The steps of justice that are counting down the days for the retrial of the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias trial are steps with many twists and turns. The most recent development in the retrial of the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias trial is that the former public defender to Jodi Arias, lead counsel for her case until recently, Kirk Nurmi is making another attempt to get as far away from this case as possible. Arizona Central has reported on Aug. 8 that former public defender for Jodi Arias Kirk Nurmi has formally requested the court to be removed from this case, citing a change in circumstances.
The change in circumstances for Jodi Arias occurred earlier this week when the judge presiding over her case, Judge Sherry Stephens, granted Jodi's motion to allow her to represent herself in the upcoming retrial of her sentencing phase. In the previous two phases of the State of Arizona versus Jodi Arias, then 33-year-old Jodi Arias was found guilty in May 2013 of first degree murder with an element of cruelty for the murder of her lover Travis Alexander.
The murder of Travis Alexander occurred in June of 2008, and Jodi Arias has used as many delay tactics as possible to delay the inevitable, the handing down of her sentence in this case. In the past 6 years, she has tried to fire her attorneys on more than one occasion, and gone to court for every complaint and woe that she has. When Judge Sherry Stephens allowed her to represent herself as of Monday of this week, she made it very clear to Jodi, there will be no more delays.
Lead counsel and public defender for Jodi Arias until that moment, Kirk Nurmi is taking this point as his cue to finally extricate himself from the case.
Kirk Nurmi has made several attempts in the past to remove himself from this case, all of which have been denied. AZ Central reported yesterday that given the change of circumstances, he wants off the case. AZ Central reported that on Aug. 8, Kirk Nurmi filed a motion asking to be taken off the case, but as many that have been following this case since day one know this wasn't the first time he tried to run from Jodi Arias.
The first time was back in 2011, and Kirk Nurmi tooks his angst over his difficult client to court. It was a contentious motion at the time, and one that even Jodi's own mother fought. A letter that became part of the Jodi Arias trial history is a letter from Sandy Arias to one of the first judges that heard this case in 2011.
The letter, obtained by PK Report shows a letter that far contradicts the relationship the public perceives between Kirk Nurmi and Jodi Arias. He tried to leave in 2011, she tried to fire him in 2013, now she is self representing which means technically he is no longer her lawyer. Back in 2011 when this threatened to happen, Sandy Arias has a very big problem with that,
"Hon. Sally Duncan,
My name is Sandy Arias, the mother of Jodi Arias. I am writing to you to plea for my daughter's case. I feel for Mr. Nurmi to quit her case at this point would be detrimental to her defense. He has been helping with her case for the past eighteen months and knows everything about her and her circumstances. As you know, Jodi had some issues with Maria [mitigation specialist] and wasn't able to communicate with her.
She has come to trust Kirk. To bring Victoria in as head council and someone new to work with her would not be fair to Jodi. Jodi deserves a fair trial. Kirk has a lifetime to start his own practice where Jodi only has a few months that will determine whether she has a life at all. Where do his legal and moral obligations lie?
Our family circumstances will not allow us ot be able to hire legal council for her. Jodi's father's health is not good. He is a dialysis patient, has been through treatment for lymphoma and just had open heart surgery. I work two jobs to keep up with our bills.
Jodi doesn't deserve to be tried for the death penalty. The evidence against her will prove that. She has been an exemplary inmate for the entire time she has served in jail. She has been able to help other inmates with various things such as her signing for them, writing poems, doing drawings for them and also helping with reading and writing.
I am only hoing that you will step in and make sure that she gets the fair council that she deserves and needs. Also, that you will be willing to work with Kirk to retain him for the remainder of the time that she needs. As her mother, I am begging you to help save my daughter.
As we know now by how history has played out, in 2011 the courts denied Kirk Nurmi's request to vacate as first chair and Sandy got her way. Whether or not that had anything to do with Sandy Arias's letter, we may never know. This would not be the first sign of fractures crackling the relationship between Jodi Arias and her lead defender. The next crackle of the relationship fracture would paint a very different picture about this relationship.
HLN reported in October 2013 when the troubles became evident yet again. In October 2013 it was Jodi this time, writing a letter that was 12-pages long, dated Oct. 14 to Judge Sherry Stephens where she chronicled a very nasty relationship between herself and Kirk Nurmi.
After being found guilty of first degree murder in May 2013, Jodi wrote to Judge Stephens complaining that Kirk Nurmi,
"has little to no tolerance for my emotional and psychological shortcomings."
A statement like this begs the question, does this mean that Jodi Arias has found someone in her life that does possess this tolerance to compare Kirk Nurmi to?
In the 12-page letter to Judge Stephens in Oct. 2013 Jodi told Judge Stephens that she and Kirk fundamentally disagreed about certain strategic aspects of her case. They probably disagreed on these key strategic moves because he is educated in the law and she….got her GED in prison.
