPI-2) and that the few instances of Travis's anger and frustration made her believe she was being abused when the reality showed otherwise.

The last minute or so—Willmott talks about how horrible she thought living in Jodi's cell would be and how accepting of it Jodi was. What Willmott does not say is "I look at that cell, and I look at this young women who fought for her life and it's not the place for an innocent woman". She also talks about how happy she is to 'move on', and we don't hear "it's going to be hard for me to move on. In my private practice I'll be focusing on defending domestic violence victims and I feel like I've failed this innocent victim".

This is where supporters need to start asking questions. I'm not talking about the 'fans' who spin every word to benefit Jodi, but the people who truly believe Jodi was a victim of domestic abuse. If her own attorney who plans to focus on domestic violence clients is content to let a victim rot for the rest of her life in prison, what does that say about Jodi's innocence? Does it make more sense to you that if you believe the prosecution theory, that this was  premeditated murder and Jodi is a master manipulator, that now these things start making sense?

Video 2:

5:50—Willmott talks about how this case was more of a national case (via HLN) and not so much a local case, that it wasn't a big deal locally (it had the same attention on the local level as other local cases).  This confirms my theory from the get-go that other than HLN, this wasn't a big deal. I don't watch HLN and didn't hear about the case until the beginning of March 2013 and that was because of Twitter. I live close enough to Arizona that you would think that it would be a well-known case, but I know of probably a handful of people in my social circle who followed the case, and if I were to do a random poll of 25 friends, perhaps only 1 or 2 would know what I was referring to. Because HLN coverage was so extensive, it give people the faulty believe that everyone knows about it and everyone's talking about it—and that's simply not true.

8:00—Regarding the question if Jodi is remorseful. Willmott immediately says that she is, and then does the tight smile and says 'but she just can't show it'. Remorseful people can show their remorse. What the interviewer should have asked is 'if Jodi remorseful about planning and executing Travis" because of course Jodi is remorseful, she's remorseful about being caught, remorseful about having to pay for the crime—but is she remorseful about killing Travis because she deprived him of his life and caused him to suffer before he died? She has actually said the opposite—that she had to kill him in order for her to survive—so no she isn't remorseful she 'had' to kill him.

8:40— Admits that Jodi standing on her head and singing to herself "well, that's crazy kind of stuff to do"

10:40 - 11:35—The interviewer asks what drives Willmott to represent Jodi—is it her passion for Jodi's circumstances or the case itself. Willmott says it's the case. She says she doesn't believe the case should have been first degree (she said in a prior interview that she "feels this has always been a 2nd degree case". What about SELF-DEFENSE???? Willmott continues to say that this was a 2nd degree murder case, and hasn't once said it was a self-defense case. Attorneys view cases differently than lay people—they look at what the evidence bears out and in the eyes of a defense attorney they're looking at the very least the evidence bears. To Willmott, the evidence for this case shows a much higher crime than self-defense. Self-defense is not a crime and had Willmott thought there was evidence of self-defense she would have championed for Jodi, not said 'the evidence shows this was 2nd degree'. Because even a first degree case could have only enough evidence to support a 2nd degree conviction. Had Jodi's hand print, DNA, hair and photos not been there, that would have certainly supported a 2nd degree case—yet the jury was unanimous that the evidence showed a 1st degree case with an enhancement of cruelty. Defense attorney look at evidence to give them clues to how to approach a case, and Willmott admits that Jodi's case had the evidence to support a 2nd degree conviction. Jodi's first attorney Victoria Washington thought the case should have been defended as a "crime of passion" —clearly even her own attorneys have felt all along that this wasn't a self-defense case and was an actual murder.

Let me say that again, Jennifer Willmott thinks Jodi Arias is guilty of murder. She does not believe Jodi's story of self-defense. Jodi's first attorney thinks Jodi was guilty of murder, she didn't believe the story of self-defense. So I have to ask fans who insist that this was self-defense, how they come to that conclusion when two people who know so much more about the case and the legalities and how ARE biased for Jodi, still say it's murder?

13:05—The interviewer asks if Willmott considers the life sentence without possibility of parole, a win or a loss:

For me, it was a mix, because I really wanted 2nd degree, but in the end once it was 1st degree, it's all about life or death. So for us, it was very much a win for her to get life.

Of all statements that have come out in the last 7 years about this case—this one is perhaps the most real sentiments. Jodi's own attorney never thought this was a self-defense case. She states right there that the evidence to her, showed 2nd degree murder at the most . Murder, not self-defense. Jennifer Willmott believed Jodi Arias committed the crime of murder.

Willmott was never fighting for self-defense, she was fighting for Murder 2 and fighting against Murder 1. In attorney-speak that means she felt she could convince a jury that Jodi committed Murder 2 and to throw doubt on Murder 1.

Back in 2013 I blogged about the 2nd degree murder plea Jodi's team submitted that was subsequently rejected by the prosecutor's office. I asked the question why her attorneys would settle by pleading "up" from self-defense instead of holding on to the reins of self-defense or pleading down. Defense attorneys NEVER plead up a case. It's just not done. If they felt Jodi was a victim of domestic violence and killed in self-defense they would never be content with Jodi spending 10-20 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit. They would be considered the worst lawyers in the world and the case would surely be over-turned on their incompetence.

Defense attorney always plead DOWN. Always, without fail. They see a Murder 1 case, but feel they can convince a jury that it's a Murder 2 case by injecting reasonable doubt and discrediting the prosecutor's witnesses and evidence. That's how it works my friends.

What defense attorney thinks it's " a win" for their innocent victim client to get natural life with no possibility of parole? There isn't one. Jennifer Willmott is a lot of things but she is not a bad attorney. She is smart and capable and was able to identify correctly that this crime was a murder, that Jodi was not a victim and that Jodi should be punished in prison for that crime. Supporters who have been confused have to remove the thought of Jodi self-defense claim, and then it all makes perfect sense.

13:18—Interviewer question: Are you happy that it's done?

Yes, very!  (Willmott's whole face lights up as she nods and smiles)...I'm just happy.

So what are our take-aways now that we heard it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak?

