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Apr 242013
 

Hemera/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) — The attorney for controversial abortion doctor and accused murderer Kermit Gosnell rested his defense Wednesday without presenting any witnesses or calling on Gosnell to testify.

The announcement by Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, came just a day after the defense began presenting its case, and signaled a quick end to a trial that has seen five weeks of testimony from prosecution witnesses.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys will have the rest of the week to prepare closing statements in the case, which they will present on Monday, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI.

Gosnell is charged with four counts of first-degree murder stemming from the practices at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, where he allegedly used untrained staff to help perform late-term abortions that included, according to testimony, delivering babies and then killing them outside the womb.

He is accused of using scissors to snip the spinal chords of infants in cases where the abortion inside the womb failed, and the babies were delivered.

He could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors also say that the doctor overdosed a female patient with anesthesia and failed to get her medical help, which led to her death. He is charged with third-degree murder in her death.

Earlier this week, Judge Jeffrey Minehart dismissed three other murder charges that concerned allegedly killing infants who were born alive. Minehart said there was not enough evidence to send the charges to a jury.

Workers from the clinic had testified during the prosecution’s case that they had seen some of the infants take a breath or move after they were delivered from their mothers, which prosecutors said showed that Gosnell killed viable infants after botched abortions, leading to the murder charges.

Gosnell’s attorney asked Minehart to dismiss the charges after the prosecution rested.

“There is not one piece – not one – of objective, scientific evidence that anyone was born alive,” McMahon said, according to WPVI. “These are not the movements of a live child.”

The trial has roused both sides of the abortion debate, with abortion-rights activists condemning Gosnell’s murder as far outside the bounds of legalized abortion and anti-abortions rights groups hoping the trial sheds light on what they see as the troubling aspects of abortion.

Ann Scheidler, a vice president for the Pro-Life Action League, said that the dropped charges showed the “gray area” that is difficult to sort through when it comes to judging when an infant is considered alive, with its own rights.

“It certainly does highlight the complications that begin to emerge when you’re talking about life and death and that short distance, that short time between being in the womb and out of the womb,” Scheidler said.

“At some point we’re going to have to face the issue of just what is the difference and why is it okay to take a person’s life if that life is still inside the womb, or when the baby is outside the womb but the intention was to take its life inside,” she said.

Vicki Saporta, president for the abortion rights group National Abortion Federation, said that Gosnell took advantage of the women who came to him in need of an abortion. She said his clinic is not representative of safe, regulated abortion clinics.

“Unfortunately, you do have rogue providers that prey on the most vulnerable of women and regardless of a woman’s income level they deserve access to high-quality care,” Saporta said.

Saporta noted that Pennsylvania already has strict abortion regulations, but that the regulations were not enforced, allowing Gosnell to run an illegal operation.

“The fact that he wasn’t providing care later and wasn’t ensuring fetal demise and not operating under any established standards of care and outside of the law is the problem in this case, and not indicative of the high-quality care available across the country,” Saporta said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 072013
 

ABC News(PHOENIX) — Accused murderer Jodi Arias made a dramatic final plea to the jury in her murder trial Thursday, asking them to believe her.

“Why should anyone believe you now? That is the ultimate question, Jodi. Why should we believe you now?” attorney Kirk Nurmi asked Arias in his final question to her during the trial.

Arias, 32, spent two days answering questions from the jury that showed skepticism among jurors, one of whom asked her outright why the jury should believe what she says on the stand after she admitted to so many lies. Arias could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008.

During Nurmi’s follow-up questions, Arias turned in her seat to face the jury and speak to them directly.

“Like I said before, I lied a lot. Each of those lies tied back to two things: protecting his ego, no, his reputation, and my own, and second, relating to any involvement in his death,” she said.

Arias then paused dramatically.

“I understand that there will always be questions, but all I can do, at this point, is say what happened to the best of my recollection. If I’m convicted, that’s because of my own bad choices,” she said as prosecutor Juan Martinez objected loudly.

It was the final statement Arias will make to the jurors, who submitted more than 100 questions of their own to Arias about the alleged murder. Martinez will finish his follow-up questions when the trial resumes Wednesday, March 13.

