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Jodi Arias Given Green Light to Represent Herself for the Re-Trial of the Penalty Phase

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It was an interesting day at the Maricopa County Courthouse today for a Jodi Arias hearing that took a very attention grabbing twist. As the reporters awaited entrance into the hearing we didn’t hold out much hope of getting in since so many hearings are hit and miss, but we were all pleasantly surprised when we learned it was an “open hearing!” All of us grabbed our phones and notepads, and rushed to the door to find out the latest in a case that is nothing short of surprises.

I grabbed my seat in the second row behind the defenses table; I wanted to have a good view of what was going on and why not the gallery was pretty much empty. The lawyers went to a sidebar and we were waiting the arrival of Jodi for the hearing to officially begin. Jodi was escorted in wearing her stripes that said “not sentenced” on the back. The jingling of her chains were a reminder she’s a convicted murderer of Travis Alexander but the side swiped pony tail she was wearing made her look very childlike distracting from the jailhouse attire perhaps.  This was only elevated when she put on her glasses to round out the look.  Immediately Jodi and Jen Willmott were engaged in a very active conversation that seemed to last quite a bit. Juan Martinez was patiently sitting at his table with Detective Flores once again by his side. Nurmi was looking through paperwork and we were all just waiting to see what was going on. Judge Stephens asked Jodi if she was going to submit a motion and still wanted to voluntarily represent herself, Jodi responded “Yes,” but she wanted to discuss it further in an ex parte. Judge Stephens then began to question Jodi on why she needed to ask her stuff in private and Jodi stated she wanted to further discuss her representing herself and some evidence she’d like to present. All I could think about was “wow, OK, Jodi is really going to go for this!” Judge Stephens granted the ex parte and all of us including the State were cleared from the courtroom.

As everyone waited outside the courtroom the halls were buzzing with the talk of Jodi representing herself at the re-trial. Not only would this be a Juan vs. Jodi showdown of epic proportion, this unlocked a lot of interesting access to maybe even Jodi herself. The visions of her addressing the potential jury pool, witnesses and investigators really put a spin on this case that took it to a higher level of crazy! We were all let back in and Jodi Arias with her stripes and shackles made her way up to the podium to address Judge Stephens. Judge Stephens went down the list of what will be expected and what Jodi will face if she chooses to go forward. Judge Stephens warned her this is a complex death penalty case and that Jodi will be on her own. Jodi said she understood. Judge Stephens asked her if she had any law background, a criminal justice degree or any type of schooling on the subject, Jodi said “no.” Stephens then asked her if she was on medications, Jodi Arias said “yes.” The judge asked if these would prohibit her from acting as her own attorney, Jodi stated “no.” The list went on and on but one question I was dying to hear was can Jodi claim ineffective counsel after this is all over, Judge Stephens answered it and told Jodi she could not. If Jodi does decided at any time she wants to bring a lawyer back on she can, but Judge Stephens made it clear there’s no going back and they would only move forward and she wouldn’t get a “do over.” Jodi agreed this was made clear to her. Judge Stephens in a way I haven’t seen her before urged Jodi to not do this, that it really wasn’t in her best interest and Jodi with confidence stated she wanted to move forward with representing herself. With that the judge granted the motion and Jodi Arias is now in charge of her own re-trial in the penalty phase of what some call the trial of all trials.