1. Jennifer Willmott believed all along this was at least a Murder 2 case, or that she could convince a jury that it was Murder 2

2. Jennifer Willmott does not believe Jodi Arias is an innocent victim  who was wrongly accused or wrongly convicted

3. Jennifer Willmott intends to "move on" and is happy the case is behind her. She gives no indication that she hopes Jodi wins an appeal or that Jodi even deserves anything less than what she got. She doesn't say anything about the tragedy that a young woman fighting for her life would be punished for the rest of her life for a crime she didn't commit and she doesn't hold out hope that some victim organization will rally for Jodi and her cause.

4. Willmott seems perplexed by Sandy Arias's claims that she knew about her witnessing bruises and failing to call her to the stand. That tells me that, just like the witness many of suspect of lying in his affidavit, that perhaps Jodi or some other source convinced Sandy that it would help Jodi if this narrative got out.

Is the reason Sandy and Willmott not outraged and both are ready to move on with their lives, because they both believe justice was served and Jodi is where she belongs?

I want to close with the horrific details Jodi expressed in her speech after becoming enraged at the Alexander siblings for telling her what was on their minds. For supporters who defend Jodi by claiming she has a right to defend herself, that's the wrong answer. For years Jodi has been trash-talking their brother with no evidence to support her claims. The family has the right to talk to Jodi directly and tell her and the world what they thought of those claims. In their victim impact statements they were highly edited and much of what they wanted to say had to be deleted because it would hurt Jodi's case. This will be the only time in their lives they could face their brother's killer and say exactly what's on their minds. They have that right.

Jodi had to endure listening to their speeches for about a half an hour, and for even that one half hour, that she knew was coming, she couldn't keep it together enough to have empathy or compassion for them. She couldn't keep it together enough to realize that she just had to take it—whether they were right, wrong or somewhere in the middle. She lashed out knowing she would hurt them, and if she didn't know that,  telling them their brother was alive and conscious, and therefore knew what was coming when that knife was plunged into his neck, that proves she's a sociopath. Only a sociopath would want to "clear up some lies" and at the same time hurt them with that final image.

Jodi had hoped to tell that story of Travis being alive during her testimony in 2014, but never got around to it because she chose not to reveal it in open court. Now we see why. She 'remembered' this one detail that Samuels was sure she would never remember, because in her mind it proved Travis to be a monster who was trying to kill Jodi to the very end.

Back in 2013 I blogged about my thought that at some point Jodi would 'remember' details of some of the more grisly aspects to make her look better. The slashing of the throat was the coup de grace in this killing and Jodi never could explain it. It made the killing look like the doings of a deranged monster and I knew she would have to do something to mitigate that image. Jodi thinks that by saying Travis continued to attack her and she was forced to do the most heinous of acts, that that will mitigate it and make her look less deranged.

But it doesn't—it makes Jodi look even more deranged because it's so unbelievable.

At the point Travis's throat was slashed he had already had a bullet pass through his head, into his brain and into his cheek (if we go with her story). He had a deep stab to the heart area that nicked the vena cava and would have instantly weakened him from blood loss. That wound alone would have incapacitated him as he would have felt all the physical symptoms of a man having a massive heart attack.

He had been stabbed in the back almost a dozen and a half times—9 of those wounds were in close formation and could have only been administered to a man who couldn't escape or fight back. The close formation tells us that he wasn't moving around much and so he was able to stab him over and over and over and over again in the same place. That happens when a man is on his hands and knees crawling away or stumbling down a hallway desperate to get to that door and the hope of saving his own life. He also had 5 defensive wounds that show he tried to fight off that knife coming at him, to no avail.

Jodi claims she had no wounds other than "a bump on my head and a cut on my finger". A man who is "attacking' her and "coming after me" leaves more that a bump and a cut. If the fight is that furious that you walk away unscathed, that means you had the power to walk away all along. How fast could Travis have been 'coming after me' when he was stabbed in the heart and was bleeding out with ever beat of his heart? Jodi couldn't get away from him with all that adrenaline flowing and no physical injuries that would prevent her escape?

In order for Jodi to slash Travis's throat, with one uninterrupted, unhesitating cut (according to the medical examiner) he would have to have been completely incapacitated, if not unconscious. You can't slash a living man's throat with that much carnage with one slash. He would have been fighting the whole time had he been conscious. If he was conscious and she was able to do that, it means he was completely incapacitated and unable to defend himself, which looks far worse for Jodi.

The evidence proves Travis was not fighting or attacking at the time of the slash. It proves Travis had to have been at the very least unconscious, if not already taking his last breaths. It proves Jodi Arias is a monster, but not because she slashed a dying man's throat, but because Jodi Arias will stop at nothing to hurt people to the core who she perceives are hurting her. A 'normal' person would have spared the family those horrific details, and this proves Jodi is a ticking time bomb who can't control herself for 5 minutes. If she could say such a thing to a family that is standing in front of her, sobbing their eyes out and telling her how much it hurts to have their brother dead, can you imagine what she could to do a man she hoped would marry her, and then find out he was moving on? Oh wait, we don't have to imagine it, because it already happened.

Travis suffered greatly during that 2 minutes, but he was spared those agonizing moments of feeling the knife plunge into his neck and knowing it would be his last. He didn't see Jodi standing over him with that knife. He didn't feel the blade enter his flesh. At that moment, Travis was gone.

At this moment Travis has peace.

RIP Travis Alexander

Justice Served

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jodi Arias: Is She Really A Psychopath?

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional in any field. The following blog is for conversational purposes only and to elicit ideas, discourse and thought. This blog reflects my opinions and interpretation of testimony and professional publications and should not be used for any other purpose than that stated in this disclaimer.

I have had a fascination with the Jodi Arias trial for the last 2 years. Part of my fascination is Jodi herself; while another aspect is the judicial system that favors the defendant's rights to such an extent that for some, it's difficult to understand how justice is ever served when criminals are not punished commensurate with their crime. While many believe the appropriate punishment for Jodi Arias was a death sentence, I don't support the death penalty and feel a life sentence without the possibility of parole is appropriate.

When we talk about punishment being commensurate with crime, we are also talking about defendant rights and the idea that defendants be held in judgement by a jury of their peers and that the information that is provided to that jury is factual and without unfair bias or prejudice and relates to their crime.

