Specializing in the representation of crime victims, women and children.


By Wendy Murphy    Apr. 04, 2013


QUESTION #1: What do Jodi Arias and OJ Simpson NOT have in common?

ANSWER: OJ was found not guilty, but Arias will be convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

QUESTION #2: What is similar about the Arias and Simpson cases?

ANSWER: Read on.

Jodi-Arias-middle-fingerJodi Arias is on trial in Arizona for the execution style murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. In many ways a classic domestic violence homicide, Arias killed Alexander after he told her that their relationship was over and that he was taking another woman with him on vacation. Arias killed Travis Alexander for the same reason many people commit domestic homicides: “If I can’t have you, nobody can.”

The problem for the prosecution is, Arias doesn’t look like a monster and she’s been playing up her weak-female theme to the hilt by wearing costumes to court that make her look more like a twelve year-old librarian than a thirty-something vicious killer. Because she’s female, she’s also getting away with things no court would tolerate if she were a man and the victim was a woman.

For example, during her three weeks on the stand, in the midst of lying about nearly everything, she testified at length about the details of her sex life — and I mean DETAILS. It has nothing to do with why she slit Alexander’s throat, stabbed him 27 times in the back, chest and head, and shot him in the face (after he was dead) but the concept of relevancy doesn’t seem to matter in Arizona. Nor does it seem to bother the judge that jurors, and the general public, are being forced to listen to specifics about which parts of Arias’ body were penetrated, for how long, and whether she had an orgasm. In fact, we heard an audiotape of Arias experiencing sexual pleasure, and had to listen to her lies about Alexander masturbating to a picture of a male child. No evidence whatsoever was uncovered that Travis had ANY interest in children, and cops looked for it after they learned she would be making the crazy claim at trial. They found nothing.

None of this has any bearing on why Arias is on trial for murder, but her defense team surely thinks the sex stuff will help some of the jurors identify with and feel compassion for Arias, especially the heterosexual men on the jury who recoil from thoughts about pedophilia, thus might distance themselves from Travis, while feeling sexually stimulated by the pornographic testimony, thus feel sexually attracted to Jodi.

Whatever one thinks of the degrading effect on our legal system, there’s no question the pornographic testimony produced a rise in ratings for news channels covering the trial, not to mention a rise in certain male jurors’ body parts.

And that’s where the similarities between the OJ and Arias trials are obvious.

It’s not that we heard about OJ’s sex life, but both trials involve the shameless use of a tactic I call “acquittal by frenzy.” Otherwise known as “defense by dog and pony show,” (I have a whole chapter on this strategy in my book) it works something like this: The defense comes up with the most emotionally stimulating theme they can think of to distract the jury’s attention away from the real evidence, then they infect the courtroom and the court of public opinion with as much of the distracting nonsense as they can get away with, in the hope that everyone will look away from the damning proof of guilt.

The more powerful the prosecution’s case, the more stimulating the nonsense has to be – and OJ and Arias both faced a mountain of evidence against them.

To make matters worse, because Arias faces the death penalty, she’s getting more leeway than she might have if she’d only beaten Travis into a coma. Nothing in the law says the definition of relevancy changes in a death penalty case, but some judges don’t have the guts to say no – and they know the case will go on for years and years during all the appeals. Preventing even a speculative possibility of a case being reversed on appeal saves judicial resources by preventing a retrial, and in a case like Arias’, that has already dragged on for months and promises to go on for much longer, doing it all again is not an economically appealing option. Plus, the judge in Arias’ case knows the evidence is overwhelmingly strong for the prosecution, which means letting in a lot of silliness doesn’t hurt the government’s case.

Provocative irrelevancies do, however, hurt the rule of law itself, while taking our attention away from the brutality of the crime.

Which is why OJ’s team came up with the potent idea of racism as a distraction. No jury would pay attention to DNA and blood evidence that unequivocally proved the guy’s guilt when the evidence was presented amidst a fog of claims that OJ was a victim of racism, led by a detective who lied about using the “N-word.” Once the racism stink-bomb went off in the courtroom, the case was over.

Arias’ defense team took a page from OJ’s playbook, but because Arias is Mexican instead of black, they couldn’t exactly make the racism claim stick, so they turned to the next most – ahem – stimulating idea they could think of, and the whole trial became a dripping showcase of explicit porn.

