Jodi Arias, who is awaiting sentencing, after a conviction of first-degree murder filed motions in Maricopa County Superior Court this week to fire her main defense attorney. Her 12-page scathing motion, which often cites ABA guidelines, says that her lead attorney, Kirk Nurmi, has not seen her since May 23rd, the day the jury at her trial could not agree on a sentence.
Arias attempted to fire Nurmi in June as well, but Judge Sherry Stephens denied her request. Arias wrote that Nurmi has an “utter poverty of people skills” and “…little to no tolerance for my emotional and psychological shortcomings.” She offered the example of her reaction to the defense playing the phone call recorded between Arias and Alexander in open court. She states that the court offered to play it in a closed hearing, but he refused. Understandably, she wanted the tape played in closed court.
Arias writes that Kirk Nurmi told her, “you’re not going to get your way just because you throw a tantrum,” but other defense members tried to explain to her that the tape backed up their defense. Arias also claims her death-penalty lawyer Jennifer Willmott has carried the entire workload of the case.
“…We have had no communication, even indirectly and I have a trial coming up…I am not as prepared as I could or should be because I have not had the benefit of having a full…meeting with attorneys…the last full…meeting was in August 2012…”
Arias writes that Kirk Nurmi instructed his secretary to never take a message from her, but instead hang up on her and tell her to call another member of her defense. “…There is no reason other than spite that he implemented this rude and absurd policy designed to block my attempts at communicating with him…this only served to drive a wedge between what was fast becoming a broken attorney/client relationship…” She goes on to say that Kirk Nurmi has adopted a “lazy attitude toward investigating” the case. She claims that Nurmi told her that she wasn’t entitled to an attorney who would advocate for her or “fight” for her.
“…He has failed to investigate meaningful mitigation witnesses. Any chance at rebuilding trust has been compromised given that I know he doesn’t like me and expressed exactly that to a jury who was tasked with deciding whether I live or die…[he has] refused to answer my case-related questions…”
She also writes that Nurmi “…lacks the capacity for empathy…” Arias also writes of a 2011 incident where she released books from her cell property. The State then subpoenaed them because there were notes in the margins. The State decided not to use the books as evidence. “…Kirk Nurmi, however, dropped the ball…knowing full well how important these books were to me and how much it meant to give them to the friend for which they were intended, he instead decided to let them continue to collect dust for what has now been years…despite their having no significance in my case…[he]…offer[ed] no viable reason for his decision. He would not even offer a bad reason…”
Arias continually cites spite and a pay increase after Nurmi left the Public Defender’s Office as the reasons why she says Nurmi will not treat her like a respected client. “…He began treating me like an interruption…a thing he was obligated to deal with…” Arias also cites another example, which she does not explicitly explain in the motion instead writing she would like to explain it in an ex-parte hearing. She says this event, along with the others, adversely affected her testimony.
Arias writes that the court’s previous ruling denying her request to replace Nurmi was because of his breadth of knowledge about the case, which would be hard to replicate. She writes, “…Mr. Nurmi has forgotten more about my case than he remembers and…the breadth of knowledge one would think he has after four years…is lost to him…” She cites an example where Nurmi said he couldn’t remember any mention of text messages about Travis Alexander being intimate with other women. Arias writes the nature of the text message conversation was a setting up of a liaison at his house and then afterwards about his “skill in bed”. She goes on to say that Nurmi also forgot to impeach a witness,
“…[not] the one who perjured himself, Esteban Flores, nor the one who changed his testimony from his real findings to fit the theory the State wished to get before the jury, Kevin Horn…Deanna Reid, who, in previous…statements denied she had ever had sex with Travis and claimed she believed he was a virgin…under oath, she testified she and Travis did have sexual relations (because for the State’s case, it was now important that she admit it, whereas before it was important that she deny it.) Mr. Nurmi failed to impeach her credibility…”
Arias also says that Nurmi denies the existence of facts that do exist. She writes, “With the exception of my obsessed haters, most people don’t care about what happens to someone they don’t like. Mr. Nurmi admits that 90% of the time he doesn’t like me…” She goes on to say that during the trial the two of them “ignored each other”.
“…Yet even if by closing arguments there was any lingering doubt in a juror’s mind that there was no bond between attorney and client, Kirk Nurmi made sure it was vanquished by informing jurors that ‘nine days out of ten I don’t like Jodi Arias’…”
“Kirk Nurmi has attempted to visit me at the jail once since trial ended and…at the courthouse once last month. I did not accept either visit…I do not trust his advice and especially do not trust how he might conduct himself towards me…he is curt, rude, and condescending…I am left feeling like crap about myself and my future every time I interact with him. Conversely, Jennifer treats me with kindness and dignity…Kirk seems determined to keep me in the dark…his favorite response to my questions…Do you want me to explain years of law school?”
“…This consistent behavior has bred great…contempt on my part…” She goes on to write about Kirk Nurmi’s response motion to her original motion to change counsel. She writes that he denied her assertions and would most certainly do so again. According to Arias, she believes that Nurmi has a conflict of interest because he values his pay more than his client. She cites the fact that she has refused to talk to him for five months yet he continues on the case.
Arias finishes her motion by writing that she is entitled to two attorneys, which she doesn’t currently have. “…Jennifer Willmott alone, while skilled, is not sufficient in that she…does not meet the requisite…this dynamic is unthinkable and unworkable. Everything rests on her…”
Arias was recently in a closed settlement hearing before Judge James Keppel, but a court representative said that there was no agreement between the prosecution and defense. The plea deal would probably have consisted of a life sentence, most likely without parole, and a waiver of all appeals. The only discussion during negotiations would be the state’s intent to seek the death penalty and Arias’ intent to seek appeals.
Arias’ next court appearance is November 1st.