Juan Martinez signing his book at the Palm Beach Book Festival. (Photo by Dale King)
By Dale King
Maricopa County, Ariz., Prosecutor Juan Martinez is a diminutive man with a hint of gray in his closely coiffed hair.
He seems comfortable in a dark suit and tie, or in shirtsleeves, speaking to a crowd, where he displays his vast knowledge of criminal law and talks of his ability to remember facts, to question witnesses and suspects and to deliver opening and closing statements in court without notes.
The prosecuting attorney from Phoenix is probably a couple of inches shorter than Jodi Ann Arias, the long-haired, 5-foot-8 woman accused in the savage slaying of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, by stabbing and slashing him and shooting him in the head in the bathroom of his home in June 2008.
Throughout 2013, when the HLN Cable Network carried gavel-to-gavel TV coverage of the Arias trial, Martinez shunned the spotlight and stayed away from talk shows and gratuitous interviews. Still, his aggressive style and quick thought process earned him rock star status.
Two months into 2016, HarperCollins Publishers released Martinez’s book, Conviction: The Untold Story About Putting Jodi Arias Behind Bars. The 375-page tome delves deeply into the relationship of Arias and Alexander, one that often wavered between religious fervor and varied sexual escapades.
“Writing a book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Martinez, who promised Levine that he would not defect to the writer’s side of the street.
The prosecutor said getting the book published was a lot of work — and involved more troubles than he realized. He said a couple of Bar complaints have been filed against him and also against Kirk Nurmi, one of Arias’s two defense attorneys. The accusations claim books published by Martinez and Nurmi violate the rules of ethical conduct for attorneys because Arias’s case is still under appeal.
Following her jury trial, Arias was convicted of Alexander’s brutal murder. Testimony said she was in the bathroom as he was taking a shower. She was using his camera to take pictures of him when a knife battle ensued, and one shot was fired into Alexander’s head. He crumbled on the floor of the shower stall and Arias left after first trying to wash bloody clothes and the camera in the washing machine. Alexander’s body was found several days later when friends said they had not seen or heard from him.
The jury that convicted Arias considered giving her the death penalty, but deadlocked. Another jury was empaneled, and they also failed to agree on capital punishment. As a result, Arias is now in jail for life.
When she was arrested, she offered several stories about Alexander’s killing. At first, she said she was never at the home. Then, she said she was there, but that a couple of masked thugs came in, threatened her and killed Alexander. When cops didn’t buy that, she said Alexander attacked her and she responded in self-defense.
Martinez told the audience at the book festival he hadn’t considered writing the book about the trial until he was approached by HarperCollins. “My employer got a note from Jodie’s lawyers threatening to have me fired,” the prosecutor said. “I felt that what I had to say was significant. And they forgot something called the First Amendment.”
As to his courtroom method, Martinez said he normally doesn’t take notes, but “when Jodi went into every detail of the sexual encounters between her and Travis, then I took notes.”
He said he has developed a style of addressing the court without notes so he can keep an eye on other attorneys and the jury.
Martinez said he did not encounter a “gotcha” moment during the Arias trial. But one bit of testimony came close.
Juan Martinez and Paul Levine speak at the Palm Beach Book Festival. (Photo by Dale King)
He said Arias did not know that Martinez was aware she brought a third 5-gallon gasoline can for her trip from California to Arizona to make her fatal visit to Alexander.
During testimony, Arias claimed she only had two gasoline cans in her car — and actually denied she had a third. When Martinez made it clear he knew about the three cans, Arias stopped, as if confused, and again denied it.
Asked if there are any TV shows that depict realistic courtroom drama, both Levine and Martinez agreed: Law & Order.
“All the others are not even close,” said the Maricopa County prosecutor.
Levine said he also liked the court scenes in the first season of True Detective and in Better Call Saul.
In addition, Martinez commented on the O.J. Simpson trial, which was recreated in a recent TV series. “[Prosecutor] Marcia Clark lost that case.”
He said the jury pool was drawn from Santa Monica rather than Los Angeles proper, and they were more likely to deliver an acquittal, as they did.
He also noted that Clark had been the prosecutor at only 19 murder trials before O.J. For Martinez, Arias was number 181.
Regarding the ill-fitting glove, he offered a new response to Johnnie Cochran’s “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” line.
“I would have said, ‘If it doesn’t fit, he’s full of (expletive).”