Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi and prosecutor Juan Martinez often butted heads during the Jodi Arias trial. For almost a year, the two faced off in court. Now, they are once again sparring in their new books. Martinez’s book, Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars is set to be released in January of next year. Part 1 of Kirk Nurmi’s book, Trapped with Ms. Arias was released this week.
The books have of course have reignited the obsession that is Jodi Arias, but it also has ethical implications. Kirk Nurmi no longer works for Arias and she is being represented by others for her appeal. The Attorney General’s Office of Arizona is handling the appeal on the prosecution side, but Martinez may still work on it and he is still a prosecutor.
“Being on appeal, for the prosecutor, the case isn’t over,” says Denise Quinterri, a Phoenix attorney whose practice involves legal ethics, “But for the defense council, it’s an issue regardless, whether or not it’s on an appeal.”
Quinterri is concerned that Nurmi could write 3 books (his intention) without mentioning anything discussed with Arias covered by attorney-client privilege.
Martinez is not bound by confidentiality per se. Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that they will not enforce the trial court’s order to seal information in the case. This would have blocked Martinez’s book from being sold. Jerry Cobb, spokesman for Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said that they put no restrictions on their prosecutors.
“We have every assurance that the material in the book is consistent with the ethical obligations he had as prosecutor,” Cobb said.
However, not everyone thinks it is ethical to write a book about a case while still serving as a prosecutor even if that case is over.
In an unrelated case in California, a prosecutor wrote a fictional book, however, while promoting the book, she was assigned to a case that matched the book. The California Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the prosecutor could not promote her novel at the same time as prosecuting a similar case. The judges wrote that the prosecutor’s desire for money and fame might tempt her to work differently in the case. The same ethical question brought up during the televised trial of Arias and other high-profile defendants. The defense attorney for the defendant said that the case in the book was markedly similar not just to the current case, but was most likely based upon a previous case that twice ended in hung juries and was dismissed.
Deborah Rhode, an authority on legal ethics at Stanford, said that the judges’ ruling was correct.
The ruling went on to say, “no current public employee should be permitted to exploit his or her official position as a lever to earn extra income.”
Even though there are First Amendment questions to consider. The ethical implications are still there none the less. Other prosecutors have published books and gotten over ethical hurdles, like Jeff Ashton or Marcia Clark. Local Phoenix attorney Dan Barr, a past member of the State Bar of Arizona’s Ethics Committee said that Martinez’s book is a “horrible idea”.
“I can’t imagine what the County…is thinking. There’s no upside for the county here…There obviously is an upside for Juan Martinez in promoting himself and publishing his book.”
“Taxpayers should care because they’re paying him [Martinez] a salary to do a job of being a prosecutor, and part of the job of being a prosecutor here is not doing things that would endanger upholding the conviction of Jodi Arias.”
In Nurmi’s book, he describes the toll the 5 year saga had on him, which prompted him to quit being a public defender just to get away from Arias, though the court continually made him stay on the case.
“Once I had a sense of where this case was going, I was willing to give up a job … simply to get away from Ms. Arias, and when I did not get away, I realized that I was truly trapped on her case, which also meant I was trapped with her,” Nurmi wrote.
Nurmi also criticized the way people attacked him for doing his job, “A lot of people don’t understand…A lot of people think I chose her…Attorneys that do cases like this aren’t endorsing what their clients did. They [don’t support] murder…they’re defending their rights and I think the public at large should…have a better understanding…”
“My responsibility was to save my client’s life.”
His 326-page book describes how Arias attempted to manipulate everyone around her, including him. He describes her almost constant inappropriate behavior.
Nurmi said, “[her] sole goal was to manipulate me into acting in accordance with her wishes.”
He said that Arias would intimidate other inmates who wanted to hire him, “[She] informed me in no uncertain terms that she was going to speak about me in very unfavorable terms at the jail so that none of her fellow inmates would want to hire me…I was to be her personal lawyer and she was not willing to share…even if she had to lie…”
Arias, 35, was convicted of first-degree murder two years ago. The jury deadlocked on whether to sentence her to death or life in prison. A second penalty phase also ended in deadlock. She is currently serving life in prison. Nurmi also said that he wanted to argue a heat of the moment defense, but that Arias would have none of it and made him argue self-defense.
“It doesn’t matter what we believe because the client has the right to tell their story and have that considered when their life is at stake,” said Nurmi.
Nurmi said he believes the case was so large because of the sexual aspect to it.
“My book is really for people that are open to having what they think about the case challenged a little bit,” he said. “It’s for those who are open to hearing a different perspective. Those who want their beliefs [reinforced] may not find much of an interest in it.”
Nurmi said that he has his own theory of the case, which is described in his book. He also said that he didn’t agree with the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder given by the state’s expert during the case. He believes that Jodi Arias has some mental disorder (he described her as “very disturbed”) and that it is linked to past sexual abuse.
ABC15 asked Nurmi in an interview at his law offices if he feels he did his job.
He responded, “Saved her life twice, the most hated woman in America…people may not want to hear it, but I think I did my job and I did a damn good job…”