On Monday, Jodi Arias’ defense team filed yet another motion with the court.
In this most recent motion, attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott are requesting all charges against Arias be dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct, or, in the alternative, death be taken off the table.
This is not the first time the defense has alleged prosecutorial misconduct and urged Judge Sherry Stephens to take appropriate action and it likely will not be the last. With all the talk, you might be asking yourself “what exactly is prosecutorial misconduct?”
Well, it is usually NOT just ONE THING. It can be one action or, more likely, it can be a culmination of actions by the prosecution or by its agents, such as law enforcement. According to Webster’s New World Law Dictionary, prosecutorial misconduct “is an illegal act or failing to act, on the part of a prosecutor, especially an attempt to sway the jury to wrongly convict a defendant or to impose a harsher than appropriate punishment.”
The defense is alleging that a computer forensic expert, retained by Arias, discovered thousands of files had been deleted from Travis Alexander’s computer. This, in and of itself, might not raise your eyebrow or your interest, but let’s add to the story. The expert further alleged the majority of those deleted files were pornographic and that these files were deleted during a three-hour period when the computer was in Mesa police custody.
Ouch. That hurts.
This begs the question, does it matter? Is it enough to cause Stephens to dismiss the case against Arias? Probably not at this point. Let’s look at the “legalities and realities” of the situation.
First, the realities: We are in the middle of the retrial of the penalty phase. Arias murdered Alexander in 2008, which means this is, if not the oldest, one of the oldest active cases in Maricopa County. Millions of dollars have been spent prosecuting and defending Arias in the past six-and-a half-years. Two juries have been empaneled and thousands of man-hours have been expended. It would take a very bold judge to bring it all to a halt now.
Now, the legalities: If the prosecutorial misconduct is egregious enough it can cause a case to be overturned. In other words, if the defense can prove illegal acts on the part of the prosecutor or his agents, then Arias’ conviction could be overturned.
It is alleged the cops deleted files on Alexander’s computer and those files could prove that Arias was not a liar and that Alexander was looking at pornography, perhaps even child porn. At this point, you might be shaking your head and saying “even if he was, that doesn’t excuse her brutally killing him.”
In our society, the prosecutors and the cops are supposed to be the good guys. They are supposed to seek justice and not hide evidence. If the defense expert’s allegations are true then the prosecution and the cops did not live up to our expectations.
What is the proper punishment? Dismissal of the case? Most would argue no, due to the horrific circumstances of this murder.
Sanctions against the state? A do-over? Possibly. The court will, at a minimum, have to have a lengthy evidentiary hearing on this ssue to clear up what happened with the computer. Although this will delay the trial, not doing this would be irresponsible.
One thing is clear: If this happened then, without a doubt, there has to be some accountability.
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