Arias is facing charges for killing Alexander during what she claims was a violent argument at his home in Mesa, Ariz., on June 4, 2008. She has claimed she killed him in self-defense.

The prosecution claims she killed Alexander out of jealousy and then lied about it to protect herself.

“You claim everything happened so fast you didn’t have time to think, so how could you think of grabbing a gun?” asked another.

The questions were the final look into how the jurors may view the case against Arias, who is charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Arizona is one of only three states that allow jurors to ask questions of witnesses. As Arias answered the original 100 questions they submitted, jurors quickly scribbled 14 more that they submitted to Judge Sherry Stephens.

The questions focused on Arias’ lies and her claim that she could not remember killing Alexander.

“Were you mad at Travis while you were stabbing him? Why did you take the rope and gun with you? Why didn’t you call 911?” they asked.

“Did you ever see a doctor for your memory issues? Have you ever taken medication for your memory issue? How is it you remember so many of your sexual encounters, including your ex-boyfriends, but you do not remember stabbing Travis and dragging his body?”

“Well,” Arias answered from the stand, “as far as what happened on June 4, I don’t know how the mind works necessarily, but I know that was the most traumatic experience of my life.”

The jury is made up of 18 adults, 11 men and seven women, who have sat through more than 30 days of testimony so far in the case. Before going into deliberations, the jury will be whittled to 12, and alternates will be dismissed.

According to her testimony, Arias and Alexander dated for a year, and then slept together for another year after breaking up, from 2006 to 2008. During that time, she alleges that he grew sexually abusive and physically violent after she found out he was sexually attracted to young boys.

She killed Alexander after traveling to his Arizona home from where she was living in California. They had sex and took nude photos of each other that same day. Arias claims Alexander exploded in a rage when she dropped his camera while photographing him taking a shower. She testified that he slammed her to the floor and she ran to a closet where she grabbed a gun he had, but the gun fired as he charged into her.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 062013
 

ABC News(PHOENIX) — Questions posed by jurors to accused murderer Jodi Arias Wednesday showed skepticism toward many of Arias’ claims about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander and the alleged confrontation that resulted in his death.

Members of the jury submitted more than 100 questions to Judge Sherry Stephens after Arias finished testifying in direct and cross examination. Arias, 32, is charged with murder in Alexander’s death and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Arizona is one of three states that allow the jury to ask questions of witnesses on the stand.

The jurors asked Arias why she never took photos of the bruising she claims she suffered at the hands of Alexander, never reported his allegedly abusive behavior to police, and carried on a relationship with him despite her claim that he was sexually interested in young boys.

They also asked specific questions about the incident in which Arias killed Alexander during a violent confrontation at his Mesa, Ariz., home in June 2008. She stabbed him, slashed his throat, and shot him in what she claims was self-defense.

“Did Travis’ closet doors have locks? If not, how did you get the gun down from the shelf if he was right behind you?” Stephens read from the question card.

“I don’t recall there being locks. I don’t know if he was right behind me, I just had the sense he was chasing me,” Arias responded.

Arias was then asked to explain the confrontation using a map of Alexander’s bathroom and bedroom.

The questions, which are expected to continue Thursday, are the final part of Arias’ time on the stand. She has been testifying for 16 days.

The questions offer a glimpse into the thinking of the jury as the case winds toward its conclusion and jurors are forced to weigh the evidence in what could be a death penalty case.

She is accused of premeditated murder for the death of Alexander. The pair had dated for a year and then continued to sleep together for another year until Alexander’s death, according to testimony.

During her testimony, Arias has claimed that she was forced to kill Alexander after he flew into a violent rage during an argument and allegedly threatened to kill her. During her days on the stand, Arias portrayed Alexander as increasingly demanding, abusive, and sexually deviant. The prosecution countered with photographic — sometimes pornographic — evidence Arias was apparently a very willing participant.

The jury is currently made up of 18 people, four of whom are alternates, in case one of the official 12 jurors falls ill or has to be excused from the jury ahead of deliberations.

