Inaccurate ideas and fake news stories about Jodi Arias abound on the Internet and in real life. Maybe you have wondered which are true and which are fiction. This page debunks misinformation set forth by sensationalist media personalities, attention-seeking friends of Travis’s, and even well-meaning but misinformed supporters.
Myth: The Self-Defense Strategy
Disbarred Kirk Nurmi, who served as first-chair attorney during Jodi’s two trials, claimed that Jodi insisted on self-defense as a trial strategy. But in death penalty cases (also called capital cases), clients don’t choose trial strategy, attorneys do. In death penalty cases, the lawyer not only gets to override what the client may want, but is duty bound to do so. In fact, the first-chair defense attorney in a capital case is given broad authority to do whatever it takes to save his client’s life, whether or not the client or the rest of the legal team agree with him. As first-chair attorney, Nurmi had full discretion to present whatever defense he wanted.
It was actually Nurmi who insisted on self-defense. While Jodi maintains that she was defending herself against Travis’s violent attack, she also conceded the following: “I was attacked by a very pissed off and violent man who screamed that he was going to ‘fucking kill’ me, but I’ve never contested the possibility that my actions may have risen to the level of manslaughter or second degree.”
Although we know the incident leading to Travis’s death began with his attacking Jodi, she has large gaps in her memory of what followed due to her “blacking out.” Jodi asked mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa why her defense team wouldn’t present second-degree murder at trial as opposed to self-defense. Maria told Jodi that during a team meeting, Nurmi insisted on self-defense because the jury would be more likely to settle somewhere in the middle (manslaughter or second degree). According to Nurmi, if he presented second degree it would leave the jurors with less options, or wiggle room, when they went to deliberate.
Thus, against mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa and second-chair attorney Jennifer Willmott’s recommendation, Kirk Nurmi chose to go with self-defense at trial. It was only after his strategy ended in complete failure that he began publicly blaming Jodi for it and claiming he never believed it.
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