For more than 11 months, prosecutor Juan Martinez and defense attorney Kirk Nurmi clashed during the trials of convicted boyfriend murderer Jodi Arias.
Now the two lawyers are sparring once again in conflicting books about the case.
Martinez’s book, Conviction: The Untold Story of Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars, is set to be published in January by William Morrow. And Nurmi self-published his,Trapped with Ms. Arias, recently on Amazon.
The books have reignited an obsession for thousands of Jodi Arias trial watchers, some of whom attended court every day during her murder trial and later for the sentencing trial. But ethics experts have expressed concern that the books could jeopardize Arias' pending appeal.
Neither attorney is currently working on Arias’ case. Nurmi hasn’t represented Arias since her sentencing. For her appeal, she is represented by public defenders.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office now is handing the prosecution. However, Martinez may continue working on the case on appeal, which could create problems in court.
“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.”
Attorney-client privilege mandates that all communications are privileged and kept confidential. Even though Nurmi no longer is her attorney, he is barred from revealing anything that he learned through representing Arias, unless she granted him informed consent.
“I don’t know if Nurmi could write a whole book about her without revealing details he got from the representation,” Quinterri speculates.
Because Arias wasn’t Martinez’s client, he is not bound by confidentiality rules.
The court has ruled that any sealed information in the case cannot be revealed. Arias’ appellate attorneys asked the Arizona Court of Appeals to enforce that order for Martinez's upcoming book, but the motion was denied.
Neither Nurmi nor Martinez responded to requests for comment, and neither has spoken to the media about the case.
However, Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, says Martinez is not restricted from discussing Arias matters.
“We have every assurance that the material in the book is consistent with the ethical obligations he had as prosecutor,” Cobb tells New Times. “Our employees don’t need permission to engage in their First Amendment rights.”
Nurmi’s book is a voluminous three-part tome. The first book covers Nurmi's taking on Arias' case and preparing for trial.
At about 320 pages per book, the entire memoir is nearly 1,000 pages. By comparison, Stephen King’s longest novel, The Stand, is 1,152 pages.
It seems Nurmi had a lot to say about his involvement in the case. During the trial, he attempted multiple times to withdraw as Arias' attorney.
“As her attorney, I know that what you saw at trial is only part of the story . . . In this book, I detail for the reader what happened before the case began, what happened before the cameras were on,” a blurb for his book states. “I detail the things that you do not know, things that will describe my reality, the reality that I was 'Trapped with Ms. Arias.'"
Earlier this year, Nurmi also self-published a weight-loss book, Trimmer More There (and Staying that Way). Between the murder trial and the sentencing trial in the Arias case, Nurmi lost a considerable amount of weight.
Martinez’s book took the more traditional publication route. It will be released in hardcover in bookstores.
“Speaking openly for the first time, prosecutor Juan Martinez will unearth new details from the investigation that were never revealed at trial, exploring key facts from the case and the pieces of evidence he chose to keep close to the vest,” reads the blurb for Martinez's book.
Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in April 2013 for slaughtering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. The bloated, decomposed body of the 30-year-old motivational speaker was discovered in the shower of his five-bedroom Mesa home. He had been shot in the face, his throat was slit, and he was stabbed 27 times, including a direct wound to his heart.
Arias was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in March 2015. Her two trials, and the figures involved in them, fascinated true-crime junkies across the world.
Public reaction to Arias was as rancorous as the trial itself. Hatred of Arias spilled over onto her representation; Nurmi has been demonized online.
Meanwhile, Martinez became a hero to Arias haters, with trial-goers rushing to take his picture or to get his autograph outside the courtroom. There are dozens of Facebook fan pages dedicated to him.
“Anyone championing for that victim is going to be revered,” says Kathy Monkman, a Phoenix trial watcher who attended the proceedings every day. “[Martinez] became the collective voice of people’s outrage at her crime, her evilness.”
Meanwhile, Monkman felt Nurmi’s defense of Arias crossed a line.
“He could have presented a defense without vilifying Travis,” she says. “He took on that role with gusto. And he seemed to enjoy it. He deserves every shred of scorn he is getting for that.”
Californian Samantha Williams, 47, already has read three books on the case and is interested in both Martinez’s and Nurmi’s account.
“I want to read Nurmi's book because I want to find out how Jodi really was as a client,” Williams says.
Phoenix's Shannon Felty, 39, has been reading true-crime books since she was 12 and is looking forward to both tomes.
“Nurmi had a tough job in having to defend Jodi. I personally always loathe when defense attorneys attack victims’ characters, but honestly, I also pretty much understood that his case was a sure fail unless he reached that low,” Felty says. “Jodi probably ranks way up there in all-time, impossible-to-represent evil-doers with no redeemable qualities. I honestly found myself feeling sympathy toward Nurmi for having to defend someone so reprehensible.”
Shanna Hogan wrote a book of her own on the Arias case, the bestselling Picture Perfect: The Jodi Arias Story, a journalistic account of the murder and trial published in 2013 by St. Martin's Press.
(This story originally was posted November 13.)
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