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Legally Speaking: Could Jodi Arias come out on top in latest lawsuit?

Convicted murder Jodi Arias, left, and defense attorney Kirk Nurmi. (AP Photos)

There is a new man in the sights of convicted murderer Jodi Arias: Her former attorney, Kirk Nurmi.

If you watched any part of the Arias trial, then you know that there is no love lost between the defendant and her lead defense attorney.

The pair made no secret of how they really felt about each other during and after the trials. This animosity led to Arias filing a civil lawsuit against Nurmi for his book, “Trapped with Ms. Arias.”

Arias was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder of her lover Travis Alexander.

The jury was deadlocked and unable to give her the death penalty. As such, a second trial was held in 2015 to determine if she should receive the death penalty. That jury also deadlocked, which resulted in Arias being sentenced to life in prison by Judge Sherry Stephens.

This trial took Arizona, the country and even the world by storm. I remember being in the courtroom day in and day out and seeing the media circus and phenomena that swirled around this incredibly tragic event.

Subsequent to the trial both the prosecutor, Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez, and lead defense attorney Nurmi published separate books.

After publishing the books, both attorneys made various appearances to promote and market their books. I was able to interview both of them and get their insights on the case.

Arias alleged Nurmi breached his fiduciary duty to her and was unjustly enriched by the profits of the sales of the book.

She is requesting money for the damage done to her and to punish Nurmi for his actions. She is also requesting “all money received by Nurmi for sales of the book, appearance fees … and all other profits of any kind” that Nurmi received.

What does this really mean? It means that Arias is mad at Nurmi and wants to punish him and this is the way she can do that.

Does she have a case? Yes.

Will she win? Possibly.

Attorneys are bound by and required to follow ethical rules. These rules have many goals and purposes, one being to promote confidence in the lawyer-client relationship.

If the client knows the attorney cannot disclose confidential information then the client would presumably be more willing to disclose that information that would then help the attorney represent and defend that client.

Arizona’s Rules of Professional Conduct states a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is implicitly authorized in order to carry out the representation or if the disclosure falls under an exception.

Arias claims she did not give Nurmi permission to write his book or disclose the information therein.

But Nurmi told KTAR News 92.3 FM that Arias waived that confidentiality and consented to it when she took the stand in February 2013 and testified for a month about every detail of her emotional and sexual relationship with Alexander.

The details Nurmi writes about are salacious, sexual, violent, abusive and insightful to the case and relationship between Arias and Alexander. Some of the details we heard in the courtroom, others we did not.

Even if Arias can prove she did not give consent and did not waive the privilege, she would still have to prove how she was damaged by the book and Nurmi.

It is important to point out that Nurmi won: Arias was not sentenced to death.

Not only did he win, he won twice. Two different juries were deadlocked and could not sentence Arias to death.

So, how was Arias damaged? Well, maybe her reputation was damaged by the information contained in the book — yeah, right. Her reputation was destroyed before she even took the stand in 2013 and she simply solidified that destruction.

Damages? Unlikely.

What about punishment? She may have something there.

It is possible the court could decide to punish Nurmi for his actions, not because it dislikes Nurmi but because it needs to make a statement and deter other attorneys from doing the same thing.

A strange twist to this entire thing: Under Arizona law, a convicted killer cannot profit from their crime. In other words, Arias could not write a book about the killing of Alexander and then profit from it.

However, if she wins her lawsuit against Nurmi then she could end up — in a roundabout way — profiting from her crime. I am certain the court would see this and that alone could cause Arias to lose and Nurmi to win.


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