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What do you do when you have client whose story seems so improbable and lurid that it's unlikely that any jury would buy it? Do you try to salvage the client's reputation or do you admit the client's shortcomings and move on with your case?
Jodi Arias' attorney, Kirk Nurmi, seems to have taken the latter approach to no avail. "It's not even about whether or not you like Jodi Arias," Nurmi told the jury during his closing argument, according to ABC News. "Nine days out of ten, I don't like Jodi Arias, but that doesn't matter."
On Wednesday, Arias was found guilty of first degree murder in the brutal killing of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, CNN reports. She's now facing life in prison or the death penalty. Was Nurmi's approach the right way to go or did he do more harm than good for Arias' case?
It's not every day that you hear a defense attorney make disparaging comments about a client, but Arias' trial wasn't your everyday murder case. Alexander was shot in the forehead, had his throat slit, and suffered 27 knife wounds before Arias allegedly dragged his body into the shower of his Phoenix home. His friends found him there five days after the incident.
Arias first told authorities that masked intruders had committed the murder. However, she later changed her story, claiming she had killed Alexander in self-defense. Arias reportedly admitted cleaning the crime scene, getting rid of the gun, and fabricating an alibi. The gruesome nature of the crime and Arias' frequent flip-flopping probably did little to help her case in the eyes of the jury.
Even though a defendant's "likeability" shouldn't play a role in a verdict, jurors are sometimes influenced by their personal opinions of the defendant. "If someone likes you they give you the benefit of the doubt," Manhattan criminal defense attorney Stuart Slotnick told the Daily Beast. "You don't want to have the fate of your life in the hands of someone who doesn't like you."
While Nurmi probably couldn't do much to make Arias more likeable to the jury, he did take steps to make her more "human." In order to do so, Nurmi took a pretty unorthodox approach: he kept Arias on the stand for a whopping 18 days. In attempting to paint a picture of Arias as a living, breathing, if flawed human being, Nurmi probably did more harm than good. His questions exposed an ugly side of Arias' character as well as intimate details about her dysfunctional relationship with Alexander.
Nurmi also tried to support the self-defense argument with testimony related to Alexander's character. He portrayed the victim as a closeted pedophile whose abuse had caused Arias physical and emotional trauma, according to the Daily Beast. The character assasination was not only in poor taste but flimsy as well, considering there was a dearth of evidence regarding the abuse.
The sentencing phase of Arias' trial is set to begin on Thursday. It'll be interesting to see whether Nurmi encourages Arias to take the stand once again. What do you think of Nurmi's defense strategy in Arias' case? How would you have handled things differently?
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