Jodi Arias won't get new trial, despite prosecutor Juan Martinez's 'egregious' court behavior




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Jodi Arias won\'t get new trial, despite prosecutor Juan Martinez\'s \'egregious\' court behavior  

PHOENIX - A nationally known murderer will stay behind bars despite the prosecutor's "egregious" misconduct during the trial, the Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court ruled Tuesday that Jodi Arias, 39, will remain in prison for life for the 2008 first-degree murder of her sometime-boyfriend Travis Alexander.

But the court also stated that a "pattern of intentional misconduct saturated the trial" and that it was referring Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez's behavior to the State Bar of Arizona, where Martinez is already facing a formal ethics complaint on other matters.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office moved to dismiss Martinez in February. He is appealing the dismissal. He has faced numerous allegations of sexual harassment inside the office, which he has denied.

The appeals court concluded that Arias was convicted based on her guilt, and despite Martinez's actions.

"Arias was convicted based upon the overwhelming evidence of her guilt, not as a result of prosecutorial misconduct," Judge Jennifer Campbell wrote in the opinion.

Martinez's lawyer, Donald Wilson Jr., told The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, that it is important to not lose sight of the fact that his client achieved justice.

"In doing so, the trial court was in the best position to observe the demeanor of the lawyers and their interaction with the witnesses," Wilson said. "Mr. Martinez was never sanctioned, nor was a mistrial declared, as the court had the power to do."

Arias was convicted in 2015 for killing Alexander in his Mesa home and sentenced to life in prison. Alexander was found dead with 27 stab wounds, a slit throat and a bullet in his head. The trial attracted national attention with its graphic descriptions of sex and violence.

Arias claimed she killed Alexander in self defense.

Her attorneys have claimed she didn't get a fair trial because of the publicity and because of Martinez's behavior during the trial.

Arias attorney Cory Engle told the appeals court during oral arguments in October that Martinez's misconduct was "so pervasive and so persistent" that it warranted overturning the guilty verdict.

But Arizona Assistant Attorney General Terry Crist said that while Martinez may have violated the rules "occasionally," his actions didn't warrant a reversal of the murder conviction.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office told The Republic that they agreed with the court's decision to uphold Arias' conviction.

"I am pleased with the court's decision to affirm the conviction of someone who committed a brutal murder," county attorney Allister Adel said in a statement.

Arias attorney Margaret M. Green could not be reached for comment.

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'Trying her case in the press'

Arias' lawyers claimed the trial had a "carnival-like atmosphere" and argued to the Court of Appeals that publicity during the trial - but not before - contributed to her conviction.

They noted that the lower court allowed a livestream of the trial to be broadcast and alleged that media coverage influenced the jury.

However, the judges noted Arias' own interactions with the media. They listed at least three times when she conducted interviews during oral arguments.

Campbell noted in the opinion that Arias participated in multiple national TV interviews before the trial, against her lawyers' advice.

"During a pretrial hearing, defense counsel referenced these interviews and expressed frustration that Arias actively sought media attention, complaining that she seemed primarily 'focused on the PR aspects of [the] case' and preferred 'trying her case in the press," Campbell stated.

The media had to be seated in the courtroom and stay in the gallery. The use of cameras and equipment was restricted. According to court records, the lower court continuously asked jurors about the media and responded to their concerns about the noise of cameras.

Campbell wrote that the court did not find any evidence that suggested the jury was prejudiced by the media coverage.

'Efforts to gain personal notoriety'

Arias' lawyers also accused Martinez of courting the media, and cited that as one of the examples of prosecutorial misconduct.

Martinez during the trial signed autographs and took photos with fans on the courthouse steps.

According to court records, Martinez told the lower court judge that "[w]hat happens outside the courtroom is not misconduct."

Campbell wrote in the opinion that a prosecutor's ethical obligation doesn't stop outside the courtroom and that a person in the role must protect the integrity of the trial.

"The prosecutor improperly engaged in self-promoting conduct," Campbell wrote. "His efforts to gain personal notoriety were beneath the office he held as a representative of the State of Arizona."

Duty to 'police improper conduct'

Arias' attorneys claimed Martinez committed several other instances of prosecutorial misconduct, which denied her a fair trial.

They included his aggressive behavior when cross examining witnesses, calling defense experts "unethical liars" and insinuating that "jurors would be deemed complicit if they failed to convict," according to the court filings.

The Court of Appeals agreed that prosecutorial misconduct was present, stating that Martinez's "belligerent conduct" began before opening statements.

"Prosecutorial misconduct undeniably permeated this case," Campbell wrote in the ruling. "Rather than a few isolated missteps, a pattern of intentional misconduct saturated the trial."

Arias' attorneys argued that the misconduct was enough to merit giving her a new trial.

The court reviewed several legal principles on how lawyers should act, including that "a prosecutor should not engage in abusive, argumentative, and harassing conduct."

"Contrary to these legal principles, and in violation of his ethical duties, the prosecutor in this case regularly used aggressive questioning techniques and innuendo to intimidate and malign defense witnesses," Campbell wrote in the opinion.

According to court records, a witness asked Martinez while he was cross-examining her, "Are you angry at me?"

Arias' attorneys during the trial requested a mistrial several times due to Martinez's treatment and tone toward witnesses. The court denied their requests, but admonished Martinez.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court judge's actions were inadequate.

"It is the court's job to police improper conduct, and a persistent badgering and combative demeanor is not simply a prosecutorial 'style,'" Campbell wrote in the opinion. "It is prosecutorial misconduct."

The Court of Appeals said that Martinez's cross-examination questions '"were so improper that we are compelled to conclude' that he 'either knew or should have known of the impropriety.'"

The court called his questions "argumentative" and "disrespectful," and said some questions had "innuendo designed to prejudice the witness."

Martinez's lawyer told The Republic on Tuesday that cross examinations are naturally adversarial.

"While prosecutors are ministers of justice, ours is an adversarial system, and it is not uncommon for emotions to run high and cross examinations to be rigorous," Wilson said. "Every trial lawyer understands this."

The Court of Appeals said it strongly disapproved of Martinez's actions and that an attorney should not escape personal accountability.

But it went on to say that the court would not reverse convictions just to punish attorneys.

"Arias is not entitled to a new trial because there is no reasonable likelihood that the misconduct affected the jury's verdict," Campbell wrote. "The overwhelming evidence of Arias' guilt, as reflected through her own admissions and as clearly set forth within the record, would not have permitted any reasonable juror to acquit her of the charged offense."

'Inappropriate and unprofessional'

Karen Clark, an attorney for Arias who was not involved in her appeal, has filed complaints against Martinez on other matters with the State Bar.

In a statement on Tuesday, she said the Court of Appeals "took the extraordinary step" of referring the misconduct issues to the State Bar.

Clark said while the court did not order a new trial, "other avenues of challenging Martinez's misconduct exist and this issue will likely be considered by other courts in the future."

In a concurring opinion with the other two judges, Judge Kenton D. Jones made an even stronger statement about Martinez, calling his behavior, "persistent, pervasive, inappropriate and unprofessional."

He called Martinez's actions, "a clear abuse of his ethical duties" and said he was left dissatisfied by the serious questions raised by the prosecutor's misconduct, "which has previously been raised with the State Bar yet remains unanswered."

Arizona Republic reporter Robert Anglen contributed to this article.

Follow criminal justice reporter Lauren Castle on Twitter: @Lauren_Castle. Follow investigative reporter Anne Ryman on Twitter at @anneryman.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jodi Arias won't get new trial, despite Juan Martinez's misconduct

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