Monday, May 20, 2013
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Maricopa County Judge Sherry Alexander denied a defense motion for a mistrial today during the penalty phase in the Jodi Arias case. Court recessed for the day and will resume tomorrow with Ms. Arias presenting her plea to the jury.
The defense moved for a mistrial when its only mitigation witness, Patricia Womack, refused to testify claiming that she had received death threats and was conflicted about the case.
Defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi also alleged a separate ground. He accused the prosecutor of intimidating Ms. Womack by threatening to charge her with a crime. However, the Tribune reports that
Prosecutor Juan Martinez told the court on Monday that, in a prior interview with Womack, she had refused to answer questions about her drug use. He said that her refusal to incriminate herself would have precluded her from testifying.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi claimed that Womack’s absence would deny the jury a full picture of Arias’ life prior to meeting Alexander in 2006.
Maricopa County Judge Sherry Stephens ruled there was no basis for a mistrial. She also denied a subsequent request by Nurmi to withdraw from the case, and adjourned the court for the day.
This is an interesting issue because prosecutors are not permitted to intimidate defense witnesses into not testifying for a defendant. Unfortunately for the defense, Ms. Womack appears to have been more concerned about her conflicted feelings and if that is the case, I believe this issue will not get Ms Arias a new penalty phase, assuming the jury sentences her to death.
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