The jury is made up of seven women, all in their thirties and forties, and 11 men, nine of whom are over the age of 40.

The jurors have been outspoken in asking questions of previous witnesses, submitting them on written cards that are then read aloud by the judge.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 052013
 

ABC News(PHOENIX) — It has been a trial filled with smut: hours of phone sex conversations, emails and text messages containing pictures of genitals, and testimony filled with the sexual fantasies and preferred sex acts of accused murderer Jodi Arias and the man she killed, Travis Alexander.

Though Arias’ fate hinges on whether the jury believes she killed Alexander in self-defense or murdered him out of jealousy, the trial has spent relatively little time on the actual incident in which Arias stabbed, slashed, and shot her ex-boyfriend.

Instead, Arias, 32, has spent 15 days on the witness stand describing in minute detail — much of which is too raunchy to print in this report — the sex life she shared with Alexander. In fact, she testified for nine days without mentioning the killing at all.

“What other fantasies did you have?” lead defense attorney Kirk Nurmi asked Arias on her third day of testifying, on Feb. 6.

Arias rattled off a list of fantasies that Alexander had shared with her, typical of the testimony from much of the trial ranging from a reference to the “mile high club” to having her wear boy’s underwear and have sex in his office.

California defense attorney Michael Cardoza, who has been following the trial, said that with both sides focusing so heavily on the sex, the jury may be fed up hearing graphic details over and over again.

“I’m sure if they could stand up they would say enough already, knock it off, we’ve got it, we get it, we’re not stupid. If you ask that question one more time we’re going to convict you [the lawyer asking the question],” Cardoza said.

On Tuesday, Nurmi again trod well-worn ground in the case during the second day of redirect, asking Arias to read diary entries and explain her accusation that Alexander was sexually attracted to young boys.

“Something is just off with that boy,” she wrote after allegedly seeing him masturbate to pictures of children.

Nurmi has used his second round of questioning to try and dispel the prosecution’s claims that Arias made up her complaints about Alexander after she killed him.

During the trial, the jury has heard at least three times a recorded phone conversations in which both Alexander and Arias describe plans to make a pornographic movie, and detail the various ways in which they enjoy being pleasured.

During one of the times the recording was played, a transcript of Alexander’s words flashed on a black screen facing the jury, in case they were having trouble hearing what was being said. Arias can be heard giggling and cooing on the tape.

Cardoza said that he didn’t understand why prosecutor Juan Martinez spent three days going through all of the details of the sex, details that had already been pored over on direct testimony.

“That tape is going to be shocking to a lot of people, but when you play it that many times to a jury, it’s going to lose its sting,” Cardoza said. “Martinez wants that sting, to show, you know, you [Arias] liked to play the game, you were a willing player, you initiated it sometimes.”

Nurmi’s questioning on Tuesday echoed his earlier claims that Alexander was a “sexual deviant” who became increasingly abusive and demanding of Arias sexually, allegedly culminating in the violent confrontation in which she killed him.

As Arias answered his questions about feeling pressure to accede to Alexander’s sexual demands, Nurmi attempted to portray Arias as a naive victim to a man with a nearly-predatory sex drive.

Martinez, during cross-examination, pointed out that Arias had previous sexual relationships that also included various types of sex and that she was encouraging and gave consent in all of her sexual interactions with Alexander.

“That all to me was, ‘why are you doing this?’ Get to the damn murder, let’s go,” Cardoza said of the prosecution. “You can prove the sex, and he’s going to agree with you, but by going through painstaking detail you’re playing the defense’s game…So they were sex partners and had crazy sex, so what?”

Judge Sherry Stephens has not excluded any of the graphic sexual testimony from being entered into court, including nude photos of a sexual nature that have been shown to the jury and courtroom gallery.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 042013
 

ABC News(PHOENIX) — Accused murderer Jodi Arias tore out pages of her diary in which she complained about her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, and said she wanted to commit suicide, she testified Monday. She said she was afraid he would snoop and read them.

Arias showed the court the torn pages of her journal and read the full excerpts to the jury, just a week after prosecutor Juan Martinez used her partial diary entries to show that she never wrote about the alleged abuse he inflicted on her.

