October 30, 2014. With the courtroom cleared, except for family members and jury, Jodi takes the stand. Willmott walks her through some initial questions to establish she acknowledges her killing of Travis. Jodi also acknowledges she willfully lied to cover up the crime. This is her moment with a brand new jury. Whatever she says here can, and should, have more impact than any other mitigation witness.
NEVER SAY SORRY
Willmott is guiding her to a place where Jodi has the opportunity to express her remorse about the murder of Travis. The jury has been instructed that they must accept this was a premeditated murder. So as much as Jodi wants to claim there was a domestic dispute leading to self defense that day, the jury must accept that premeditation occurred, not self defense. Is anybody really surprised that Jodi again – knowing that she is convicted – falls flat on her face when it comes to the issue of remorse?
Willmott: You were present this morning when Miss Sorenson and Mr. Alexander spoke to the Jury, weren’t you?
Willmott: And did you listen to what they had to say?
Willmott: What do you think of when you hear what they had to say?
Jodi: I think that when I hear that, if I could do… I wish so badly that I could just take that away from them, and that I could reverse what I did, and that I could take away what all these people are feeling that I have hurt including Travis.
She hems and haws badly but can’t seem to find her way to ever say the words that she wishes she never killed Travis and she’s sorry for what she did. Those words have never been spoken to this day, no matter how many times Willmott or Nurmi have led her to the edge of the water. It’s not semantics. She simply refuses to do it.
Since the time Jodi testified in 2013, up through the proceedings that are happening today, she has maintained she doesn’t remember killing Travis. That all of that happened while she was in a fog. But when you look at all of the conscious steps she took before leaving his house and then driving half way through the desert, it’s impossible that somebody in a fog would have executed cover-up tactics to the degree she did immediately upon the killing. She wasn’t rambling around confused for any length of time, she jumped into action the moment that knife hit the ground. We know this from the scene; from the timestamps on the photographs and the amount of things she manipulated within that given timeframe from murder to exit. While driving through the desert she made a deliberate, well-thought-out phone call to Travis’ phone. The man she left dead in the shower. Willmott asks her…
Willmott: Why did you do that?
Jodi: By the time I made the phone call, I realized that I had done something very bad.
How? How did she realize that with no memory?
Jodi: I couldn’t remember details, but I knew… I had a very heavy feeling, and I knew that I had done something very bad. So that phone call was the beginning of when I started to try to cover my tracks.
Nobody orchestrates a cover-up when they have no idea what they are covering up! What if he was still alive? How the hell would she explain being there, trying to kill him, and then later leaving a cheery message for him if he was still alive? Remember – this is HER version of the story. She claimed she doesn’t know if he’s dead or alive, she just has a feeling. Her cover-up tactics don’t work, and don’t make sense, unless she knows that he’s dead. She almost trips herself up when she starts to say “I knew” and then quickly changes that to “I had a very heavy feeling”. Safe to say, this penalty phase jury is also not buying the fog.
BLAME THE FAMILY
The focus in questioning shifts to Jodi’s family and childhood. But this time it’s not just about a wooden spoon. This time to gain any traction it would have to be about a whole lot more.
Willmott: Did that hurt physically?
Jodi: It hurt physically and it made me mad at her pretty bad.
Willmott: And other than being mad, did it hurt you emotionally?
Jodi: Yeah. It hurt me emotionally as well because she is my mom. She is this person in my life who has been loving and nurturing my whole life, and it wasn’t overnight; but she just began to get angrier and more sever in the way she disciplined us.
I suppose this is where Jodi justifies her lousy behavior towards her mom over the years. And then she accuses her dad of screaming at them and using a belt as punishment. She even goes so far to explain how angry she was when they had to move homes a few different times.
Willmott: Where did you go after Salinas?
Jodi: We moved to Santa Maria California.
Willmott: And in Santa Maria what grade were you going into?
Jodi: I was going into the 6th grade. Carl was going into 5th grade.
Willmott: Okay. Did you obviously have to start over at a new house… I mean, a new school?
Jodi: Yes, we did.
Willmott: And how was that going into a new school in 6th grade?
Jodi: Well when my parents first announced we were moving, it was awful. I was very… I was very sad. I had lots of friends in Salinas, and it was scary going to a new school, people I didn’t know.
This is what I don’t understand. Since when has mitigation been about a person’s entire life story? I feel like this is where Judge Stephens really fails the process. Every person on earth has a story. Mitigation is not intended to be the life and times of an accused murderer. Yes it is true that in death penalty cases the defendant is entitled to present any aspect of character they feel important but the court does have the ability to limit them based on the relevance of those aspects. I believe we have far exceeded that point considering the penalty phase has gone on longer than the initial trial.
Willmott moves on to Jodi’s father and wants her to describe his attitude towards her mom.
Willmott: What was happening between your mom and your dad at that time as far as your household is concerned? How was their relationship? What were you viewing?
Jodi: Well, my dad was always… my dad could be very complimentary toward my mom and very loving toward her but on… at the same time he could also be very critical and say demeaning things towards her.
Sound familiar? She’s creating a blueprint for her story about Travis’ abuse and why she never told anybody.
Willmott: Did you see your dad do that towards your mom?
Jodi: I did
Willmott: Did you see your dad demean her in front of you?
Jodi: Yeah, he mostly would demean her about her weight.
Willmott: Okay. Was that something that he used to pick on her about?
Jodi: He did.
Willmott: And what did you see as far as how your mom handled that? What did she do?
Can we all guess what she does? Nothing. Of course. This is where Jodi learned it. This is how Jodi provides a justification to the court for doing nothing about Travis’ supposed abuse.
Jodi: She normally just… she didn’t really say anything. She wouldn’t cower but she would just not say much.
Willmott: Are your parents still married today?
Willmott: And has your mom stayed loyal to your dad?
Jodi: Yes, they are very loyal to each other.
Willmott: Were you ever aware of your parents ever involved with drugs?
Willmott: What was that?
Jodi: When I was 4. I have a distinct memory of going into my parents’ bedroom. I didn’t know what it was at the time. There was a mirror with white powder and a razor. So I realize now that was or what it probably was and also when I was 5, my uncle… my dad’s brother got married and my dad was in the wedding. I was in the wedding. He brought cocaine to the wedding as part of the party.
Willmott: Other than that, did you have any other… did you know anything else about them using drugs?
Jodi: I have learned since that my mom smoked pot on the day I was born prior to giving birth to me. She may have done it more throughout her pregnancy, but I’m not aware of that.
Willmott: Is that something you more recently learned?
Willmott: That was something she didn’t want to share with you before?
Willmott: Is that something she didn’t share with you before?
First, do we believe Jodi about this drug use? And do we believe that her Mom just recently told her about the pot smoking during her pregnancy? Of course, our primary instinct is no. We can’t believe anything she says. But let’s play along. If we do believe that, I can imagine how the conversation unfolded. The Arias family has been silent with the press so even though they’re sitting in that courtroom we truly don’t know what’s going on in their minds. We know they won’t testify on her behalf. But her Mom’s also been sitting there every day since the beginning of trial. She may staunchly support her daughter, or, she may be sitting there out of guilt. Or maybe even just interest. If Jodi and her mom did have this conversation about the pot use, I can imagine it being Sandy distraught at her daughter’s mental state. Searching for an explanation of how she ended up the way she did. Wondering if her pot use during pregnancy created this monster. Or… is it all just more lies. Jodi building a foundation for the possibility of mental issues impairing her judgement.
PART 2 WILL CONTINUE WITH THE ESCALATION OF ISSUES IN THEIR HOME