Jodi Arias wants lead defense attorney off case

CNN
Monday, October 28, 2013 - 9:00pm

Jodi Arias, who was convicted in May of killing ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, wants her lead attorney off her case because he has "little to no tolerance for my emotional and psychological shortcomings" and makes her feel "like crap" about herself, she wrote in a letter.

The 12-page handwritten missive, dated October 14, was obtained by The Arizona Republic.

In it, Arias tells Judge Sherry Stephens she had not spoken to attorney Kirk Nurmi since May 23.

Arias cites one example in which she said she had an emotional reaction when her defense attorneys turned down an option offered by the court to have a phone sex recording between her and Alexander played in a closed hearing. The explicit phone sex tape was later played in open court.

"This was a full blown emotional meltdown. I wasn't throwing a fit, I was falling apart. Having known me for 3.5 years at that point, Kirk Nurmi should have easily discerned this, but his failure to do so shows he lacks the capacity for empathy and chooses anger over attempting to understand any impairment his client may be experiencing in direct relation to the case and court proceedings," Arias wrote.

She said Nurmi "has an utter poverty of people skills" and claims he once told her "You're not going to get your way just because you throw a tantrum."

Arias also wrote that she is "left feeling like crap about myself and my future every time I interact with (Nurmi)."

However, she had kind words in the letter for co-counsel Jennifer Willmott.

"Jennifer treats me with kindness and dignity. Her manners don't run off when I ask questions. She takes time to explain what's going on," Arias wrote.

Nurmi could not be immediately reached by HLN for comment about Arias' court motion. During closing arguments in the trial, Nurmi told jurors, "It's not even about whether or not you like Jodi Arias. Nine days out of 10, I don't like Jodi Arias," which elicited a smile from the defendant.

On May 8, a jury found Arias guilty of first-degree murder in Alexander's slaying, but those same jurors couldn't agree on either a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.

Alexander's body was found by his friends in June 2008 in the shower of his home. Authorities say he was stabbed multiple times, shot in the head and his throat was slit from ear to ear.

Since no deal was reached during a settlement conference on October 24, the case will proceed to a retrial of the penalty phase. Arias' murder conviction still stands, but a new jury will decide her sentence.

If the second jury in the retrial cannot reach an unanimous verdict, Arias will automatically get life in prison. The judge would ultimately decide whether Arias will get life without parole or life with the eligibility of parole after 25 years.

Stephens has denied prior requests from Nurmi and Willmott to leave the case. The attorneys sought to withdraw after Arias gave an interview to Phoenix TV station KSAZ shortly after the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Arias told KSAZ's Troy Hayden she would "rather get death than life."

Both attorneys asked to withdraw from the case again on May 20 during the penalty phase of the trial after their request for a mistrial was denied. They sought a mistrial after one of their witnesses, Arias' childhood friend Patricia Womack, declined to testify, alleging she received death threats.

If, for some reason, Stephens lets Nurmi and Willmott off the case, it could delay the trial as new attorneys would need time to prepare for the penalty phase retrial.
 

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