Arias’ Attorneys Argue Jurors Can’t Judge If Her Crime Was Especially Cruel

Mr. Nurmi begins his newest motion to spare Jodi Arias from the death penalty, by asking Judge Sherry Stevens to “vacate the jury’s finding the aggravating factor that the murder of Mr. Alexander was “especially cruel…” After Jodi Arias was convicted of premeditated murder, the jury found that the “cruelty aggravator” was proven. 


Her lawyers argue that the definition of “especially cruel,” as applied to murder, is unconstitutionally vague and therefore “legally meaningless.” They also believe that jurors, with no legal experience, can’t properly determine what makes one killing more cruel or heinous than another.

Citing two different definitions of cruelty from former cases, her attorney’s believe that “the dramatic difference and degree in the language in just these two examples cannot be said to help a layperson jury make a sound, principled decision on whether to impose the ultimate punishment, or not…”

The first definition they cite comes from the State v. Velazquez case:

“Cruelty involves the infliction of physical pain and/or mental anguish on a victim before death. A crime is committed in an especially cruel manner when a defendant either intended to inflict mental anguish or physical pain upon the victim, or reasonably foresaw that there was a substantial likelihood that the manner in which the crime was committed would cause the victim to experience mental anguish and/or physical pain before death.”

“The victim must be conscious for at least some portion of the time when the pain and/or anguish was inflicted.”

The second definition cited by Arias’ attorneys, comes from the State v. Ellison case, in which the trial court defined “especially cruel” as follows:

“In order to find that the especially cruel aggravating circumstance is present as to either murder, you must find that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was especially cruel due to the infliction of either extreme physical pain or extreme mental anguish upon the victim.”

Elements of the definition of “cruel” and “especially cruel,” seem to involve factors which include the victim being conscious and experiencing extreme physical pain and/or mental anguish.

Arias’ attorneys ultimately believe that:

“In Arizona…2013, in one Arizona trial court, in order to be sentenced to death a defendant must inflict extreme physical pain or extreme mental anguish, while in another Arizona trial court, inflict mere physical pain or mental anguish in order to face the death penalty. Moreover, there is no definition of what constitutes “extreme” physical pain or mental anguish over “run-of-the-mill” physical pain or mental anguish. That problem is left to the untrained in the law layperson jurors to muddle through. Yet the death penalty lies in the balance.”

In other words, since a consistent judicial definition of cruelty is lacking, the judge should vacate the jury’s decision which found that Jodi Arias killed Mr. Alexander in a “especially cruel” manner.

This is obviously a technical argument. When asked for a comment, Bill Montgomery, of Maricopa County, called the motion a “standard procedural move.” “Those are defense attorneys doing their job advocating for their client,” Montgomery said. “Obviously, we disagree.”

Jodi Arias’ attorneys have not returned calls from the press regarding this new motion.

You do not need legal experience to know that any murder that involves a victim having their throat sliced from ear-to-ear, nearly being decapitated, is not “run-of-the-mill.” The manner in which Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander constitutes exceptional cruelty of the highest order.

40 thoughts on “Arias’ Attorneys Argue Jurors Can’t Judge If Her Crime Was Especially Cruel

  1. This latest motion by Nurmi is out of line. These frivolous motions need to stop. There is no doubt that Arias killed Travis in an aggravated manner that was especially cruel. The trial should proceed and these frivolous motions need to stop. You do not need to be an attorney to know that especially cruel happened. Stop this and go on with the sentencing phase. She deserves, without doubt, the death penalty.

  2. I don’t think you need to be an expert to realize Travis’ murder was especially cruel! He knew he was going to die and was conscious long enough to drag himself down the hallway, no doubt being stabbed along the way. And God only knows what cruel and evil things Jodi was most likely spewing. I can’t imagine the panic and dread that was running through him the last moments of his life.

    • I think it came down after seeing Travis’s picture in the shower. He look scared like she already had the gun on him, told him to turn around then started stabbing him, he made it to the sink, tried to get down hallway, then Jodi slashed his throat, drug him to the shower shot him put him back in shower and washed him off the best she could. DP ONLY!