Throughout Jodi's trial we saw many motions and side-bars where her attorneys, Nurmi and Willmott, fought to exclude evidence that they felt was unfairly prejudicial to their client, and which could cause the jury to decide her guilt based on factors that had nothing to do with the actual crime of murder, but could shed unfavorable light on her character. Examples of prejudicial evidence would be Martinez's failed attempts to have Dr. Karp's report entered into evidence and presented to the jury because he wanted to show that Jodi had reported squeezing her cat Luna until the cat lost consciousness, and then repeating this behavior. While her treatment of Luna had nothing whatsoever to do with killing Travis, a jury might take that evidence of animal cruelty and decide it showed psychopathic tendencies and judge her character and later actions on that. The defense rationale is that just because she squeezed a cat into unconsciousness, doesn't mean she would also kill a man in cold blood. The incident with Luna was rightfully excluded from the evidence the jury considered, but for many of us trail viewers, it was just one piece in a very large puzzle that the jury was denied, and which showed Jodi's propensity for violence and abuse.

Another such exclusion was what I now believe was evidence of Jodi's psychopathy that was deemed too prejudicial for a jury to see or hear. Why would psychopathy be deemed too prejudicial? Because most people see psychopaths as monsters. We de-humanize them, because for all intents and purposes they lack the qualities of empathy, compassion and emotion that defines what it is to be human. If you don't share human qualities and you're a killer—that leaves only one category, and that's monster. We don't want to live among monsters, we want to feel protected from monsters just as we want to feel protected from sharks and alligators. If a shark or alligator kills a man in a particularly savage way—for most people the answer is to either lock up the animal, or kill it. For a jury to learn Jodi had psychopathic tendencies, would be to give them free rein in judging her behavior as 'monstrous' and to first convict her of murder with particularly cruel features, and then to kill her.  In fairness to Jodi's right to a fair trial, no evidence of her psychopathy could be disclosed. I believe if DeMarte had slipped up (I think Willmott was trying to get her to admit Jodi was a psychopath) Nurmi would have a good reason to ask for a mistrial, and perhaps win it right there, or win an easy appeal.

What makes me feel she's a psychopath? There's a lot of things, and much of it is in her general demeanor and behavior before, during and after the murder, and before, during and after her incarceration. There's a  lot there to suggest to the layperson that something is definitely not right with Jodi, and interviews with her family bears out a long history of such behavior.

I drew on the testimony of Dr. Samuels, Dr. DeMarte, Dr. Geffner, and Alyce LaViolette. I dismissed Samuels testimony for several reasons—

1. I believe he over-reported Jodi's alleged PTSD symptoms. Some of the things he counted towards the criteria were Jodi's happy thoughts of Travis as indicating "intrusive thoughts" and her inability to sleep in the loud environment of jail as indicating "sleep disturbances".

2. The PTSD diagnosis should have shown a high level of avoidance of 'triggers' that would tend to remind the victim of the crime—like purchasing a gun a couple weeks after the murder, desiring to visit Travis's house after the memorial service, and handling knives after the murder. We see no avoidance of major triggers at all in Jodi and Samuels simply stretched the truth on the minor criteria to make up for it.

3. The PTSD diagnosis was based on Jodi lying about the seminal event—she took the test based on her reaction to being a victim of a home invasion situation where Travis was killed. Samuels did not retest her knowing the results were based on this lie. It's not even a bear/tiger issue as the defense wants you to believe, it is as Martinez said, a "gopher" incident.

4. Samuels refused to administer the MMPI-2 which would have alerted him to evidence of Jodi's personality disorders. Instead we see he tested her for PTSD and tested her only to the extent he found "personality disorder, not defined". Any therapist worth his weight would have taken that PD, not defined diagnosis and tested further. Why didn't Samuels? Because he had to have suspected what he would find. He knew if he tested her and found psychopathy, he would be subject to cross examination on that point. If he doesn't give her the test that confirms it, then he can't be cross examined on results he doesn't have. Could he have been afraid of the validity scales in the MMPI-2 and their ability to gauge Jodi's truthfulness while taking the test and therefore show she was really a dangerous psychopath?

But Samuels isn't all bad, and I'll highlight the relevant portion of his testimony—Jodi had a personality disorder not defined. A personality disorder could certainly cover psychopathy, and would also show a cluster of disorders that would make more sense in regards to why and how she could murder Travis in such a cold-blooded manner.

I want to move on to DeMarte though because this is where things get interesting.

I have been researching the MMPI-2 test profile  that Willmott shared with the jury on April 18, 2013 (day 50). I have a screen shot that I've made more legible by virtue of naming all components and highlighting all the plot points. The yellow line is a guide line to distinguish the scale with the highest score.

Remember, I am not a doctor and this analysis is one that a lay person might conclude after listening to DeMarte's testimony.

Before I go further I want to share two data points that Willmott and Nurmi made a huge to-do over:

1. Willmott got very snarky with both DeMarte and the prosecution's sur-sur-rebuttal witness Dr. Jill Hayes because DeMarte administered a reading test to Jodi before administering the MMPI-2, and the IQ test. Willmott argued that it's obvious Jodi could read, because the experts read thousands of words of Jodi's writing in journals, emails and text. I have read on several sites dealing with the procedure for administering the test and one of the first things a tester must do is to administer a reading test. This tests not only reading ability, but more importantly comprehension. Test results that fall significantly outside of expected ranges can be assumed to be due to lack of reading comprehension. The IQ test fills a similar function, and is also factored in as a way of understanding anomalies. As it turns out, it will become very important later down the road when evaluating Jodi's scores to rule out reading comprehension as a component for ultra-high scores. So DeMarte followed standard operating procedure and any tester who wanted the most compressive results would have administered both tests. Don't know why Willmott made such a huge deal over this, was she trying to show DeMarte was padding her billable hours to the State?

2. In both the guilt phase and the penalty Nurmi attacked DeMarte's for referring to her work as a student as 'experience' that  she used in her professional credentials. According to an article put out by Golden Gate University Law Review V. 34, September 30, 2010, Murder and the MMPI-2: The Necessity of Knowledgeable Legal Professionals by Tracy O'Connor Pennuto p. 363. The context of this paragraph is the role of clinical psychologists (as opposed to psychiatrists)  as 'expert witnesses' in a murder case.

