Is Jodi Arias the Worst of the Worst?
The death penalty is still alive in America — in 32 states, to be exact (at the time of this writing). America is the lone remaining country in the western hemisphere and just one of two industrialized democracies (Japan) that still utilizes it. No democracy murders its own people like the Land of the Free, the United States.
The United States has an 8th Amendment that protects its citizens against cruel and unusual punishment — which somehow doesn’t include strapping a citizen to a table and murdering them. Regardless, capital punishment in America is reserved for the worst of the worst.
The opinion in Furman vs. Georgia (1972) rightfully stated that murdering a person amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. When capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, following the ruling of Gregg v. Georgia over 1,400 Americans has been murdered by the government.
Who Decides What’s a Death Penalty Case?
There are tons of criminal cases in America. So how does a case become a death penalty case? The sole discretion is up to the prosecutor, and it’s largely motivated by politics.
If a case hits the media and ramps up public fervor, a prosecutor in one of our 32 death states will feel more inclined to pursue a death penalty — even if a case has to be fabricated. The reasons is because in America, prosecutors and judges are elected politicians who must placate their voting populace.
In the Jodi Arias case, you had a nation filled with rage, which was perpetuated by the media’s hunger for ratings. The media portrayed Jodi out to be the sexy slut, and Alexander out to be the young, conservative, upstart businessman who was sucked in to a tunnel of evil through the sexy mistress.
The storyline sold, and tons of Americans bought it. The office of Bill Montgomery, the boss of Juan Martinez, quickly noticed the uptick in public awareness, and immediately sought the death penalty.
Is This Normal for a Domestic Case?
Not at all. Most cases involving a stormy relationship of domestic tumult are quietly pleaded out to 5 years, 7 years, perhaps 10 years in aggravating circumstances. Jodi has already served 8 years of prison time (less good time, or 6 1/2 years), and the State of Arizona still isn’t satisfied. They’re seeking death.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You poke someone’s eye out, then we’re going to poke your eye out, too.
That’s what America has become: a culture of revenge, and it’s quite sad, considering that the rest of the developed world is soaring past the United States in social arenas as well as educational arenas. The United States has regressed to a virtual theocracy, and — despite being the richest nation in the world — has fallen behind, now down in the ’30s in math, reading, and science. America is a dumbed-down country that thrives off of emotion and revenge.
But Travis Alexander was Slaughtered!
For the life of me, I have yet to find a “pleasant” domestic incident that results in a death. I’ve researched, but to no avail.
Due to all of the prosecutorial misconduct in the Jodi Arias case — specifically, evidence tampering, collusion, and perjury, we just don’t know what’s true and not true anymore. If the Mesa Homicide Unit, led by the disgraced detective (soon-to-be-inmate?) Esteban Flores, tampered with the computer and cell phone, is it unthinkable to suggest they might have tampered with the body itself, making the scene far more gruesome than it actually was? It’s not unthinkable.
Ratings soared during the Jodi Arias trial
The media was in full-force in the Jodi Arias case. HLN had been covering the case for months, and months, and months, and benefiting from the ratings phenomenon that it became. In some ways, the Jodi Arias trial was a repeat of the Casey Anthony trial 3 years prior. The Casey Anthony trial gained HLN its highest ratings in history; 5.2 million viewers tuned in for the verdict — a gain of about 1,700% from the channel’s’ average that time of day.
During the Jodi Arias case, HLN had special hours of programming, reenactments of the incident on cardboard cutout sets, and a nightly juror comprised viewers — many of whom … well, almost all of whom viewed Jodi Arias as guilty.
All of this coverage on HLN also influenced other channels; the morning shows glommed on to the trial, as well as other outlets — even CNN, HLN’s bigger sister. When you’re CNN, and HLN is beating you every day in the ratings, it’s hard to resist covering the trial more. After all, for CNN, the resources were already in place.
The Jodi Arias trial was a ratings phenomenon
Trials are relatively easy to cover; sprinkle some emotion-rousing in there, some sensationalism, and that’s really all people want to see. All of that “fact” and “evidence” stuff is boring. So they came up with words like “slaughtered”, “butchered”, “throat slit ear to ear”, “decapitated”, “whore”, “stalker”, and so on. This is what sells, and this is what gave HLN its 5 million viewers.
After the verdict, HLN moved on to the sentencing phase, and they’re taking it every bit as seriously as the trial phase. The only hiccup is that cameras aren’t allowed in the courtroom. Of course, the one thing that HLN (and no channel) can never broadcast, is an execution. But they’ve shown everything else, up until now, on the debate between life in prison, or the death penalty.
Comparing Other Cases
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery feels that prosecutor discretion is necessary because each case involving a death is different.
Instead, prosecutors weigh their chances of getting a conviction and analyze the aggravating factors that make the defendant eligible for the death sentence. So prosecutors do not want you to compare other cases. But It’s hard not to compare them when death is on the table, especially when the facts of cases like these seem so similar:
- On the same day Jodi was convicted, Crisantos Yocupicio pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison. In 2010, Moroyoqui-Yocupicio, a reputed member of a Mexican drug cartel, murdered an associate who had stolen from him, and then cut his head off — for real.
- A month later, Douglas Ray George beat and stabbed his girlfriend to death and left her naked body in the street in Tempe, Arizona. He also was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prosecutors said it was uncertain whether the crime was premeditated, and determined that it did not happen during the commission of a felony.
