I have been observing the system of online criminal justice now for some time: News organisations, journalists, anchors, pundits, PR companies, judges, attorneys, cops, jailors, investigators, expert witnesses, defendants, criminals, convicts and victims, their relations and supporters, trial watchers, fans of “True crime”, trolls, conmen and of course people may be many of these at the same time. Distinguishing who is which can be a non-trivial exercise.
Recently I received an invitation to appear on Time Warner’s US television channel “HLN”. The subject was Jodi Arias, an innocent woman convicted of first degree murder, currently facing a retrial on the question of whether she should be executed.
As in any intrigue, motives are not easily ascertained. What drives an individual or an organisation to make decisions? I am often unsure of my own motives, let alone those of others, but I said I was interested, and after some consideration, and contrary to the urging of some including Jodi herself, I decided to accept the invitation.
The technology employed was Skype, however the integration was slightly cumbersome, and somewhat to my surprise, remote participants are not visually connected to those in the TV studio. After some anxiety caused by the rapidly evolving schedule and a producer being caught in a meeting, around 4pm GMT (12am Eastern time) on 19th March, I was connected, listening to discussion of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa and then the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The host was ex-attorney Vinnie Politan, six years my junior, the Stanford educated son of a judge, and now an experienced anchor-man. The discussion panel was Judge Glenda Hatchett and Attorneys Ebonik Williams and Loni Coombs.
Nerves rather got the better of me, I spoke too fast, and managed to say ‘physician’, corrected to ‘physics person’, instead of ‘physicist’, doubtless a sign of approaching senility. Still, I feel I made some solid points, albeit they were not as clearly stated as I would like.
Vinnie: Jodi Arias has been convicted of murder, right now the only thing to be determined is what is her sentence is it going to be life in prison or will it be the death penalty. September 8th the is the new date for that, we will be keeping an eye on that, but any of you who have been on social media know that not everyone in the world agrees with that verdict and everyones entitled to their opinions, but … people kindof get, you know, excited about this stuff and really let their opinions be know so we found a facebook page jodi arias is innocent and we said ok, someone thinks she’s innocent, we’ve got to talk to these guys, let’s bring him in, his name is George Barwood he’s joining us all the way from the UK, George nice to see you , let me just say from the outset that I don’t agree with your assessment of Jodi Arias, (me right) but I will be civilised her and we’ll have a vigourous talk about the facts of this case, let me start right here: why did you start the Facebook page “Jodi Arias is Innocent”?
George: Well, that’s not my page, but I made a page, Why Jodi is innocent, a Facebook page, it’s to allow anyone with a smart phone to read about the key physical evidence in Jodi’s case which proves her story is true.
Vinnie: Tell me one reason why Jodi Arias is innocent.
George: Well, the prosecution kept changing it’s theory. It’s a sign they don’t have a good case isn’t it. I mean, the medical examiner is claiming a “typo” in the autopsy report, you know, that’s not credible, have a look at that, there’s lots of things in the autopsy report, there wasn’t any damage to the brain. So, there’s another explanation for that.
Vinnie: Let me jump in, you say the prosecution changed their stories, why did Jodi change her story three times?
George: Well, Jodi got off to a very bad start didn’t she? She lied and lied, she didn’t want to admit to what had happened. She was afraid, frightened ( Vinnie: of what ) frightened she’d committed murder I think. She didn’t know what happened did she.
But, I mean, let’s consider it on the physical evidence, that’s all fluffy stuff isn’t it, you can’t prove anything from that, you know Juan Martinez had a theory didn’t he, it was a different theory, originally the gunshot they said the gunshot was first.
Vinnie: You strike me as a very normal, reasonable guy, you married, you got kids, give me a thumbnail sketch of who you are?
George: Yeah, well I’m a pretty bright guy, I went to Cambridge University in the UK, I had a scholarship to do physics and maths, I’m a physician [oops!] a physics person, a mathematician, a scientist.
Vinnie: Someone tweeted us, they wanted to know if George had a crush on Jodi Arias.
George: (laughs) I support a lot of different people you know Vinnie, and more than half of them are men.
Vinnie: Give us another reason why you believe Jodi Arias is innocent.
George: Well, the motive’s not credible. I mean, Jodi was on a trip to see a new boyfriend, why would she be jealous of Travis, crimes of passion are not premeditated by a week are they, you know? This is all wrong. This doesn’t make sense.
Eboni: He’s clearly not a woman Vinnie, he doesn’t understand how methodical some of us could be. A week is absolutely not unreasonable if you really want to get that element of surprise going, sorry George…
Glenda: You didn’t address the fact that she was jilted, I mean he was on his way, on a trip out of the country, with another woman. Let’s remember that, he changed the ticket from Jodi to the new woman.
George: Jodi was going to see her new boyfriend?
Glenda: That was a fake.
Vinnie: The boyfriend was an alibi. Right Ronnie?
Loni: That was a cover, that was a set-up.
Loni: But George, let me ask you, just to get it straight, do you buy Jodi Arias’s story that she went into a fog, the moment that she started stabbing and shooting Travis.
George: Sure, that’s a proven fact, if the stress levels rise beyond a certain amount, you can’t remember anything. That’s a medically proven fact.
Loni: Why would she never call the police at any time after that?
George: She was terrified.
Loni: If she was totally innocent, and it was in self-defence, why would she not call the police.
George: She was putting it off, she didn’t know what to do, did she, she put it off and put if off, and, you know, would you hand yourself in?
George: Another thing, you know they say Jodi lied about returning this gas can to Walmart, what’s that got to do with anything? I found out Amanda Webb didn’t work at the physical store Jodi shopped at. That’s nonsense that evidence.
Vinnie: the significance of the lying about the gas cans is that she lied in front of the jury. She was explaining…
George: (breaking in) but she didn’t lie! She didn’t lie.
Vinnie: you should send an email over to Kirk Nurmi then.
George: well they know about that, that’ll come out in the appeal, Jodi’s going to appeal.
Vinnie: everyone appeals in this country. How much time do we have left? How much?
Vinnie: We gotta wrap. George, it’s great meeting you, and I’d like to speak with you in the future as we get closer to the new trial.
George: you’re welcome.
Vinnie: he was at Cambridge, he’s got credibility to a certain extent.
George: I’ve had two successes this year, David Camm’s trial I followed that, I represented him, he was exonerated on his third trial, I followed Debra Milke very closely, she’s out of
Vinnie: We’re out of time George! Thank you…