The seminal holding in this case for the psychological community was the determination that a psychologist is competent to "render an expert opinion based on his findings as to presence or absence of mental disease or defect" depending upon the "nature and extent of his knowledge" and "it does not depend on his claim to the title 'psychologist'". Thus, it is the psychologist's training that enables him or her to qualify as an expert, and not simply educational credentials. 
So Nurmi's incessant belittling of DeMarte's credentials while training hold no water. Her experience is said to encompass the whole of her training, not just her title.

Onwards and upward!

On to Jodi's MMPI-2 profile. You may want to open up a second page and have her test results in front you to make this easier.

On the left-hand side of the profile is the Validity Scales. The scales measure the reliability and consistency of the test-taker's responses. According to DeMarte's the validity scales for Jodi test confirm the test is valid. I won't spend anymore time on those.

The meat and potatoes of the MMPI-2 is the clinical scales on the right. I touched briefly  on these in a previous blog, but now I'm going to expand on my previous work, because I believe it's within these test results that the diagnosis "psychopathy" was removed from the table in terms of what the jury could learn about Jodi. Remember, Jodi defense team worked overtime to present Jodi in the best possible light while they tore Travis apart. Jodi was afforded this right as part of her right to a fair and impartial jury. A jury learning she was a psychopath might have reacted emotionally and served her a death penalty.

I believe Martinez presented the results of DeMarte's tests to the defense team and Nurmi freaked out and had them stricken from evidence before the trial even started—arguing it was too inflammatory and prejudicial. He was right, just because a person's a psychopath doesn't make them guilty of murder.

The MMPI-2 measures the following traits.

1. Hs—Hypochondriasis—concern with bodily symptoms
2. D — Depression—depressive symptoms
3. Hy—Hysteria—awareness of problems and vulnerabilities
4. Pd—Psychopathic Deviate—conflict, struggle, anger, respect for society's rules
5. MF—Masculinity/Feminity—stereotypical masculine or feminine interests/behaviors
6. Pa—Paranoia—Level of trust, suspiciousness. sensitivity
7. Pt—Psychasthenia—worry, anxiety, tension, doubts. obsessiveness
8. Sc—Schizophrenia—Odd thinking and social alienation
9. Ma—Hypomania—Level of excitability
0. Si—Social Introversion—People orientation

The scores of the entire MMPI-2 test are grouped into these categories and designated by a T-score. T-scores that exceed 65 are clinically significant. Furthermore, rather than refer to each trait by its initials or name, they are given a number from 1-0 and you'll see in a little while why that's significant.

I lucked out and found a great guide to understanding what these T-scores mean and what they tell a clinical psychologist about a person. The scales should not be read individually, but as one piece of a very complex puzzle that includes IQ, social-economic status, education, family history and so on and so forth.

Even with my simplified layman's perspective, I think we can start exploring some important questions about Jodi's personality and why it wasn't revealed during the trial. I think this will also shed some light on those unanswered questions about the weird vibe many of us get from her (including her own parents).

Data on analyzing clinical scales is from the Pepperdine University site (all references are attributed at the end of this blog):

Scale 1—Hypochodriases: JA score = 60>—Moderately High.  
Somatic concerns, sleep disturbance, lack energy, dissatisfied, demanding, complaining/whiny, cynical, pessimistic, unhappy, immature 
Scale 2—Depression: JA score =  85—Very High
Serious clinical depression, pessimistic/hopeless, preoccupied w/guilt,
death, suicide; feelings of unworthiness/inadequacy 
Scale 3—Histrionic: JA score = 80—Moderately High
Somatic symptoms, sleep disturabance, lack insight concerning causes of symptoms,
denial, demanding, immature, self-centered, suggestible, low energy, feel sad/anxious; physical complaints are way of getting attention, not necessarily worries about physical symptoms 
Scale 4—Psychopathic Deviate: JA score = 105—Very high.
I've included the Moderately High description because the Very High description of over 75 addresses men, and the lower level addresses women and is more descriptive over all. Anything over 75 is very high. Jodi is off the charts high.
Trouble w/law (women), use nonprescription drugs (men), family/marital probs, impulsive,
dissatisfied, angry/irritable/uncooperative (women), extroverted, superficial relationships, energetic, creative, rebellious toward authority, poor judgment, impatient; may feel bored, empty, depressed; unconventional, self-centered 

Externalizing – “I get a raw deal in life” 

Scale 5— Masculinity/Feminity: JA score = 45 — Normal for women
No interpretation. Within normal range.
Scale 6— Paranoia: JA score = 95 —Very High
I've included the Moderately High description here as well because it goes into more detail. Anything over 70 is Very High.

Consider paranoid psychosis, psychotic symptoms, disturbed thinking, delusions of persecution, ideas of reference
Think everyone working against them, even therapist; trust issues; hyperalertness – sensitivity; concerned about safety; argumentative, resistant, hostile/angry/resentful
Moderately High—
Paranoid predisposition, extremely sensitive, suspicious, angry/resentful, withdrawn,
grandiosity (center of others’ thoughts/behaviors), feel mistreated, blame others, hostile/argumentative, emotionally labile 

Scale 7—Psychasthenia: JA score = 75 —Very High

Extreme fear, anxiety, tension, disturbing thoughts, misconceptions, unable to
concentrate, depression, fear of losing mind, obsessive-compulsive symptoms (rituals, magical thinking), agitated 

Tendency to intellectualize, obsessive, ruminating, deemphasize rational thinking about problems 

Scale 8 — Schizophrenia: JA score = 90 —Very High
Consider schizophrenic dx, psychotic sx’s, social alienation/interpersonal difficulties, concentration difficulties, confused/disorganized thinking, unusual sensory experiences/delusions, physical health concerns, global dysphoric thoughts/concerns, turmoil, distress, overwhelmed, paralyzed, compromised judgment and impulse control, impaired contact w/reality
Problem-oriented focus, concrete; crisis oriented, stabilization/support, distress may motivate for therapy 
Scale 9 — Hypomania: JA score = 70< — Moderate

Active, extroverted, rebellious, energetic, creative, gregarious, seeks excitement,
Scale 0 —Social Introversion: JA score = 50> — Average

No interpretation. Within normal range. 
Out of 10 scales, Jodi's scores high to very high in 7 out of 10 categories. Further research reveals that therapists take the highest 2 or 3 scores (they refer to the scores by scaled number, not name) and list them in descending order  to come up with a "profile" number. In Jodi's case, her highest scores (in red), in descending order of test results are 468—Psychopathic Deviate, Paranoia and Schizophrenia.