Yet, in a routine fashion Kurt Nurmi couldn’t escape without standing up and telling the judge he really still wants to withdrawal and that strategy in this case between Jen, Nurmi and Jodi aren’t really going to jive. The judge told Nurmi that if they had conflicts with strategy they needed to see her immediately so she could get it all straightened out. So Nurmi stays along with Jen on trial but now will be in an advising role for Jodi Arias. While I’m sure they are wanting to pull their hair out daily…yes  Nurmi now has a nice head of hair, it may not be long before Jodi has some regrets.  As the hearing was winding up Jodi asked the judge for one more thing. She wanted her investigator to go to the Mesa PD and collect some evidence. That brought a sharp objection from Juan Martinez who said if her investigator needed evidence he needed to contact him directly so he could in turn let Detective Flores know. The judge agreed this would have to be how it was handled and that Jodi had limits to what she could do from behind bars. So with that it was a wrap, and Jodi stood up and talked to her former attorney’s with a grin on her face that said it all. Jodi was in her element, in charge and in control, her favorite place to be. But with Juan Martinez on the opposite table this showdown won’t be without fireworks and sidebars so the question begs to be asked…..will the jury not like Jodi 9 out of 10 days or will this new strategy of humanizing herself as a self made lawyer grab the attention of at least one? I can assure you it will be a battle and not one the State of Arizona will take lightly as the state treads into new territory on a case that has captivated the world. One thing will never change no matter how much sensationalism this new tactic will bring, the victim Travis Alexander and family are still seeking justice in the final phase of a trial that has taken to long to get started. The crime and damage have been done and final  justice for him is looming just around the corner. Next hearing is August 13th, at 8:30am and Judge Stephens reminded everyone this trial will begin on September 8th, 2014, no delays. So until the next hearing, best wishes The Trial Diaries..

Pic: ABC15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Mom charged in girl’s death could get trust fund

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A special education teacher accused of killing her severely disabled 8-year-old daughter by withholding food and medical care could inherit nearly $1 million from the girl’s trust fund — even if she’s convicted.

Nicole Diggs and her husband have pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent homicide and child endangerment in the 2012 death of Alayah Savarese, who was the beneficiary of a trust fund created from the settlement of a malpractice suit that stemmed from complications during her birth.

The indictment doesn’t allege that the trust fund was a motive, but Diggs’ attorney says prosecutors are nevertheless implying that her client “somehow disposed of her daughter in order to obtain the money.” She wants any mention of the trust fund barred from trial and says her client didn’t neglect Alayah.

Prosecutors in Westchester County say Alayah “was not provided required daily food,” did not receive necessary medical treatment, was often left unattended and was frequently kept home from school, depriving her of physical and occupational therapy.

Authorities say Alayah suffered lacerations, bruises and welts from the neglect. According to court papers, Diggs and her husband, Oscar Thomas — who isn’t Alayah’s father — also “failed to maintain the child’s hygiene which caused her to have smelly and dirty hair and clothing, a foul odor about her body and bleeding gums.”

On the day Alayah died in a Yonkers apartment, she was left in the care of one of Thomas’ friends, who wasn’t equipped to deal with her medical issues, court papers allege.

If convicted, the 32-year-old Diggs wouldn’t be automatically disqualified from inheriting her daughter’s fortune because she isn’t charged with intending to kill the girl. Many states have so-called slayer statutes to prevent profiting from a crime, but New York courts have generally held that without intent, a homicide doesn’t disqualify someone from inheriting from a victim, said St. John’s Law School professor Margaret Turano, a trust and estate expert.

John Riordan, an attorney and former Surrogate’s Court Judge in Nassau County, said, “If it’s unintentional, then the person can still inherit. … But the facts of this case are very unsettling, and under the circumstances, it doesn’t seem correct that that would happen.”

Any challenges to Diggs’ inheritance would be heard in a separate court, Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, where a bank has been named administrator of the girl’s estate.

Alayah’s biological father, Anthony Savarese, who lived elsewhere in Yonkers when Alayah died and isn’t charged, is in line to get half the trust fund. His lawyer declined to say whether his client would challenge Diggs’ inheritance.

A report on Alayah’s death from the state Office of Children and Family Services chronicles a long list of complaints — some of which were determined to be unfounded — and several visits from caseworkers.

The complaints include that Alayah was so dirty the school staff took it on themselves to wash her, and after one shampoo, “the water was black from the dirt.”

Caseworkers reported that although Diggs received some Medicaid assistance, she passed up opportunities to get more help.

The local and state offices of OCFS declined to comment on how social services handled the case.

Court papers indicate some of the settlement money was used to buy a $35,000 van to transport Alayah and to make modifications for her at a home in Dutchess County that Diggs and Thomas were planning to buy.

The state report substantiated various allegations against Diggs and Thomas, including inadequate guardianship and lack of medical care. But it concluded there was “no causal connection” between those allegations and Alayah’s death.

The medical examiner attributed Alayah’s death to her cerebral palsy and seizure condition.

