25 years in television. Too many court cases to count. Truthfully, I’ve never seen a more egregious case of ego run amok than I did today.
The defense rested its case in the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial. After a nearly four-month, victim-bashing siege the likes of which one can only hope never darkens another court of law, Arias was given the opportunity to plead for her life before the jury.
Nearly seven years of posturing, narrative-weaving, and legal maneuvering came down to this moment. This one moment. A literal life and death moment to which every single shred of testimony, every story told to police, every media interview would lead.
Jodi Arias passed.
It takes a special kind of arrogance, or a special kind of stupid, to pass up that chance— that chance to face 12 everyday people to try to make a human connection in hopes of avoiding fatal comeuppance for a brutal and tragic crime.
Arias passed on her chance at allocution (allows a defendant to explain why their sentence should be lenient) because Judge Sherry Stephens denied a defense request to keep Arias’ statement “secret.” Stephens gave in once to such a request, back in October, and it would come to bite her in the ass when the ruling was later overturned by the Arizona Court of Appeals.
So Stephens, exhibiting rare backbone, stuck to her guns. Arias would not be allowed to make a statement in “secret.” Stephens did try to meet Arias halfway. She’d empty the courtroom, dispatching all spectators, including the media, to the 1st-floor overflow room, where they could watch the proceedings on a monitor.
As I posted on Twitter a short time later…
“Its more important to hide what she says from the media than to beg a jury to spare her life? If you ever doubted #JodiArias is insane…”
I’m not suggesting she’s clinically insane. It’s more like a 3-year old who throws a tantrum. But the difference between a toddler and Arias is a toddler likely won’t be strapped to a gurney and pumped full of midazolam and hydromorphone if their tactic fails.
Petulance thy name is Jodi.
Stephens was clearly dumbfounded, so much so, she addressed Arias a second time. “Are you sure?” She explained to Arias that she wouldn’t be under oath, she wouldn’t be cross-examined, and that this was her one and only chance to express remorse to the people charged with deciding her fate. Because as we stand right now, the only thing the jury has heard from Arias, through her defense team, is that Travis Alexander is a pornography-addicted, physically abusive pedophile. Not a whole lot of remorse going on right there. And maybe that’s the real reason Arias declined.
But for Arias, her defiance wasn’t so much a lack of remorse as much as it was doing things on her own terms, consequences be damned. She once again told Stephens she’d speak to the jury if, and only if, she could do it in secret.
Arias has made her position quite clear, getting your own way is paramount. If it means death, so be it. Sadly for her, the Maricopa County Superior Court and the laws of jurisprudence aren’t Burger King. You can’t have it your way.
When she was rebuffed again, Arias stood firm on her own seemingly illogical principles. Even Stephens, (‘Even Stephens,’ see what I did there?) was so incredulous to Arias’ refusal to speak on her own behalf, she asked her if she had taken her meds.
I can’t speak to what goes through the mind of Jodi Arias. Maybe it’s like that old 1930’s pulp novel, “Only the shadow knows.“ I can’t speak to whether the death penalty is, or is not, appropriate. I won’t speak to the so-called mitigation factors presented by the defense, none of which had even a single shred of tangible evidence to support them.
Regardless of anyone’s position on the merits of either side of this case, there really are just two irrefutable facts… 1) Travis Alexander is dead, and 2) Jodi Arias was convicted by a jury of killing him, and if the sentence doesn’t go her way, we might add a third… in the spirit of Paddy Chayefsky, this is the story of Jodi Ann Arias: The first known instance of a woman who was sentenced to death because of ego.