Arias had to fabricate a self-defense theory to allow for maximum evidence of sexual activity to be admitted to explain why her over-kill of Travis Alexander was “reasonable.” Had she asserted a more appropriate defense of temporary insanity, instead, she would have been more restricted in her testimony about all the sex stuff because her “reasonableness” would not have been at issue.

No wonder the defense allowed eleven men to sit on the jury. If only one of them likes porn, there’s a chance he won’t vote for the death penalty because he may resist executing a woman willing to perform sex acts like a porn star.

The only hope for the victim’s family, and the only way our legal system retains a speck of legitimacy after this circus of a trial is over, is that the men on the jury will become so disgusted by Arias’ relentless lies and icy-cold demeanor on the stand, they won’t be swayed by tingly feelings in their underpants, but will be guided instead by logic in their brains, and by feelings of anger toward Arias for her sexualized attempts to manipulate them into sparing her life, just as she used sexualized attempts to manipulate Travis Alexander into marriage.

Jurors can forgive criminals who lie to law enforcement officials, and they can respect killers who don’t take the stand, but when criminals lie under oath to THEM, jurors vote for guilt with a vengeance. And when defense “experts” take the stand to gild the lily, jurors will vote for guilt even faster because they resent that THEIR tax dollars are being wasted on hired guns.

Arias had two “experts” take the stand, each admitting to being paid many thousands of dollars to support the overtly false claim that Arias had a “blackout” during the murder, and that the blackout conveniently occurred ONLY around the time when she was stabling Travis Alexander 27 times. She had perfect recall for shooting him in the face, but couldn’t recall the stabbings or the fact that she sliced his neck all the way down to the spine. Nor could she recall deleting several digital photographs, (a multi-step process that requires presence of mind, thus could not have been done during a “blackout”) or putting the camera in a washing machine and running a cycle in an attempt to destroy evidence. She also claimed she couldn’t remember gathering up evidence from the crime scene, including the murder weapon, that would have implicated her in the crime.

Arias DID manage to remember, but lied about, the careful steps she took to plan the murder, as evidenced by her decision to drive from California to Arizona in a rental car, with several full gas cans in the trunk so she wouldn’t be seen on video camera purchasing gas during the drive. The list of evidence that proves how much planning went into the murder goes on for pages, which is one reason why no sane person believes Arias was a battered woman who suffered from PTSD when she slaughtered Travis Alexander in an unplanned moment of explosive amnesia.

That “experts” testified in support of Arias doesn’t help because those experts, Richard Samuels (who had to give up his license to practice after serious ethical transgressions) and Alyce LaViolette (who makes a living, in part, testifying for money) sounded ridiculous on the stand. Lavioette, for example, testified that she saw “no evidence” that Arias was jealous even though evidence has already been produced showing she was extremely jealous of Travis’ relationships with other women.

Indeed, anyone who might have hired Samuels or LaViolette will look elsewhere for experts in the future. The transcripts of their testimony are no doubt already being shared with lawyers across the country because they’re filled with the kinds of things lawyers dream about when they hope to destroy a hired gun during cross-examination.

Even worse than hurting their own careers, Samuels and LaViolette have undermined the ability of criminal defendants who truly DO kill in self-defense to achieve justice.

Alyce LaViolette should feel especially bad about this because she claims to care about domestic abuse victims and has done some good work for REAL victims over the years. Her willingness to compromise in one case means all battered women who kill in true self-defense will fare less well in court because jurors for a long time to come will be more willing to disbelieve abused women, even if supported by seemingly sincere experts, because, as Alyce LaViolette has demonstrated, one need not be a REAL victim to have an “expert” on her side.

When the time comes for closing arguments, the defense will paint a narrative of Jodi Arias’ life that resembles a mix of “The Burning Bed” and “Debbie Does Dallas.” The prosecution, by contrast, will correctly note that the case is an obvious combination of “Fatal Attraction” and “The Bad Seed.”

Which means when jurors start deliberating, they will have two powerful emotions to think about. One in their brain, and one in their pants. With any luck, images of a nearly decapitated dead man, covered in stab wounds and with a bullet in his face will act like a constant cold shower on the images of Jodi Arias’ overplayed genitalia.

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