Diggs’ lawyer has filed motions seeking dismissal of the indictment. The prosecution’s reply to that motion and other issues is expected this week. Diggs faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

A lawyer for Thomas, 29, wouldn’t comment on the case.

During Alayah’s birth in 2004, the umbilical cord was severed, and she was deprived of oxygen, said Diggs’ lawyer, Arlene Popkin. The complication left her with cerebral palsy, seizures and a lack of limb control, and as she grew, Alayah could not walk, talk or feed herself, Popkin said in court papers.

According to defense papers, Diggs resisted suggestions to institutionalize the girl and raised her with the help of relatives while she graduated from Cornell University, got a master’s degree and was hired to teach special education students at a public school in the Bronx.

Thomas was the stay-at-home caretaker, Popkin said.

Diggs still works for New York City‘s public schools, but she has been transferred to administrative duties and isn’t allowed contact with students.

She isn’t permitted to use Alayah’s trust fund for her defense, so her lawyer is being paid by taxpayers.

Source: JIM FITZGERALDAssociated Press of AP

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Bethany McKee found guilty in Joliet double murder

A Will County judge has found Bethany McKee guilty in the murders of two men in Joliet.

The 20-year-old faces a possible life sentence for the murders of 22-year-olds Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins. She will be sentenced in October by Judge Gerald Kinney.

Prosecutors say McKee and three friends robbed and murdered the two Joliet men in January of 2013. Two other suspects are awaiting trial and a fourth, Alissa Massaro, has pleaded guilty to robbery and concealment of a homicidal death in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence.

Kinney said Friday McKee’s actions “show a stunning lack of respect for human life as well as a stunning lack of concern for the consequences of taking two human lives.”

Judge Kinney said of McKee that instead of leaving or reporting the crimes, she held a lamp: “so that the bag could be placed over the victim’s head.”

Closing arguments were completed August 12 in the bench trial. McKee waved her rights to testify on her own behalf and to a jury trial. The proceedings have been emotional for the relatives of Rankins and Glover, who left the Will County Courthouse Tuesday following a six-day trial.

“They took the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Nicole Jones, the mother of Eric Glover. “They took the best person that we had and they destroyed my family.”

“Did she make mistakes? Absolutely. Did I make mistakes at 18 or 40? Absolutely. But not murder,” said Bill McKee, the father of Bethany.

In closing arguments of McKee’s trial, Prosecutor Dan Walsh said:
“When this defendant attached herself to a group of people bent on robbery, she is accountable under the law and guilty of first-degree murder. This was a plan the four of them had in place to rob Terrance Rankins.”

McKee’s defense attorney, Chuck Bretz, argued that she made poor choices after the crime, but that does not make her guilty of murder.

Bretz argued:
“The moral obligation is not sufficient to make her criminally liable.”
“She was not present. No one puts her there.”
“She has no specific intent for anyone to be robbed, murdered or killed.”

Prosecutor John Connor had the final opportunity to argue before the judge, saying it was McKee who lured Rankins to the Joliet house last January, knowing her co-defendants planned to rob and kill him.

Connor argued:
“Her choices are what killed Terrance Rankins and Eric Glover.”

The men were found in a home in Joliet with plastic bags over their heads.

Source: ABC 7

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Idaho attorney for boys in polygamous sect says he fears for them

SALMON Idaho- A court-appointed attorney for boys removed from the Idaho home of a follower of imprisoned polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs said on Friday he feared for the well-being of six of the children released to their parents’ custody.

Two of the eight boys, who are between the ages of 13 and 17, were placed in foster care after they were removed from the home, Idaho authorities said. The six other teens were returned to their parents, who are adherents of the polygamous Mormon breakaway group founded by Jeffs.

Nathan Jessop, a follower of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was charged with misdemeanor child injury offenses after police raided the home on the outskirts of Pocatello last month and took away the eight teenagers.

Jessop, who was cited rather than arrested for the misdemeanor charges, has requested that his case be heard by a jury trial.

The case against Jessop is tied to his role as the sect’s assigned caretaker of boys banished to his so-called “repentance home” as discipline for infractions of church rules.