Therapists often consult an interpretation manual, that defines what one could expect from particular profile numbers. I don't have a copy of that matrix, but I was able to get some insight with further reading.

I found two very interesting things regarding Jodi's profile number, so please bear with me.

Back on Day 50 of testimony, when Willmott threw Jodi's results on the big screen she questioned DeMarte about Jodi's very high 4 —the Psychopathic Deviate scale. Her question to DeMarte was "isn't it true you can also find a high 4 in battered women?" To which DeMarte admitted that you could, but she seemed to hold back and didn't want to concede that this would apply to Jodi. Willmott immediately removed the slide from the overhead projector and said no more about it. I thought that was very odd—why not continue with that line of questioning? Isn't the point to sculpt out a battered woman/abused woman profile for Jodi?

I Googled 468 and found an excellent article by Nancy S. Erickson called Use of the MMPI-2 in Child Custody Evaluations Involving Battered Women. In some studies it was found that women in abusive relationships scored high on Scales 4, 6 and 8 or some combination of 2 of them.

Herein lies the problem with lay people interpreting MMPI results. The same 468 profile that describes women coming out of abusive relationships also describes highly aggressive, even murderous personalities. The difference appears to be degree and history. An example would be a battered High 4 who was going through divorce and would naturally be distrustful and shut down emotionally due to her circumstances. The high 4 wouldn't necessarily have been her baseline before the trauma of abuse, but something she developed that over time will calm down from the acute level. Whereas the High 4 who had not been battered and had been that way since young adulthood and had it hardwired into their brain would not expect to improve over time and would exhibit chronic symptoms.

Does that make Jodi a battered woman? Was Willmott remiss in driving that point home? No. There's the little matter of degree and Jodi is about as high as one can get in each of those categories. If Willmott had pushed the issue, Martinez would have swooped in and done exactly what I've done here and broke it all down and then had DeMarte go over exactly what goes into the making of a battered woman (reactive due to abuse and endures as long as abuse endures) and what goes into your garden-variety murdering psychopath (personality and character deviate that never changes).

Erickson cites a study done by Egan where a mean scale was developed after testing 38 battered women and a control group of 34 non-battered women. The averages for the 468 profile are:

Battered women—73.1_74.4_69.4
Control group — 51.9_48.4_50.6

Jodi's scores were—10595_90

Even for a battered woman, Jodi's scores would be far beyond what should be expected. If she was truly battered, then one would have to surmise that there were other severe personality problems going on before the onset of abuse and her baseline scores were close to the battered women's group and the abuse put her over the top.

Willmott could not risk having it brought out that Jodi has always had an underlying severe psychopathy from long before she met Travis. One aspect of having such a high profile score is that the person is so out there that one  has to consider that any talk about abuse is a lie and part of the psychopathy, or if the person is abused that their psychopathy is drawing them towards abusive relationships and they encourage that behavior through some sick validation.

According to Erickson, battered women showed a lowering of key scores the farther removed they get from the abuse. By the time DeMarte had examined Jodi, it was 2010, two years after any relationship with Travis, therefore we would expect her numbers to go down. Erickson said that a way to measure if the high 4 is due to battering (reactive) that it should be expected that the test scores will go down. In one study several months after one woman left her batterer they found her T-scores in key profiles were significantly less after she was safe, than in the midst of the abuse. A reduction of 10-20% on each scale was found to occur in battered women after they left their abuser. Jodi was 2 years removed from Travis, so if she wants to attribute her high profile to his treatment of her, her scores would have had to have been off the charts to realize a 10-20% reduction in 2010.

The other interesting thing about 468 profiles is that one study found that the 468 profile was the code most often associated with their non-PTSD battered women not the PTSD battered women.

When I looked for the correlation between 468 and the criminal population—I found it all over the place. 468 is indicative of assaultive, dangerous and deadly activity in individuals who rape and murder. One would expect the higher the score, the more deadly the individual. Jodi peaks out in those categories. I was unable to find MMPI-2 summary profiles to compare with others in the criminal system. I think the value of such comparison would be a great way to gauge where Jodi is in relationship to other murderers/criminals and the type of crimes they committed. For example are her numbers as high as Angela Simpson's, or closer to Debra Milke's?

I think the shortcoming of the profiles is they don't afford you a 3-dimensional view. You get an idea of what a 468 is capable because you have the x- and y-axis info, but you really need the z-axis to determine where on the scale they fall. Are they a low 468 (all T-scores in the profile closer to the cut off of 75)—capable of masterminding a murderous plot but not able to carry out the plan, or a high 468 (all T-scores beyond say 90) where the person not only masterminds the murderious plot, but then manipulates others into carrying out their plans (Charles Manson).

In conclusion, I believe Jodi is a psychopath. I think the fact that her defense team couldn't use her MMPI to go for a battered women's syndrome is very telling. More telling is that DeMarte and Leonore Walker, the premiere expert on battered woman syndrome, said that Jodi does not meet the criteria for a battered woman, therefore we have to take from that that if Jodi's 468 profile is elevated it's due to her own severe psychopathy and nothing else. I don't think you can have such a high 468 and not have true psychopathy.

That bring us to the question—if Jodi has such highly elevated psychopathy profile scores does that means she shouldn't have been eligible for the death penalty because of mental illness? While Jodi is severely sick, she is not insane. That's the deal with psychopathy—you know something is wrong, hurtful, illegal or deadly, and you simply don't care. Jodi knew right from wrong—she chose wrong.

I invite my readers to spend some time researching the references I listed below—that I used throughout this blog. This is fascinating stuff and will perhaps give us all something to discuss in more depth.

The conversation will be on Facebook, hope to see you there!