  3. When will Nurmi and Wilmont realize that their client is a MURDERER. She was found GUILTY of 1st degree premeditated murder…..what part of the horrendous murder do they find not cruel…..the stabbing in the chest, the cluster in the back while Travis watched, oh …maybe when his throat was being sliced like a Christmas turkey…..they are PATHETIC…trying to save a life of a person that had absolutely no regard for human life. What is so difficult about finding her manner of killing extremely cruel impossible by the jury that convicted her for murder….the evidence was right there, big as life…..and she did nothing but lie through the entire trial….it is a sad day when they think more about saving a useless life rather than giving justice to a life that had purpose….jmo

    • Most defense attorney”s do no believe in DP. Think Arias attorney’s would have no problem with her getting life w/o parole. That I think is the whole point of delays for court the to take DP off table. I could not ever be a defense attorney. If I found one little thing I didn’t believe could not fight for them.

    • I think, and believe the reason they can’t see that it was cruel, is because Jodi is still manipulating and brain washing them, since she couldn’t convince and or brain wash the jury into believing she was innocent, she is still trying to convince her sad, pathetic lawyers that she is innocent!! I do believe the trial should have had a more experienced judge with a back bone!!

      • Carmen I don’t think Jodi in any way brainwashed her defense team. Nurmi would never have ask twice to let them both off her case but was denied by the judge. By law they have to do what ever is needed to get her off DP. Plus you heard Nurmi say in close he didn’t like Jodi 9 out of 10 days. Sure he was telling the truth and wished he had never taken her case.

  4. How utterly absurd. I knew if they did not give her the death penalty, she would do everything in her power to become free. She is a murderer. No murdered should EVER get out of prison. NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!

    • This is just another way for Nurmi and Wilmott to make their $250.00 an hour from the taxpayers while they are waiting for the retrial. The Arizona Supreme Court has already ruled that jurors must decide if there are aggravating factors and not the judge. So the motion is meaningless and will be denied.

  5. OMG, Nurmi bores the hell out of me! Nurmi’s pretending to be Clinton, not sure of what is is. “Especially” is the word he’s hung up on here and how a jury can distinguish especially cruel as opposed to merely cruel.

    But “especially” attached to cruel means “extreme” anguish under the case law. The jury was not left to make it up or reach their own definition because Juan Martinez carefully demonstrated by the medical examiner evidence that Travis suffered “extreme anguish” mentally and physically. He also tied it together in his argument letting the jury know that this “extreme” qualifies as “especially” under the elements they must find.

    If Juan had not brought out the “extreme” aspects of the anguish through the evidence and had not made the argument to the jury that “extreme anguish” is “especially cruel,” Nurmi might have a point. But since that didn’t happen, why must he insist on an alternate universe?

  6. I know they say they are trying to do their job on behalf of their client but its pretty sick when this is a clear cut (not a pun, a graphic reminder) case and their client is an admitted lying murderer who is clearly psychopathic and as Dr. Randle pointed out in a previous blog – she made clear indications in word and action that she would not hesitate to kill again – buying a gun to go on a camping trip with unknown men “just in case she needs to use it” instead of doing what a normal rational person would do by rethinking about going on a camping trip with several unknown men. If there’s fun to be had she doesn’t want to miss out on it but if things don’t go her way she’ll have no problem taking someone’s life instead of missing out on potential fun by not going. She has no problem killing, she does have a problem giving up control and not getting her way. And they are trying to lessen the severity of her punishment to potentially let her out in the mainstream of society?

    I seriously do not know how these defense lawyers sleep at night.

  7. Yet another motion on Nurmi’s extremely long “what can I file list”. Nurmi is hoping the longer he drags this out
    the State may take death off the table. The tactics the defense team have used in this case from the beginning are disgusting.
    Throwing anything and everything against the wall to see what sticks. Dragging this out at this point is more about filling up his bank account.

    • Death Penalty cases are handled differently because you can be given the ultimate penalty.
      If the Judge makes an error, there is a chance that a mistrial can be declared and they have to start completely over.
      That is why the defense is given some latitude.

