Could convicted murderer Jodi Arias get her conviction overturned? Thanks to the alleged misconduct of a prosecutor who worked on her case, it’s now possible.
Arias was found guilty in 2013 of first-degree premeditated murder of her ex-boyfriend, 30-year-old Travis Alexander. He was discovered dead in his shower with nearly 30 stab wounds and a bullet in his head at his home in Mesa, Arizona; prosecutors said Arias planned the killing after Alexander broke up with her.
The murder, and the subsequent trial, became something of a media circus. Now, the conduct of one of the key players in that trial may end up overturning Arias’ conviction.
The Arizona Court of Appeals is now considering appeals filed against Arias’ conviction in light of multiple allegations made against Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez, CNN reports.
Martinez has been accused of leaking information to a blogger, with whom he was having an intimate relationship, during the Arias trial, KNXV-TV in Phoenix reported in August. That blogger allegedly helped Martinez look up unfavorable information about a juror who refused to vote for the death sentence, according to the Arizona Republic. After a mistrial was declared, that juror’s name was leaked to the public, though it was never determined conclusively who was the source of the leak.
Martinez is also accused of lying about his conduct regarding the blogger during a deposition.
Martinez also allegedly tried to get a dismissed juror to give him information about other jurors. That juror, a woman, testified in a deposition that she contacted Martinez after being dismissed expressing an interest in pursuing a sexual relationship with him; she also testified that she sent him nude photographs of herself over text.
It isn’t the first time that Martinez’ conduct came into play. He’s had multiple ethics complaints made against him for behavior during other criminal cases. In addition, multiple women have accused him of inappropriate conduct dating as far back as 1990, according to another KNXV-TV report. "It has come to my attention that there was an incident in February, where you made inappropriate sexual remarks toward a female attorney in this office,” a supervisor wrote in the early 1990s, according to the Phoenix New Times. “It is now time that this behavior ceases, once and for all."
That behavior allegedly continued.
Martinez was reportedly investigated after a recent sexual harassment complaint was made against him by women in the Maricopa County Attorney's Office employees (one that is separate from the one made against him in the 90s). Thirty women in the office were interviewed during the investigation, KNXV-TV reports. In 2015, he allegedly made sexual advances towards multiple women at work. He allegedly tried to get one woman to leave her husband for him and he told another that he'd like to see what was in her skirt. Several women who worked with him claimed they would hide in the bathroom whenever Martinez was approaching. The Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee recommended that Martinez be placed on probation for unethical behavior in 2016, but the charges made against him were dismissed during a disciplinary hearing.
As for the alleged ethics violations, at least seven bar complaints were filed against him in the past four years, according to the Phoenix New Times. Multiple lawmakers along with local, state, and national organizations even called for former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to resign for not addressing the flow of allegations made against Martinez over the years.
Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesperson Amanda Steele told the Arizona Republic that Martinez's alleged misconduct are being investigated in two different contexts: within the Arias appeal case and before the State Bar of Arizona.
"We want to ensure our community’s understanding that there are two separate proceedings," Steele said in a statement, although there is some overlap. "In one, there is the criminal conviction and life sentence in the Arias case that ... is currently being considered by the Court of Appeals. This also involves claims of prosecutorial misconduct that allegedly occurred during the Arias trial. These separately are being reviewed as part of complaints submitted to the Arizona State Bar."
The Court of Appeals will be looking into whether or not Arias should have a new trial if it is found that there was prosecutorial misconduct in her case, USA Today reports. They will also determine if any misconduct contributed to the guilty verdict made against Arias.
Arguments for that are scheduled for Oct. 17.
Martinez was transferred out of the Maricopa County Attorney's capital litigation bureau to the auto theft division in September in light of the complaints made against him.
"Given the Arizona Bar proceedings involving Mr. Martinez, I felt it was important to assign him a caseload that would be more flexible and allow him to take time when needed to focus on resolving these complaints," a statement from Maricopa County Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell said in a statement.
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