Golden Gate Law Journal

Clinical Scales

MMPI and Battered Woman Syndrome

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jodi Arias: Forged Letters

Mesa, Arizona is blazing hot for much of the summer. Temperatures in the 90's and 100's and even 110's are common and June 2008 was no different. Every day the temperature dial ticked up another degree and every day Mesa, Arizona sweated it out—waiting for the relief of fall. But not the night of June 9, 2008. On June 9, 2008 a chill hovered over Mesa as residents learned of the death of a bright, popular, young Mormon who was slaughtered seemingly without reason or provocation in his own bathroom several days before.

The chill would hang over Mesa as Mesa Police Department detective Esteben Flores sought answers and his only response to reporters questions was that there was at least one monster on the loose, possibly two, maybe even three. Residents were on edge, no suspects were identified and no enemies revealed. Now when they woke up in a cold sweat it wasn't from the oppressive heat, it was from the fear that haunted their dreams of a person or persons lurking in the night.

For two years Mesa's only suspect denied her involvement, instead blaming two masked intruders who snuck in and killed the victim in cold blood. How could one not believe the sweet-faced, honey-voiced earnest young woman who proclaimed her innocence?

So Mesa slept fitfully and over time they would forget about the grisly murder but there were times late at night when a leaf would flutter outside a window or a storm cloud would cast a shadow across a doorway that they would hold their breath for just one moment and take mental inventory of exits and weapons and where the baby was...

Finally in 2010 Mesa could breath a sigh of relief and unlock their windows and unlatch their doors—the woman who once claimed intruders had killed the victim, was now admitting it was her and her alone—while Mesa mourned the tragic death, they cursed the woman who had held their emotional security hostage those long years.

For some people, their security would remain hostage. I speak of Chris and Sky Hughes and the recent revelation that while they were always sure of Jodi's involvement in the death of their best friend Travis, they would come to doubt their trust in his character and wonder if evil had touched their own family at his hands. Yesterday Court Chatter posted an excellent blog What Jodi Arias Didn't Want You To Know About The Forged Letter  that talks about the evil Jodi perpetrated when she forged the letters from Travis to her where he allegedly admitted to pedophilia and having sex with young boys—presumably the children of his friends.

For whatever length of time the Hughes believed those letters to be true, had to be the longest stretch of time in their lives. The one letter thus far made public names their own young son as one of Travis's intended victims.  As parents that must have destroyed them. Like most parents they would then rehash every conversation they ever had with Travis, think back to every time he had contact with their child, perhaps share with mutual friends the ugly accusations and therefore cause those friends to look at their children a little closer, talk to them a little softer and pray for them a little harder.

Chris and Sky Hughes were smart though, and while they took the accusations seriously at first (as anyone would under similar circumstances), they also could see the glaring flaws in the 'evidence' and soon realized that while Nurmi assured them the letters were substantiated and found to be 100% legit, they were in fact nothing of the sort, and he didn't have the evidence to prove his claims.

The ploy by Nurmi to trick Travis's best friends was one of the most under-handed moves he made in a trial that was full of under-handed moves. He wasn't showing compassion to Chris and Sky, he was trying to sabotage their testimony. The chances were in Nurmi's favor that telling the Hughes that the letter was authenticated would cool their affection for Travis to such an extent that they would consider testifying for the defense. Nurmi had pen in hand when he talked to Sky and was ready to take down every syllable of her response with the hopes she'd reveal something he could use against her—something like "oh my God, he was so close to my son and took him out for ice cream all the time, we just thought he was being a good friend, we didn't realize he was grooming him to be his next victim!" Right there she would have given Nurmi all the ammo he needed, "Mrs. Hughes is it true you told me that Travis took your son out for ice cream and you thought he was grooming him to be his next victim?" and poor Sky, who would be only limited to "yes" or "no" answers at Nurmi's directive would be forced to reply "Yes, but...." and Nurmi would say "thank you Mrs. Hughes, that's all". If you thought Travis's death broke her heart, Nurmi would have ensured it was shattered.

Jodi Arias fans claim the letter(s) are legit, they can't possibly be forgeries and they lay out just how sick Travis was. I beg to differ—they lay out just how sick Jodi was and is.

Several fans question why someone would go through so much trouble to forge 10 letters "who has that kind of time?" they want to know. Well, the only person I know who is an adult, who doesn't hold down a job of any sort, who is awoken at 7 in the morning and expected to be in her bed at 10 at night and has 15 waking hours where no one asks anything of her, where no demands are made of her and where she has nothing else to do and that person is Jodi. Jodi has all the time in the world to perfect her victim's writing and then write a confession letter that conveniently paints Travis to be one of the most hated types of people on earth—more hated than just a regular murderer like Jodi even.

Fans want to know where  Jodi would get samples of Travis's handwriting in jail. That's easy. Every inmate is allowed to keep their own legal files. Jodi's cell has been shown to contain boxes of manila envelopes which are presumably her legal paperwork. It is within that legal paperwork she can find the same evidence you and I now find online—Travis's journal entries and other writings. Jodi had them right there in her files.

I'm not a hand writing expert, but I am a writing expert. I have written 100's of thousands of words over my lifetime, probably millions. I have read far more though. When you write for as long and as much as I have, you see particular patterns in word usage and content. For me there are two voices in writing—one is the writing voice which is the more formalized way of communicating—most people write at a higher grade level than they speak. The other voice is our speaking voice and that's the more conversational tone you find in Facebook posts and blogs. Most of us are more comfortable at the conversational voice in writing—it's more approachable and personable and our 'real' voice can be heard—that's the voice our readers respond to.  The pedo letter is a strange amalgamation of both voices and when I read it out loud I hear neither Travis, nor a pedophile in the words—it's more like reading a badly composed fiction piece and doesn't 'sound' right to this writer's ear.

I read the Pedo Letter and so many things jumped out at me that were all wrong, so I thought I'd share them with you. I had intended to post excerpts of the letter here, but realize it's too easy to take them out of context so I'll refer to the Court Chatter blog where Cathy not only posts the letter, but a transcript.

1. The letter was dated January 21, 2007. While the letter states the date as 2007, Jodi claimed on the stand that the incident occurred a year later in 2008. Normally I would attribute the difference to the new year change, but Travis was a man who wrote daily. He wrote in his journal, he wrote daily affirmations, he wrote in his calendar and jotted down notes from his conversations with his business, church and social friends. I could see Travis mistakenly writing 2007 the first week of January, but it's a stretch to think this guy wrote the date almost daily for 21 days and then suddenly he reverts back a year.

2. I'd like my readers to do a little experiment—I want you to do this and trust me that it will make a lot more sense if you do it. I want you to grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. I want you to write a short confession note to someone you love. I want you to confess the very worst thing you've ever done. I want it to be sincere and from the heart.  You'll destroy it in a minute so don't worry about that. When you finish, take a look at the Pedo Letter. Now look at yours. I guarantee a few things will pop out at you, and as a writer, I've seen it a thousand times—the Pedo letter is fairly consistent in line quality, slant of letters, pressure, letter formation and letter size. Now look at your letter. I don't have to look at your letters to know exactly what I'd see. You may start our tentatively and your writing will show that. As you get into the heart of your confession your writing will most often get smaller as if you're trying to hide or minimize this horrible deed you did. Your letters will blend together in a subconscious desire to be illegible. If you started off the letter with a light stroke, by the time you get to your confession it will be dark and blunt and hurried—your anxiety, fear and anger will come right through the paper. We see none of that on the Pedo letter. The letter is almost flawless in how consistently it's written. The only person who could admit to raping little boys without any emotion coming through the writing has to either be a psycho/sociopath or someone writing fiction.  Hold on to that letter you wrote for just another minute.

3. The author of the letter doesn't beat around the bush—they get right to the full confession and it's a horrible gut-wrenching confession at that. The author comes clean—no defensiveness, no apologies, no excuses. Now look back at your letter. How many 'wiggle' words did you use as you confessed? How many apologies, excuses and minimizing did you do? Even as you took ownership of your bad deeds, I can guarantee that most people eased up on themselves—they didn't have the courage to be that honest, they couldn't stand to see their mis-deeds in black and white. It's human nature to be defensive, to blame a bad childhood or a bad upbringing for our transgressions. The author never wavers to his out and out guilt and rather than step back and minimize, he adds more and more horrific details—never defends himself, never blames others, he takes it all on himself.

4. You can throw your letter away now if you want and go back to the pedo letter. Let's look at that part about never blaming others for his crimes. In late May of 2008 Travis does blame Jodi for a litany of real and imagined crimes—he holds back nothing as he let's her have it. His anger, his rage and his frustration are palpable. The May 2008 texts are full of emotion and references to a long history with Jodi and the issues that brought him to the point of a breakdown. He shows more emotion in text messages than he does in a personal letter. Why? Just saying you want to kill yourself in a pedo letter isn't enough to convince anyone that there's emotion behind it. As a matter of fact the letter is so emotionless one would have to surmise that a true pedophile who was sorry for his crimes could never write something like that. There is absolutely no anguish in that letter. Anguish is far different from most of our daily emotions. It is a combination of hopelessness, deep-seated pain and a feeling of aloneness that when witnessed by those not even involved invariably brings them to tears of compassion. The widely circulated photos of Tanisha's reaction to the hung trial verdict is one example, the other would be of Steven giving his victim impact statement in the first trial. Anguish is so complex it can't be faked and it always triggers emotions in bystanders for how powerful it is.

Travis's May 2008 texts to Jodi were full of anguish.For most of us reading them, we were overcome with how powerful they were and how emotionally overwhelmed he was. There is no hint of anguish in that pedo letter. None whatsoever. How can that be? Unless it's a fictional account.

5. As I mentioned I've done a lot of writing—much of it non-fiction, but there have been times I've written fiction and I have to say it's not my favorite genre. Writing fiction that reads as realistic is very very hard. You have to try on emotions and circumstances and try to figure out what your character should feel and how they should communicate it. One thing every fiction writer encounters is word choice—how much do you reveal by your choice of words.

Travis's best friends were Chris and Sky Hughes. They were so close, one could safely say they were as close to family as one could get. Jodi on the other hand was on the outs with the Hughes as early as January 2007, and certainly by April 2007 when she was kicked out of their home, never to return. Because of Travis close relationship we'd expect to see him refer to the Hughes as Chris and Sky, where because of Jodi's emotional distance between her and Chris and Sky, she would likely refer to them as 'the Hughes" or something other than their familiar names. But look at that pedo letter where Travis is referring to Chris and Sky as "the Hughes"...why? It doesn't make sense.  I don't know the Hughes, and I refer to them by first names, after I've introduced them by full names. I use more familiar names because I like them and because I support them—that's what we do when we like people—we use their first names. When we don't like a person we try to distance ourselves by using last names or generic names, anything but the name their friends call them. You will never hear Juan Martinez refer to Jodi as 'Jodi' for that reason.

6. The convenient story arc in the pedo letter is something I would instruct beginning writers to forego because real people don't talk like that. I'm referring to how Travis pulls things out like the reason he wants Jodi to wear Spiderman underwear, and explaining small details in the midst of confessing the most horrible thing to confess in the world. What does he care to clarify why he prefers Spidey undies? Why isn't he explaining how he got to that point—perhaps blaming an early childhood sexual encounter that scared him? Isn't that what you expect out of a confession—a little back story to take the sting out and mitigate your own crimes?

7. Jodi claims that for Valentines day 2007 Travis sent her a package which included little boy's Spiderman underwear that were so small they didn't fit over her legs. That's an odd choice of undergarment because according to the pedo letter dated 3 weeks before, Travis comments that his Spiderman underwear fetish was due to his interest in young boys. If that was true when Jodi received those alleged underwear 3 weeks later, don't you think she would be disgusted, possibly throwing up at the implication? And then she claimed she actually wore them for sex and her only complaint was they were too small and really not her thing. If this is true, Jodi is by far the weakest, most despicable person alive next to a pedophile—there is little difference between a person who rapes children and a person who allows it to happen.

8. The pedo letter talks about Travis's alleged interest in the Hughes little boy. Jodi was spending massive amounts of time at the Hughes home, with and without Travis. Rather than take the Hughes aside and give them any kind of warning, Jodi is moaning about Travis not wanting to marry her and other silly grade school stuff. Is she that horrible of a person that she has a man confessing to her that he's interested in one little boy and he's raped other little boys, and she does NOTHING to warn the Hughes or at the very least keep Travis away from that child? Instead she continues using the Hughes home as her booty retreat and plans on meeting Travis there for amorous adventures within feet of the child he finds sexually irresistible.