Martinez has accused Arias of making up the allegations that Alexander was abusive. She is charged with murdering her ex-boyfriend at his home in Mesa, Ariz., on June 4, 2008.

Arias, 32, claims she was forced to kill Alexander in self-defense during a violent confrontation. She could face the death penalty if convicted.

“Who besides yourself had access to your journals?” lead defense attorney Kirk Nurmi asked Arias Monday, on the first day of redirect.

“Well, Travis would read them,” she testified. “There was the potential that Travis could read something in there, and also the biggest reason was the law of attraction, which was a huge philosophy at that time in my life.”

Arias said that she believed thinking positive thoughts would bring positive change to her life, and thinking negative thoughts would bring about negativity.

“How would writing about Travis being violent in your journal violate this law of attraction?” Nurmi asked.

“One thing it encourages is that if you’re in a relationship to focus only on their good qualities, as opposed to harping on somebody’s faults,” Arias said.

Martinez pointed out last week that Arias never detailed in her diary the violent fight the couple had in which Alexander allegedly threw Arias to the ground in January, 2007, and kicked her in the ribs and hand. She also never wrote about an alleged incident in which she saw him masturbating while looking at pictures of young boys.

On Monday, however, she did read an entry in which she said Alexander made her “sick,” after an incident in which she went to Alexander’s house and saw him kissing another woman.

“I don’t understand it and at times have a hard time believing it. He makes me sick and happy, makes me feel sad and miserable, and makes me feel uplifted and beautiful. I shouldn’t be wording it as if he makes me feel those things. It all originates from within. All of my darkness is fruit of my own creation, it originates within,” she wrote.

Arias said that she was referring to the law of attraction when she said that negative thoughts were her own fault. She also read an entry about suicide, one of what she claimed were many entries she wrote about wanting to die and later tore out of the journal.

“I just wish I could die. I wish that suicide was a way out, but it is no escape. I wouldn’t feel any more pain,” she wrote.

The testimony came as Arias and Nurmi tried to counteract some of Martinez’s claims from cross-examination, including his accusation that she planned to murder Alexander and then lied without remorse to dozens of people after the killing in order to cover up what she had done.

Arias took the stand to mount her final defense to the jury Monday, after nine days of direct testimony and four days of withering cross-examination by Martinez. She began the day by insisting that she killed Alexander because, “he was trying to kill me.”

He was stabbed 27 times, his throat was slashed and he was shot in the head twice. Martinez argues it was premeditated murder, an aggravating factor that could carry the death penalty.

Nurmi began the day by going through some of Martinez’s claims from cross-examination, giving Arias a chance to explain what appeared to be lies or contradictions.

“Last week you were asked several questions about how you blame everybody else and don’t take responsibility for things yourself,” Nurmi said. “In terms of admitting certain things, I recall days ago, one of first questions I asked you was whether you killed Travis Alexander. Do you recall your answer?

“Yes,” Arias said.

“Your answer was you did kill him and you also told us why you were forced to do that didn’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, well, he was trying to kill me, so I was defending myself,” she said.

“And did you go to Mr. Alexander’s home on June 4 with the intent of killing him? At any point that day did you make the conscious decision, I want to kill Travis Alexander?”

“No,” she said. “That was never a thought.”

Nurmi also gave Arias the chance to explain that though she killed Alexander, she still loved him, even on the day of the attack.

Martinez had previously referenced a loving note Arias wrote in the memorial book at Alexander’s funeral, saying that it showed her lack of remorse and her willingness to lie to cover up her alleged crime.

“You finish this note to him by saying, ‘I love you.’ Did you still feel that same unconditional love?” Nurmi asked.

“Well I still had love for him, yes, and, I was thinking now more in terms of eternity,” Arias said.

“Looking at that quote — I love you — would that be a true statement on June 3, 2008 (the day before the attack)?” he said.

“Yes,” she answered.

“And June 4?”

“Yes.”

“And how about today?” Nurmi asked.

“Yes, it’s still true,” Arias said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio