Sometimes when you do a large jigsaw puzzle, you make a mistake, and you find you have a piece that doesn’t fit. That tells you that you made a mistake. You have to go back and find out where you went wrong, and undo the mistake, before you can solve the puzzle correctly.
The same thing can happen when you analyse the evidence in a criminal case. You have a prosecution case, and it needs to be checked to see if all the pieces of evidence can be neatly fitted in. If something doesn’t fit, it means there is something wrong, the prosecution case is not the truth.
The prosecution case, in brief, according to Juan Martinez, is that
1. Jodi Arias murdered Travis Alexander on June 4, 2008 so that “no other women could have him”, in other words jealousy.
2. On May 28, 2008 she staged a burglary at her grandparent’s home in Yreka where she was living, and took a 0.25 gun that her grandfather owned.
3. She used three gas cans, in order to avoid buying gas when she drove to Mesa, to keep her trip secret. She lied about returning the 3rd gas can to the store where she purchased it.
4. She turned off her mobile phone to avoid being detected in Arizona.
5. She changed her hair color to brown instead of blond, to avoid being recognised.
6. After arriving at his home, when he was in the shower, she attacked him with a knife, eventually inflicting nearly 30 wounds. She then shot him after he was dead.
7. A defense witness, Dr Richard Samuels, could not in fact tell if Jodi was lying to him, as he claimed.
The evidence to support this theory seemed quite solid. The burglary on May 28 certainly happened, there is a police report, and Jodi was the last person in the house before it happened, so she had the opportunity to stage the burglary. Darryl Brewer testified that he lent Jodi two gas cans, and a receipt was recovered from her home showing she bought a third gas can. A Walmart employee testified that she could not find any record that Jodi returned the 3rd gas can. The person who rented her a car testified her hair was lighter than in her booking photo, describing it as “blond”. Dr Horn, the Medical Examiner testified that Travis was stabbed nearly 30 times, that a bullet passed through the brain, but there was no hemorrhaging, and this was an indication that he may have been dead when he was shot. In addition, although Jodi eventually admitted killing Travis, she did not call 911 and denied killing Travis when questioned by police. Jodi told Dr Samuels that there were pictures of women’s breasts on Travis’ laptop computer, but a police expert witness testified there was no pornography on the laptop.
Based on this evidence, it would be tempting to conclude that Jodi was guilty of premeditated murder. But let’s consider first if there is anything wrong with the prosecution case. Note: the points below are numbered to correspond to the points of the prosecution case above.
1. Jodi had left Travis in early April, and moved back to her grandparents house in Yreka, more than 1,000 miles away. She had also gone on LDS dating sites, and had started a relationship with Ryan Burns, who testified he was talking to Jodi 4 or 5 times a week and exchanging text messages through the day sometimes. Moreover although Travis was pursuing a relationship with other women, it appears that he had been rebuffed, and did not have a girlfriend on June 4, 2008. Given this, it’s hard to see how Jodi could have been so jealous that she planned to secretly murder him.
2. Although Jodi had the opportunity to stage the burglary, there is no proof that she actually did stage it. Moreover, the stolen bullets were hollow point, but the bullet recovered from Travis’ cheek was not. In addition, Jodi wrote in her journal on June 1 that “He also began to sweet talk/guilt me that I was making this road trip to Utah to visit friends, etc. when I could come instead out to AZ to see him……I stood firm”. This is not consistent with the prosecution theory that she was planning to go to Mesa and murder him.
3. Jodi bought the 3rd gas can with cash, and kept the receipt. Why would she do that if it was part of a secret murder plan? In addition, during the penalty retrial, the Walmart witness testified that she did not know if the records she checked were complete after the store relocated in 2010.
4. While Jodi admitted turning her phone off to conserve the battery, she turned it on again before leaving Arizona.
5. Jodi actually changed her hair to brown many weeks earlier, on March 20. She had blonde highlights, which might account for her hair appearing lighter than in her booking photo.
6. The autopsy report stated that the Dura Mater was intact, which means the bullet could not have passed through the brain (this would of course also account for the lack of hemorrhaging). The Medical Examiner said this “must” be a typo, but that seems unreasonable, if the Dura Mater were damaged, there would be a description of the damage. Instead, the bullet must have deflected off the second layer of bone that forms the sinus cavity. In addition, does it make any sense for Jodi to steal a gun, then attack Travis with a knife, and only shoot him after he was dead? Bear in mind that Travis was larger and more powerful than Jodi. In addition, the trail of blood that Travis left does not start at the shower, it starts near the toilet entrance, suggesting the shower is not where Travis was first injured.
7. During the penalty retrial, it emerged that there was pornography on Travis’ laptop – it was hard to find as he had installed programs to delete it, but eventually videos were found in the disk free space.
So it turns out that every part of the prosecution case is contradicted by evidence or argument. There are many pieces of evidence that do not fit. The prosecution case cannot be the correct solution to the puzzle.