Douglas Ray George received 16 years for beating & stabbing his girlfriend to death and leaving her on the street
The manner by which the prosecutors describe the Jodi Arias incident was certainly unpleasant. But so were the murders committed by Moroyoqui-Yocupicio and George. One major difference is the fact that the prosecutors and detectives in the Jodi Arias case were dishonest. But the overriding factor is that the murders by Yocupicio and George were not cases covered nationwide, whereas the Jodi Arias case was a ratings phenomenon, internationally covered on 6 separate continents.
- In July 1991, Randy Brazeal and Richard Stokley took two 13-year-old girls from a southern Arizona small-town fair to an abandoned mine, raped them repeatedly, crushed their chests, poked out their eyes and threw them, still alive, down a well.
It was a horrible crime, but then again, are any crimes “pleasant”?
Brazeal had arranged to bring the girls to the desert and raped both of them. But he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and spent 20 years in prison. He was released in 2012. Brazeal’s attorneys were able to negotiate a plea agreement based on Brazeal’s account of events — before DNA results came back.
- On Nov. 15, 2011, William Null bludgeoned his aunt to death in a days-long argument over $50 worth of cigarettes.
Several aggravators were alleged, including that the murder was excessively heinous, cruel or depraved, and that he caused serious physical injury. But the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office pleaded Null to second-degree murder and burglary, even though he had six prior felony convictions. Montgomery said that the facts of the case were hazy and that Null’s mental health was questionable.
- Robbie Brown thought his girlfriend was seeing another man, so on June 8, 2011, he hit the man in the head with a hatchet and then chopped him up with a machete.
Maricopa County prosecutors alleged the crime was heinous, cruel or depraved; that Brown received financial gain; and they noted his prior felonies as aggravators. Nevertheless, they let him plead to second-degree murder because Montgomery said it was unclear whether Brown or his brother actually committed the murder even though he was convicted.
What Qualifies for a Death Penalty Case?
Arizona likes to murder its own citizens, and has done so 36 times since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Arizona has 17 aggravating factors that can make a case death penalty eligible:
- (1) The defendant has been convicted of another offense in the US for which under Arizona law a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable
- (2) The defendant has been or was previously convicted of a serious offense, whether preparatory or completed.
- (3) In the commission of the offense the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person or persons in addition to the victim of the offense.
- (4) The defendant procured the commission of the offense by payment, or promise of payment, of anything of pecuniary value.
- (5) The defendant committed the offense as consideration for the receipt, or in expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value
- (6) The defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.
- (7) The defendant committed the offense while: (a) In the custody of or on authorized or unauthorized release from the state department of corrections, a law enforcement agency or a county or city jail. (b) On probation for a felony offense
- (8) The defendant has been convicted of one or more other homicides, as defined, which were committed during the commission of the offense
- (9) The defendant was an adult at the time the offense was committed or was tried as an adult and the murdered person was under fifteen years of age or was seventy years of age or older
- (10) The murdered individual was an on duty peace officer who was killed in the course of performing his official duties and the defendant knew, or should have known, that the victim was a peace officer
- (11) The defendant committed the offense with the intent to promote, further or assist the objectives of a criminal street gang or criminal syndicate or to join a criminal street gang or criminal syndicate
- (12) The defendant committed the offense to prevent a person’s cooperation with an official law enforcement investigation, to prevent a person’s testimony in a court proceeding, in retaliation for a person’s cooperation with an official law enforcement investigation or in retaliation for a person’s testimony in a court proceeding
- (13) The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification
- (14) The defendant used a remote stun gun or an authorized remote stun gun in the commission of the offense
- (15) The defendant engaged in terrorism
- (16) The defendant committed burglary in the second degree
- (17) The defendant was an adult and the murdered person was an unborn child in the womb at any stage of its development
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
Under the 17-aggravator system, every single incident involving a death could qualify as a death-penalty case in Arizona (and probably many other states) if a prosecutor wanted to exercise his or her discretion in that manner.
Recently, in Arizona, here was a recognition of the debate from an unexpected place: the Governor’s Office.
In April, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have created a new aggravating factor for “a substantial likelihood that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society.”
Brewer called the aggravating factor “overly broad and vague,” too vague to add it to the 17 aggravating factors currently on the books.The proposed additional language in the legislation broadens the scope of those eligible for the death penalty to the point where the constitutionality of Arizona’s death penalty statute likely would be challenged and potentially declared to be unconstitutional.Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
The aggravator is called F(6) in the statutes, “especially heinous, cruel or depraved.” In Jodi’s’ case, Judge Stephens would only allow for cruelty.To put things into perspective, out of the 17 aggravating factors, the judge would only allow for 1/3 of 1 of the 17 aggravating factors.
Is there such a thing as a pleasant incident that results in a death? Again, this could apply to any incident involving a death.
Even if everything prosecutor Juan Martinez said was true — and now, we know perhaps nothing he said was true — Jodi Arias is not the worst of the worst. In fact, she doesn’t even come close.
While every prosecutor seeking a death warrant will stand before the jury and claim the usual banality, “if this is not a death penalty case, then there’s no point in having a death penalty!”, we need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and really analyze for ourselves.
Cases involving domestic tumult in stormy relationships are commonly pleaded out to 5 or 7 years or so. But not all cases involve the prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering, evidence destruction, perjury, and collusion we’ve witnessed in the Jodi Arias case.
Jodi Arias has already served over 6 1/2 years in confined county jail (8 years of prison time, less good time), with much fewer freedoms than any prison. She’s served over a year and a half in solitary confinement, in violation of the federal statute (as well as our 8th Amendment). It’s time that we, as a nation, set emotion to the side, and used our collective intellect.
Jodi Arias is not the worst of the worst, and frankly, has already served more hard time than most others would in her circumstance.