According to the website “The Trial Diaries,” Jen Wood, who attended the most recent Jodi Arias hearing, learned some interesting, though not entirely surprising news: Jodi Arias is prepping to represent herself at her upcoming sentencing trial.
Big shocker, I think not. Jodi Arias’ ego demands that she do this. She is, after all, in her view, the smartest person in the room. Smarter than all of those people who studied the law and graduated law school and successfully practiced law for years. Smarter than Juan Martinez, her would-be opponent, who has practiced law for maybe longer than she has been alive.
This is not the first time Jodi chose self-representation. Early on, she fired her attorneys and felt that she, and she alone, could serve as her best legal representative. I would submit to you that individuals who choose to represent themselves in high-profile cases, especially when facing death, have a high degree of belief in themselves. Some might say arrogant, narcissistic or perhaps mentally ill.
The research about self-representation is relatively minimal. J. Decker (1996) argued that “Some defendants may proceed pro se to symbolize their lack of respect for any kind of authority, . . . or because they are unable to get their way and so represent themselves as an act of defiance” (p. 485).
Decker also believed that these defendants “may be cleverly manipulating the criminal justice system for their own secret agenda (p. 486–7).
Even if there is no hidden motive behind wanting to represent oneself in court, Decker thought that these individuals were “…so totally out of touch with reality that they believe they can do it all themselves” (p. 487).
Psychological reasons for self-representation were explored by Cabell (2012). A person might feel self-empowered representing themselves in front of the jury.
Control is another factor. If an individual is controlling their own defense, then they may be able to convey a more realistic picture of the issues than they believe their appointed counsel could convey.
Some defendants may feel as though they have something important to gain by personally arguing their defense. If they can control the communication with the jury, then they can fully explain themselves and ultimately sway the jury to side with them.
In Jodi’s case, she may believe that given an opportunity to tell her version of events, she’ll be able to sway the jury to forgo the death penalty. She’s good at lying and has probably spent every moment spinning a new variation of her self-defense theory.
She may think that she is good with people but by all accounts, she rubs people the wrong way. She might also rub the jury the wrong way. It is a very big risk.
Thanks to CNN (who successfully argued for her retrial to be televised), we’ll see Jodi’s ego on full display (albeit not until after the verdict has been reached), should she decide to represent herself.
It will be a case to remember.
John F. Decker, The Sixth Amendment Right to Shoot Oneself in the Foot: An Assessment of the Guarantee of Self-Representation Twenty Years After Faretta, 6 SETON HALL CONST. L.J. 483, 522–23 (1996).
Kennedy Cabell. Calculating an alternative route: The difference between a blindfolded ride and a road map in pro se criminal defense. Law and Psychology Review. 36: p259. (2012).