      • Chris do understand what you have said also agree to some of your reply. Think judge is letting way to much time being spent on trial. Can’t understand why she would put off ruling on delay. She should have ruled on June 20th that trial would move forward. Think she is leaning over backwards for the defense. Also this is her first DP trial she has ever been on. Wish Jodi had a judge that had tried over DP before.

        • I would think it’s probably more about scheduling, Juan has a “big” case coming up in July and I’m sure Nurmi and Wilmott will whine and cry like babies to get this delayed. I would bet that Judge Stephens wants this
          over with as much as we do. I feel awful for the Alexander family, and wish the sentencing was over.
          The Zimmerman judge is a little pistol! She keeps those attorneys in line and moving.
          Did Nurmi and Wilmott drag the trial out knowing that the judge had to be extra careful because it was a death penalty case? I believe they did exactly that.

          • Of course defense will whine. I think they want to put trial off as long as they can hoping next jury will have forgotten some of the things from first trial. I think Juan would jump at the chance this would start right away. His other cases can be delayed or have another attorney take his other cases over. That’s done all the time.

  8. The point I wish to make is that the approach Jodi took to carry out the murder of Travis went far beyond “especially” cruel. I believe the approach Arias took was plain and simple TORTURE. We dont know how long she had a gun out either, do we. Finally, when I learned she was a fan of the Vampire chronicles I decided to google Vampires to see if I could find any connection. Low and behold, I found one almost immediately.According to common folklore, there are a great deal of similarities between the manner to kill a Vampire and the manner in whicih Travis A was killed. Although there are dozens of websites here is the link for one.

    • In her journal, Jodi Arias wrote a couple of weeks before she murdered Travis Alexander, that she and Travis Alexander had broken up for good and said men didn’t realize what pain she felt when he told her he planned on marrying Mimi Hall.

      I believe she deliberately used the knife and stabbed him in the heart first because she wanted Travis Alexander to feel the pain in his heart that she felt when he rejected her for Mimi and she wanted him to feel pain every time she stuck the knife into his heart, chest, back, head, neck and legs.

      In the first interrogation with Flores when Arias denied killing Travis and being in Mesa when he was killed, Arias said “If I killed Travis, I would have used a gun and not a knife because I would show him mercy.” That told me she purposely used the knife and not the gun because she did not want to show him mercy.

      The day after she was arrested and admitted she was there and witnessed Travis being shot and stabbed by a woman and man in black, she described Travis as “screaming – not like a little girl – but like he was really in pain.” Arias also said he was on his knees and demonstrated how he was on his knees. She also said he was lying on the rug still conscious and the woman with the knife was standing over him. She also said the killers came specifically to kill Travis. I believe when she said this she was telling the truth but typical of Arias taking no responsibility and blaming it on someone else.

    • Wow, I just saw the link you posted, and it gave me chills, she is calculated, and malicious!! she meant to torture him, because she CANNOT and WILL NOT be rejected by a man!! She meant to kill him slowly, and enjoyed every minute of it, she needs the Death Penalty asap!!!!

  9. I have a question. Hopefully, someone can help me here. Taking into account that a defense attorney must do his job and defend his client, at what point does the defense become unethical?

    It’s hard for me to come to an opinion on Nurmi. I don’t know whether he is actually doing the job which a defense attorney should actually do which makes him seem unethical because of who he is representing or if he is truly an unethical attorney. Hopefully, someone can help me out here. Thanks.

    • Sharon defense has to do what ever it takes to save Jodi from DP. Nurmi knows she is guilty but most defense attorneys do not believe in DP so they need to do what ever they can to save their client. Prosecution also does what ever is needed to convict. Think Nurmi can’t stand Jodi but is stuck with her now. Do I like what he is doing? NO but I understand. I want DP for sure.

      • It’s my understanding that a defense attorney is obligated to present a vigorous defense, protecting constitutional rights of a client. Wouldn’t their prime objective be to ensure innocent people don’t get imprisoned or subjected to the death penalty?

