NASHVILLE, TN — Juan Martinez is known to most ID Addicts as the prosecutor in one of the most famous modern trials, of one of the most famous modern criminals — Jodi Arias.
On Saturday, May 5, 2018, he was a guest speaker at Crime Con in Nashville, Tennessee, where he elaborated on the surprising difficulties involved in prosecuting a defendant who is claiming she committed murder in self-defense.
Before Martinez delivered his presentation, he found time to talk to CrimeFeed about Jodi Arias, why he prefers to talk on the phone, and other noteworthy cases he’s worked on.
CrimeFeed: I’m sure it won’t be a surprise that I have a few Jodi Arias case questions. Can you tell me about finding the camera in the washing machine?
Martinez: Detective Flores indicated to me that there was something downstairs in the washing machine that he thought was of some interest. The only thing I noticed, to be honest, was a load of laundry there. Until he pointed out that in the load of laundry was a camera. His comment was something to the effect that, “Well, we’re probably not going to get anything from it, but we’re going to see what we can get from the camera and whether or not we can develop any photographs from it.”
What I find fascinating about that is that after having just murdered Travis, that she was even of sound enough mind right after to think, “Let me run the camera through the washing machine.” It’s kind of a brilliant way to try to destroy it.
That’s one of the things about Jodi Arias — that I guess people don’t seem to give her enough credit. Throughout this whole thing, it was never a situation where she ever lost control of what her ultimate goal was. She was very much a planner. it didn’t surprise me in looking back that that’s something that she did.
I think you also brought to light the importance of the evidence of the gas cans.
I think the issue of the gas cans was something that was not investigated by the police. So, I started looking at some receipts showing that she bought a five-gallon gas can in Salinas, California. That didn’t make sense to me. Then there were some notes indicating that she had, before the trip, tried to borrow gas cans from an ex-boyfriend. Who takes a trip and brings gas cans with them? Nobody that I know. So, that sort of began to give me an inkling of how well-prepared she was and how much she had actually planned this.
I started looking looking at the capacity of the gas cans and the kind of car that she had, and then I knew that that was part of the plan. She would be able to stand up before any authorities whether it be in California or Arizona — or I guess she did in court before God because she swore to tell the truth — that she could say, “Well, I never filled up in Arizona. I never put gas in the car in Arizona.”
I’m sure she was aware there are usually cameras at gas stations.
Right. It would have been interesting to see, for example, even if she does do the thing with the gas cans and avoids being seen at a gas station, it would be interesting to see where she stopped to use the restroom. But there’s a lot of empty desert out there!
How unusual is it that Arias testified for 18 days? Is that at all normal? Does that happen?
That is beyond the norm. I don’t know of any other case where a defendant has actually been on the witness stand for 18 days. It wasn’t … 18 days of unfilled time or busy testimony. It was testimony that touched on the premeditation aspect of the case and that also touched on what happened at the scene. To me, I thought that it was quite the performance on her part.
It took so long to come to trial, in part, because initially she indicated that she wasn’t there.
It was just her lies, and changing the story?
Well, it was just the way she manicured those lies so that they appeared very appropriate for the jury. So, that took some time, so it was a structuring kind of process. And not only going through the lies, but making them believable. One of the things that I always think is that if I were to have asked her, for example, does the sun rise in the East? Most of us would know that that’s a fact that no one can dispute, but she would probably have said to me, “Well, in my room I have a West facing window, and every morning sunlight comes in, so I can’t tell you if the sun rises in the East.” That’s the kind of logic that she seemed to apply.
Speaking of the courtroom, you’re known for a dramatic and maybe a little harsh style in the courtroom. I’ve read criticism of the way you interacted with her, but also that that was your strategy. Can you explain that a little bit?
Right. I mean, people had criticized me for being a bit harsh, but I would think that I would say that I’m appropriate. One of the things that we have to keep in mind is that we’re talking to individuals who have, in this particular case, savagely murdered somebody. So, it wasn’t inappropriate. I think it was wholly appropriate for me to attempt to deal with somebody that was so violent and was so willing to lie in an appropriate fashion. For her, that perhaps meant cutting her off a little bit, perhaps raising my voice a bit. But I think that in the scheme of things, that’s what was needed in this particular case, because I can envision a situation where if I had come up there with just scripted questions and waited for her to finish, that it would have been the Jodi Arias acquittal show.
Is it just that she has such an ability to manipulate, or such charisma that she would have been able to have more of an influence in the way people saw her?
Self-defense cases, as a general rule, are the most difficult cases, because you have two people that were present when this happened, and one is dead. The other person is giving a narrative as to what they said happened. So, if she had been able to control the flow a bit better or a bit differently, I have the belief that there is a strong possibility that she would have been acquitted outright. So, I needed to show that even though she was somebody that came across as soft spoken at times, and that others would describe as not being unattractive, that even somebody like that can commit this type of crime.
There are Facebook pages, and she continues to have her supporters, but again it’s not surprising. She’s charismatic. That’s one of the things that I have always indicated — that she’s very intelligent, charismatic. People are willing to believe what she has to say. I can’t be critical of people that follow her. All I can do is point out that she is somebody who has been convicted of first-degree murder. Whether they choose to accept it or not, that’s something that she did.
You don’t think you can be critical of them?
I try not to be. I always try to emphasize the positive in things. They’re entitled to their opinion, although the jury has spoken and has indicated that they’re wrong, and that whatever they choose to believe is not something that the evidence showed, and it was beyond a reasonable doubt.