Jodi told Judge Stephens that she was particularly upset about the phone sex tape that made it into "open court," and how she had strenuously disagreed with how Kirk Nurmi handled that. The Jodi Arias defense had reportedly been offered to have that tape play in a closed hearing, an offer the defense led by Kirk Nurmi allegedly declined, and Jodi had a big problem with that.
Jodi also complained to Judge Stephens in this letter that she didn't like the way Kirk Nurmi said to her,
"You're not going to get your way just because you throw a tantrum."
In her letter beseeching Judge Stephens to take Nurmi off the death penalty case, Jodi lastly said that in the end as a result of the actions of Kirk Nurmi and nobody else,
"I am left feeling like crap about myself and my future every time I interact with him."
All of this is simple evidence of the fact that for Jodi Arias, sustaining a successful and healthy relationship with anybody is very difficult. And she blames these faulty relationships as the reasons her future is bleak, rather than taking any responsibility whatsoever.
Did Kirk Nurmi see this from the get go? It didn't seem to take long for most of America to see that, so chances are good.
But who does or does not like Jodi Arias is not the focus of this case. Kirk Nurmi himself even stated this in his closing arguments when he begged the jurors to vote not guilty. He said,
"It's not even about whether or not you like Jodi Arias. Nine days out of 10, I don't like Jodi Arias."
To this statement, Jodi smiled in court but she has since stated this bothered her tremendously, and has complained about this comment to Judge Stephens.
As of this week it appears that Nurmi wasn't exaggerating when he said that. He really, really doesn't like her most of the time and may well be one of the happiest in the court that she was granted the motion to self-represent. When that motion was granted, it was determined that public defenders Nurmi and Willmott would remain on Jodi's case as advisors, Nurmi however is seeing the self-representation motion as his out in this case.
In his previous requests to jump ship, Nurmi's motions were denied on the grounds that he had ethical obligations to Jodi Arias.
According to AZ Central, in court on Friday Kirk Nurmi argued that his,
"Ethical obligations to Ms. Arias are lessened to the point where these ethical obligations are of significantly lesser import."
He had also previously told Judge Sherry Stephens in Monday when Arias was granted the motion to self represent that he and Jodi disagreed fundamentally on the strategy for defense for the upcoming retrial. Judge Sherry Stephens has granted Jodi's motion to self represent, whether Nurmi will be able to leave his advisory role on the grounds that he has no ethical obligations to Jodi remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Jodi Arias is likely considering the fact that her motion to self represent was granted as her first victory going into the retrial of the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias trial. Now that Jodi Arias is self representing, she will have access to a myriad of additional perks that she would not have had if she had kept her lawyers on.
One of the perks is the one most people are talking about, that now she will not have to take the stand in her defense, as she will be able to present her case, defense, and testimony through her questions, witnesses, and cross-examinations. To some this may come as a relief.
Not many people want to see her on the stand for another 3 weeks straight. To others, this may make them groan because this may mean witnesses will be on the stand longer than necessary if a "rookie" is handling the cross-examination.
But these aren't the only perks that Jodi Arias will have access to. Fox 10 News reports in the video shown here, that the decision to self-represent will also mean more prison perks for Jodi Arias right now. Jodi's home is currently a cell at the Maricopa County Estrella Jail in the most secure unit possible, she will have a few more perks from that unit than she would if she still had a legal team.
Fox 10 News reports that her current conditions require that she stay in her cell at least 23 hours per day, and she is allowed up to one hour daily for phone calls, and one visit weekly. With this change in her legal representation, she will be granted more time in these areas while she prepares her case.
An officer that works in the Maricopa County Jail told Fox 10 News that despite the perks she has now, Sheriff Joe Arpao is keeping a very close eye on how they are managed with Jodi Arias. He said,
"The Sheriff is concerned that this [self representation] is just another attempt by her to manipulate the system."
The officer told Fox 10 that yes she will get special perks, but they may not be exactly what she had hoped.
"She's going to find out she's a little more limited than what she hopes to be. We will give her time that we are able to give her to use the phone she needs to get to the phone and do the things that she needs to do to represent herself in her case.
We certainly don’t want to hinder that in any way. However we do also have to stay within the guidelines and the jail rules."
These perks will include an increase in visits, going from 1 to 6 visits a week but 5 will need to be court approved. There also will be no time limit on the visits that she has with people as she prepares her case. She will also have no time limit on phone calls, however she will have to submit a list of court approved contacts in order to ensure this perk is granted.
The officer for Maricopa County Jail wanted Fox 10 and the public to know that these extra perks are not as exciting and glamorous as they may sound, and that she will continue to be treated like the convicted felon that she is. He says,
"She's still a close custody inmate which is the highest we have, and we are going to continue to treat her that way. She's been convicted of a crime, and one of the most serious crimes that you can think of, and we will continue to think and treat her that way."
It will be very interesting to see this play out and how Jodi Arias tries to stretch her perks in prison, and in court, as this goes to trial Sept. 8.
What do you think about Kirk Nurmi? Should he be removed from the case since she technically doesn't need him and their relationship is already kind of a train wreck? And we haven't heard much about the mitigation specialist? How do you think that will factor in?