        Defense attorneys cannot present false information or allow clients to lie. Right there, Nurmi has violated ethics IMO. All the leading questions of Arias on the stand about unsubstantiated allegations against Travis would qualify as unethical if he knew she was lying. Her accusations of physical abuse and pedophilia were blatant lies, manufactured late in the process by JA after sitting in jail for years.

        Frivolous motions and objections should not be allowed by the judge. IMO Judge Sherry has lost control of her courtroom in an effort to avoid appellate issues. Allowing Arias to remain on the stand for weeks engaging in a conversational porn fest showed bias favoring the defense. I hope she rules swiftly on the 18th to not delay the new penalty phase.

        • Judge Sherry lost control the first day of trial. Bet she won’t rule on delay 7/20, she will delay again. I’m sure Nurmi knew everthing out of Jo0di’s mouth was a lie But without Travis how is Nurmi going to prove that they are all lies. Jodi is the one that runs the show. Just to let anyone reading my comment I hope Jodi gets DP!

  10. Somebody please remind me—What legal grounds did the judge use when she initially ruled the State could argue only that the murder was “cruel” and not argue that it was “heinous” in terms of an aggravator? I know she made that ruling but early on I was unable to watch the trial coverage. Thanks in advance.

    • it’s not so much that they are arguing the Jury can’t render a decision; obviously it can and has. What they are arguing is an issue for appeal – that the statute dealing with the terms, “especially” and “cruel” are too vague to have a meaning that can be applied across the board – this first degree murder is cruel, but this one is especially cruel. Think of it in contrast to speeding – if the speed limit is 55, then going 60 is over that limit; it’s really pretty cut and dried and the average person (and average attorney) can easily apply the standard. Not so with a first degree murder determination between what’s cruel and what’s especially cruel. While this may not be the poster case for calling the definition “especially cruel” or even just “cruel” into question, it’s still a valid point, and something legislators have been dealing with for a long time. Some types of first degree murder are a bit more cut and dried and easier to apply to determine if the killing should be death eligible – the murder of law enforcement, the murder of children, etc, but “especially cruel” is a bit more ambiguous. It’s sort of like SCOTUS’s definition of obscene – I’ll know it when I see it.

      The finding of fact in this case pretty much screams, “especially cruel” even if we can’t come up with a good definition of what first degree murders are especially cruel and what first degree murders are not especially cruel. I also bet this is a continuation of an issue the DT has been arguing regarding jury instructions.

  11. While this may be a ‘standard procedural move’, it seems silly to argue that what 12 jurors agreed was extremely cruel, would not be considered merely cruel. This crime would have fit both definitions. What would make this unfair to the defendant? It would seem more likely that it wasn’t quite fair to the victim’s family, if the crime ought to have been held to a lesser measure of cruelty. If anything, the defendant benefited from this, so why argue?
    I hope the Judge can’t reverse the Jury’s decision, but if this is possible, wouldn’t it just go to the new Jury? Maybe it is just procedure, or is the whole point to delay things as long as possible?
    I know everyone deserves a fair trial with the best defense possible, and I truly believe that – but isn’t there a limit to how far a defense attorney is required to push – even in a well-publicized trial? I can’t fathom how the defense attorneys in a trial like this manage – I’d probably try really hard for $250 an hour – I don’t know that I’d succeed. I would think this to be an appellate issue, if it is relevant at all.
    Just venting a bit of frustration at the legal process, obviously no lawyer here.

  12. I’m not a lawyer either. And yes, common sense does suggest that this murder was likely crueler than the “average” murder

    But I think Nurmi is raising an interesting and possibly valid legal point here. He is not claiming that the killing of Travis was not “especially cruel”. And he is not claiming that the essential concept of “more punishment for crueler killing” has no merit. He is simply saying that. as the concept is presently applied in the real world, there are very legitimate problems of clarity and consistency. When this situation is the case, it is not unreasonable at all to question whether the actual practice is unfair and/or unconstitutional. I don’t think that JSS will grant this motion, but I would not be surprised to see it go to the Supreme Court in a close decision…

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