If you're a Jodi fan or supporter and you've got this far and still believe Jodi, I have two questions—one is why? the other is 'do you normally associate with people with so little integrity and a non-existent moral compass?" No matter how 'nice' you think she is, you have to admit she would be considered an accessary to pedophilia and a downright rotten person. What is attractive about that?

9. Let's look again at the timeline on the day in question.

If we go with the stated date on the letter it was written on Sunday January 21, 2007. According to Jodi's testimony she had helped Travis with Christmas decorations earlier in the day, left and came back to the masturbation activity, and then there followed a flurry of frantic calls from Travis and then later he attended Family Home Meeting.

As just stated January 21, 2007 was a Sunday and we could expect Travis to have been in church that morning, instead Jodi stated on her day 21 testimony that he slept in.

Family Home Meeting occurs on Monday night, so this letter couldn't have been written on January 21, 2007.

Ok, let's go with the date being January 21, 2008 and assume a man who had been writing the date with the correct year for at least a couple of weeks up until that point had mis-printed the date. That day was a Monday and Travis and Jodi's texts from that day talk about Family Home Evening and exchanging the car. Their last texts are at 9:16 that evening and while Jodi wants to talk, Travis doesn't respond to her text until the next morning. Jodi also claimed that at some point she and Travis hooked up that night and had anal sex. But, by the next morning, she still hadn't exchanged cars with Travis (according to text messages on the 22nd) because he was still needing his car.

So if all of that is true, when did Travis write this letter and why? His closing statement is "just let me know when you're done reading this". This was something Jodi claimed she received in the mail. Travis allegedly wrote it Monday evening at some point after 9:20 pm and the time he and Jodi spent together, or after Jodi left his home after anal sex, where she neglected to change cars with him. So let's assume he wrote it after Jodi left his house because he certainly would have just handed it to her before or after sex, right? He pops in the mailbox on Tuesday January 22. That makes sense right? And the mail service being what it is, delivers it on or after Wednesday January 24—2 full days after the alleged incident. What's going on in that 2-day period where Travis is waiting for Jodi to respond to his confession?

As a matter of fact that closing statement "just let me know when you're done reading this" is more consistent with what one writes in an email, isn't it? He repeats that several times with an urgency that snail mail wouldn't afford him. There is an immediacy to his request and people with access to email would take the conversation there instead of waiting 2 days for a reply.

10. I have to question the veracity of a letter purportedly from a pedophile who has been caught for the very first time—how much would he admit, and wouldn't he minimize what Jodi saw, and not give her a fuller picture of what a monster he is? In this letter Travis confesses everything to "toys" in the attic to raping children, to his own insecurities as a husband to his fear of visiting the Hughes because of his budding attraction to their son. In 2008 their son (I won't name him) was around 5 or 6 that I recall from an interview. In the pedo letter it's stated "he's getting close to that age". Would a pedophile be that concerned with age if the child is already 5? Getting close it what, 7? Either he would be attracted to him now at 5 or he wouldn't be. I don't get it "close" is thought to be a year or so in my mind.

And this sentence sticks out as very odd in a letter about raping children—"it's true that kids can be annoying but I'm afraid to be left alone with them"? The last thing a pedophile thinks is that kids are annoying—pedophiles have an amazing capacity for patience with children which allows them to groom them and befriend them. We do know someone who thinks kids are annoying—Jodi. Jodi thought her younger siblings were annoying. She never bonded to Darryl's young son, and there's no evidence from a single source that says 'Jodi was amazing with kids..."

11. And this sentence towards the end of the letter, "I know this is evil, but this is not who I am, nor who I'm becoming". Does that sound familiar? Didn't someone we know make a statement almost verbatim about why she's not a liar ?(ironically enough). Isn't this in line with the thinking "My whole life shouldn't be defined by one mistake or 2 minutes of poor judgement"?

12. The letter is signed "TVA". Travis frequently signed his journal entries with his initials, as did Jodi. This letter wasn't a journal entry though and most people would forgo a convention they use for their journal and sign their true name, perhaps with a parting beg for forgiveness and a confirmation of their love. TVA—just enough to satisfy anyone who raises the question about who wrote it, but not enough for someone to say 'Travis always signed his journals TVA" even though one would expect he'd sign 'Travis".

The most glaring thing about this letter is the lack of remorse, the lack of begging for forgiveness and the absence of a desire to seek help—Travis constantly practiced bettering his life. His journal entries are rife with self-awareness and his own admonitions to himself on how to change negative thinking and behavior. Other than avoiding the Hughes, the letter says not one thing about the steps to becoming a better person in light of this horrific tendency. Wouldn't you expect him to say "for years I've tried to become a better person and this is one area I've never been able to change and I want to change so badly". Doesn't sound like the Travis we know, right?

In parting I want to say something about Chris and Sky Hughes. It is heartbreaking to see Jodi fans accuse them of murdering their best friend, and even more heartbreaking seeing the ugly things they have to say about their character, particularly when they claim the Hughes sold out their children's innocence by standing by Travis and publishing a book exalting him.

I don't believe for one minute that if the Hughes believed Travis was a pedophile that they would stand by him—Mormon or not. Who would do that, particularly if they had young children they believed him to be attracted to? We have all seen Sky Hughes on interviews—she is FIERCE! Do you think the same woman who would tell Travis she wouldn't let her own sister date him because he doesn't take dating seriously, would turn the other cheek if she thought he was attracted to her little boy? She threw Jodi out on her ear because Jodi was 'creepy', can you imagine what she would have done to Travis if she believed for a moment he would harm her child? Sky Hughes does not mess around with family—she would go all Mama Bear on your ass if you cross her. And if you think Chris Hughes would be any more gentle you're sadly mistaken—after Sky got through mopping the street with Travis, Chris would have a go at him. Make no mistake about that.  There is no gain for the Hughes to preserve Travis's memory. Sadly, a book about his many good qualities would sell far fewer copies than a tell-all book about the kind of man who would rape children.

The Hughes have stood by Travis not because they're good Mormons, not because they're banking on a payday selling a book about his many generosities, and not because they had a financial stake in his PrePaid Legal career 7 years ago. They have stood by Travis because they are good friends. That's it. No coverup, no payday, no secondary gain.