Their parents had agreed to the arrangement but, earlier this month after Jessop was charged, they traveled to Idaho from such states as Arizona and Kansas to reclaim custody of children they had not seen for years, authorities said.

Bradley Willis, an attorney appointed by an Idaho court to represent the boys, was opposed to the state’s handoff of the six boys.

“I had concerns about the influence of the church on the children and concerns about the ability of the parents to protect those children,” he said. “I’m disappointed by the outcome of the case.”

Willis said his concerns about the parents centered on the fact they had not acted to protect or attend to their children while they were with Jessop.

A spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said the agency was prohibited by law from discussing children’s cases. But he said the state conducts background checks in custody matters to ensure there are no safety issues with parents and supervises visits between them and their children to study their interactions.

Jessop, 47, is accused of confining one of the boys to a tiny furnace room for several days and of failing to report two underage children who fled the home as runaways.

Jeffs, 58, is serving a life term plus 20 years in prison for his 2011 conviction on sexual assault charges for the rape of underage girls at the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas.

Source: Laura Zuckerman of Reuters

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Arizona man arrested for burning, urinating on Bible

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PHOENIX — A 22-year-old Arizona man calling himself “Dark Lord” has been arrested for allegedly burning a Bible and urinating on it outside a Christian-oriented homeless shelter in northern Arizona, police said on Friday.

Eric Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center late on Thursday on suspicion of one count of unlawful symbol burning stemming from the incident at the Gospel Rescue Mission, Prescott police spokesman Lieutenant Ken Morley said in a written statement.

Police were called to the scene at about 9 p.m. by a mission representative reporting that someone was burning something on the mission’s front steps, Morley said.

Officers found Minerault standing on the steps, with a burned and wet Bible on the ground near him. He quickly admitted to the act.

He told officers the mission was selected because he believed it was a place of Christian worship and he was “cursing the Christians,” police said.

Asked why, officers reported that he said because he was the “Dark Lord.” Minerault was clad in black and was wearing a black-and-red robe and a pentagram necklace.

He remained at the detention center on Friday afternoon on the misdemeanor charge, sheriff’s officials said.

Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the arrest raises questions as to whether Minerault’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were violated.

But Pochoda, who was not familiar with the charge cited, said courts have upheld laws that bar symbols like crosses from being burned.

Source: Reuters

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Michael Dunn Back in Court for Pretrial Hearing

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The man accused of killing a Jacksonville teenager was in court briefly Monday for a routine pretrial hearing.

Duval County Circuit Court Judge Russell Healey set a deadline of Tuesday, September 2 at 5 p.m. for any new motions in the upcoming retrial of Michael Dunn, 47.

If any motions are filed by attorneys, Healey said they will be taken up at Dunn’s next scheduled hearing on Monday, September 8.

The Brevard County man is accused of fatally shooting Jordan Davis, 17, of Jacksonville at a south side gas station in November 2012.

Authorities have said the fatal encounter stemmed from an argument over loud music that was coming from an SUV Davis was in with three friends.

Dunn has said he saw Davis with a weapon, felt threatened and opened fire on the vehicle in self-defense. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

A jury earlier this year convicted Dunn of multiple attempted murder charges, but failed to reach a verdict on the more severe first degree murder charge.

Jury selection remains on target to begin on Monday, September 22.

Source: Stop Being Famous

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Judge rejects Martin MacNeill’s request for new murder trial

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A 4th District judge on Friday rejected a request for a new trial by Martin MacNeill, who was convicted last year of murdering his wife in 2007.

Judge Derek Pullan has been mulling the new trial request since January, when MacNeill’s attorney, Randall Spencer filed a motion claiming a federal inmate lied on the stand about a possible early release he received in exchange for his testimony and that prosecutors did not disclose that a deal was in the works.

“The question is whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the false testimony affected the trial,” Pullan’s 40-page ruling reads. “The Court holds no.”

Pullan has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon to set a sentencing date for MacNeill.

“We’re obviously very disappointed in the decision,” said defense attorney Randall Spencer.

During the trial, prosecutors “elicited false testimony” from two of three federal inmates about whether they were receiving any benefits for their testimony, Pullan wrote. They said that they weren’t, and a member of the prosecution who knew this wasn’t the case did nothing to correct it, the judge adds.

