Posts Tagged ‘legal ethics’

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”. (more…)