Nurmi turns over license to practice law, Arias continues to negatively affect lives

Nov 22, 2016, 5:00 AM | Updated: 11:16 am
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi questions defendant Jodi Arias about her relationship with Travis Alexa...
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi questions defendant Jodi Arias about her relationship with Travis Alexander during her trial at Judge Sherry Stephens' Superior Court, on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Arias, 32, is accused of stabbing and slashing Alexander, 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. She initially denied any involvement, then later blamed it on masked intruders before eventually settling on self-defense. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Charlie Leight)
(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Charlie Leight)

Jodi Arias continues to leave a trail of destruction.

Her latest victim is her own attorney (the one who saved her life – twice), Kirk Nurmi.

Arias was found guilty of first degree murder of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in May 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison. Subsequent to her conviction and sentence, both Nurmi and prosecutor Juan Martinez released books about the case and their experiences and both have suffered the wrath of the State Bar of Arizona.

Nurmi authored Trapped with Ms. Arias which was released in late 2015.

In the book, Nurmi writes about how he was assigned the case, his dealings with Arias herself, his interactions with her family and the legal maneuvers he employed leading up to the trial. It was set to be the first of three books that would take the reader through the entire experience of pre-trial investigation, the guilt phase of the trial and both penalty phase trials.

After the release of Trapped with Ms. Arias, Nurmi was forthcoming in interviews about his experiences and why he chose to write the first and endeavored to write two more books. I was able to interview him for #LegallySpeaking and one of the first questions I asked him was how he was able to get around the ethical requirement of confidentiality.

You see, Arizona attorneys are bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct, which explain what we can and cannot do in a plethora of situations. Several provisions of these rules deal with client confidentiality. For example, Ethical Rule 1.6, Confidentiality of Information, reads:

 (a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent….

According to this, if the client does not consent, their lawyer must not reveal information relating to the representation.

“This contributes to the trust that is the hallmark of the client-lawyer relationship.”

The relationship between Arias and her lead counsel was rocky. Although Nurmi did everything in his power to protect and represent her as he was required to do (which he did successfully), they were not friends by any stretch of the imagination. Suffice it to say, Arias did not give him express permission to pen the book.

However, according to Nurmi, Arias waived that consent with her own words and actions because all the information contained was either disclosed in trial or was disclosed by Arias herself in her many media interviews and in her testimony. Therefore, he did not need her express permission as she herself opened the door to the information and put it out to the public.

There is no doubt in my mind that Nurmi believed his position 100 percent. He is smart, logical, thorough, and would not risk his license if he did not believe in his position.

The Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee of the Arizona Supreme Court disagreed and recommended the State Bar file a formal complaint.

Nurmi, recognizing the path this was going down, decided to sign a consent agreement whereby he agreed to suspend his practice of law for four years. However, due to objections made to the consent agreement, he decided to turn over his license and give up the practice of law. After having to deal with Arias, battle cancer and then handle this obstacle, who could blame him for wanting to leave this all behind?

At this point I think it is important to point out that Nurmi was assigned to the Arias case. Not only that, he requested to be removed as lead counsel no less than five times and received a denial each time. Additionally, Arias asked the court to remove Nurmi as her counsel. Her request was also denied.

Nurmi was in a no-win situation. Recognizing this he did the only thing he could do, he put his head down, went to work and did exactly what a capital defense attorney is supposed to do; represent his client to the fullest.

He did just that.

Although Arias was found guilty, she escaped the death penalty, twice, because he did his job. However, at the end of the day, the State Bar of Arizona was upset about what he chose to do after saving her life. In the eyes of the Bar, violating client confidences is a cardinal sin, and Nurmi had to pay for that with his license.

Nurmi wasn’t the only one who has had to pay for his time in dealing with Arias. In October of this year, the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee accused Martinez, the Deputy Maricopa County Attorney who prosecuted Arias, of engaging in unprofessional conduct in the Arias case and 10 other murder cases. (I again think it is important to point out that that Martinez, like Nurmi, was assigned to the Arias matter.) Martinez released Conviction, The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars. 

One of the Bar’s concerns is that Arias still has her appeal pending and the book could threaten her ability to receive a fair “appeal.” Similar to Nurmi, the committee offered Martinez to sign a consent agreement putting him on probation for a year but rejected that offer and exercised his right to have a formal hearing into the matter.

Arias destroyed the life of Alexander and negatively impacted the lives of not only his family but of her own. With this latest turn of events she continues to negatively impact those that were directly involved in her case. Both Nurmi and Martinez were assigned to the Arias case. Both did their jobs and left everything on the field. Both incurred the insults and the wrath of many. Both are intelligent, committed and successful attorneys.

And now both have to continue to live with the ghosts of the Arias trial.

Monica Lindstrom

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Nurmi turns over license to practice law, Arias continues to negatively affect lives