If they want to believe that somehow she’s innocent, go ahead and believe that if you will. I’m not going to worry about it. As I said, we all followed the rules. There’s a system in place. And I look back on him [Travis Alexander] , the way that she tarnished his reputation, and the way that she went after him….
She called him a pedophile during trial, so I’m saying that, because my comment was going to be, “That poor guy.” I know that a lot of people thought that perhaps the sexual content of their relationship was inappropriate. Even though that may be, they were both willing participants, and if she didn’t like it, she could have just walked away. It happens every day, all the time, and nobody needs to get killed. So, I do believe that given what I know about the case and the intimacies — what a poor guy. What an absolutely poor guy. As the trial went on, I felt much more sorry for him. The character assassination was … Sometimes when I think about it, I think he’s lucky that he’s dead, so he doesn’t have to hear this.
But his friends and family had to go through it and hear it.
They did. Without indicating what they told me, it was clear from their reactions out in the courtroom that this was very difficult for them. Somebody that they obviously loved had been murdered in such a horrific fashion. Not once, not twice, but three times. Then to have him killed again, if you will, in the courtroom that way. I am sure that was probably much more difficult than any of us can imagine.
Now, you also have had accusations leveled at you. I keep reading about charges and accusations that you’ve dealt with, maybe six different times, and then they’re always dismissed.
If I talk about things like that, then it empowers the people that may have made the allegation. So, I just steer away from making any comments about that. I know what you’re telling me is from the press, and that’s what they’ve reported. So, I just leave it at that and stand on what has already happened.
I will say that there is a process in place to deal with these sorts of things, and as with a trial where all the safeguards are in place, and all the rules were followed, and she was ultimately found guilty of first-degree murder, I avail myself of the process, and I follow the rules that are in place for that.
And all the charges were eventually dismissed?
Like I said, I try not to comment on it, but that’s what has been reported. Correct.
So, Arias’ lawyers just missed the deadline for appealing her case. That seems like a big thing. How important is that in terms of her appeal?
There are deadlines in place for a reason. I believe that they should be followed, but I know that they explained their reasons to the court of appeals and even though they were late … the court of appeals ultimately granted them an extension.
If she is granted an appeal, is that a smaller, behind-closed-doors situation or is that another big trial?
The deadline that was missed was her deadline to file the paperwork setting out the reasons why she believes the lower court committed error. Then of course the attorney general responds, indicating why they believe that she may be right or she may be wrong, or the court should just say that it’s harmless what happened at the lower court level. After that, the court of appeals schedules oral argument. I believe every side has 20 minutes in which to make their argument.
After that, they will render an opinion. Whether it’s to uphold what happened or affirm what happened at the lower court, or whether or not to reverse it.
Arias talked to a cell mate about having you killed. Like, she was going to do a mafia-style hit and have someone slit your throat if she got the death penalty. I can’t imagine what that would feel like for you to hear that.
I don’t really pay too much heed to those kinds of things, because it’s not the first time that something like that has been said. So, if I worried about things like that, then I would probably worry about it while the matter is being prosecuted or while I was in court, and it could potentially affect the way I present a case, but I know what you’re talking about. I have heard about it, but it’s not something that I spent much time thinking about or worrying about.
The cellmate also said that rooming with Arias was like Hell on earth, and she was very glad when she got out of that situation. She said that she was trying to manipulate everyone around her and trying to get everyone to listen to and eventually believe her side of the story, and it was all she talked about.
It doesn’t surprise me. The way she seemed to describe it is … what she did on the witness stand. She kept going over the same things over and over, hoping that the jury would believe what she had to say.
I’m sure you’ve worked on a lot of cases, but Jodi Arias is what everybody wants to talk about. I’m curious, if you had never been involved with the Jodi Arias case, what other case would you consider your biggest or most interesting or noteworthy?
There was one where we alleged that the defendant had convinced his wife that she was going to die, and that he had spoken to God about it and God had told him that she was going to die on a certain day. They were of the Mormon faith, and so he was using — I say misusing — that to say that he’d spoken to God and, as head of the household, he was entitled to speak the truth as conveyed to him by God. So, the wife was very devout. Believed him. They actually went up to Utah, because that’s where she wanted to die and I think went to a place called Timpanogos Cave’s National Monument Park. Lo and behold, on that day in Utah, she did fall off a cliff — but it wasn’t serious. So, they flew back, and then the next day after they flew back, she was found in the tub dead.
That one was just a very difficult case, but they ultimately found him guilty of the manslaughter of his wife. The fact that she could believe that he was speaking to God, and that she was going to die on a certain day, and that he had already picked a very young girl to be her successor. I always think of that case as probably one of the more interesting ones that I had. You can find it. The name of the defendant is Douglas Grant.
Do you think she actually did just stumble and fall off that cliff or do you think he pushed her that day?
I don’t know. I think that because she was so devout, she wanted to make it true somehow.
Do you have a headshot you could send me to use with this article?
No, I don’t, but you can take one. And can you send it to me? I’ll use that as my headshot now, if you don’t mind.
Sure, what’s your email address?
I don’t have one. Message it to me on my phone.
You don’t have an email address?
No, I don’t have a computer.
How do you do your job without a computer?
Well, I have one for work, but I like to talk on the phone. If you email me, I’ll call you back. If you text me, I’ll call you back. I like talking on the phone; you make friends that way.
Watch Investigation Discovery’s Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Juan Martinez [Christine Colby]