However, the testimony of one of the inmates in question was favorable to MacNeill; and even if the other inmate had disclosed a request for a recommendation letter for early release, Pullan decided that it likely would not have had any effect on the trial’s outcome.

“Jurors understood that the interests of [the two inmates] in the case were different than any ordinary witness, and that both had motive to testify falsely,” Pullan wrote. “Armed with this instruction, the jury surely looked on the jailhouse informant testimony with a cautious and critical eye.”

Prosecutors have chalked up defense claims of a “secret deal” to a “conspiracy theory,” and said no such deal had been planned.

The inmate testified during MacNeill’s four-week trial in November that the defendant confessed to him that he drugged his wife — 50-year-old Michele MacNeill — then drowned her in a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home April 11, 2007.

The defense also questioned whether the inmate gleaned facts about the crime from watching television.

On Oct. 18, 2013, the judge granted both side’s request that all of the “fact witnesses” not watch or listen to television, radio, or Internet news coverage of the trial while under subpoena. Such a mandate is called an “exclusion order.”

But for reasons that remain unexplained, prosecutors waited a week before telling the federal inmates about the exclusion order.

Jury selection began Oct. 15, and prosecutors began presenting evidence in the trial on Oct. 17.

The inmates didn’t hear about it until the day after they arrived in the Utah County Jail, according to Pullan’s ruling.

“Telephone conversations clearly indicate that [one of the inmates] — contrary to his trial testimony — was watching television coverage of the trial,” Pullan’s ruling reads.

The prosecutors should have informed the inmates sooner about the exclusion order, especially since “jailhouse informant knowledge” is so important to reliability, according the judge’s ruling. But, Pullan added, he was not persuaded that the prosecution’s delay prejudiced MacNeill.

“The lion’s share of [the inmate’s] testimony was consistent with what he told [an investigator] prior to trial,” Pullan wrote. The only meaningful difference in the inmate’s testimony was referring to a drug MacNeill used on his wife as “Oxy,” and when asked if he meant Oxycontin, the inmate replied that “Oxycontin and Oxycodone are the same thing,” Pullan adds.

Prosecutors said MacNeill killed his wife so he could continue an affair with another woman, Gypsy Willis.

On Nov. 8, the jury convicted MacNeill, 58, of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice.

Sentencing in Martin MacNeill’s sexual abuse conviction also has been delayed due to a defense motion.

Spencer filed a motion to dismiss the sexual abuse case against the former doctor, arguing that he was unable to effectively cross-examine victim Alexis Somers because police inadvertently lost her recorded police interview from 2007.

The sexual abuse occurred May 23, 2007, about five weeks after the death of MacNeill’s wife.

Somers testified at trial that after she woke at the home to find Martin MacNeill rubbing her buttocks, and licking and kissing one of her hands, the man said: “Oh, oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I thought you were your mother.”

Before the July trial, Spencer filed a similar motion to dismiss, asking for the case to be tossed because of loss of evidence. But Judge Samuel McVey denied the motion, saying that while there was some negligence in deleting Somers’ interview, it was not “gross negligence” and it was not done in “bad faith.”

Spencer argued in the motion that without the recorded interview, MacNeill was denied the opportunity to cross-examine Somers about inconsistent statements “with her own words” rather than the words in the detective’s case file.

“The Utah County Attorney’s Office, whether intentional or negligent, seems to have made an extraordinary number of errors in its zeal to prosecute MacNeill that has deprived him of fundamental fairness and due process,” Spencer wrote in the motion, adding that he believed prosecutors in the murder case also “failed to disclose a significant amount of critical evidence.”

Source: Michael Mcfall | The Salt Lake Tribune

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Website is Transferring To New Host

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Hi all! My website is transferring to a new host so I can have some ads. Nothing obnoxious but ads help generate revenue so I can stay in the courtroom, it’s not cheap to go everyday. So, subscribers to this site don’t fret I will be working to move you over but if you experience any issues please contact me at my email thetrialdiaries@gmail.com. Thanks for your patience!  The Trial Diaries

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