Thursday, 2 May 2013

Dirty Little Secret (unrated)

The reason I haven't rated this film is simple: it hasn't been made yet! As far as I know it's still being filmed. I've never written about an unfinished film before, but this is a special case. It's the true story of Jodi Arias. Over the last few months I've been watching her trial four days a week. For me it's fascinating to watch a criminal trial being broadcast live on the Internet.

But let's backtrack. Jodi Arias has become a household name in America, but it's possible that many of my readers in England and other countries have never heard of her. Jodi was born in 1980 in California. She spent most of her adult life working as a waitress, but she could never hold a job down and drifted from restaurant to restaurant. In 2006 she began to work part time for a pyramid company called Prepaid Legal Services in the hope of getting rich quick. Unfortunately it didn't work out. She met Travis Alexander at a Prepaid Legal Services conference in Las Vegas in September 2006. At first she approached him to ask him for advice on how to succeed in the company, but it soon became a romantic attachment.

Even though the relationship quickly became sexual, Travis couldn't admit to his friends that they were dating. Travis was a Mormon, and he wasn't allowed to date non-Mormons. For this reason Jodi was baptised as a Mormon in November 2006. It was Travis himself who baptised her. They officially began to date in February 2007. They lived a long distance from one another. Jodi lived in California, Travis lived in Arizona, but they saw each other as often as they could. They broke up in June 2007. After the break-up Jodi moved to Mesa, where Travis lived, but she couldn't win him back, despite sexually seducing him on many occasions. Eventually she went back to California in April 2008 to live in her grandparents' house in Yreka.

Travis had booked a trip with Jodi to Cancun (Mexico) for summer 2008. Jodi considered this to be her last chance to get Travis back. Then she discovered that Travis had changed the booking, and he would be taking his new girlfriend with him. This was the last straw. Jodi decided to kill him. She stole a gun from her grandparents' house, faking a burglary so she wouldn't be suspected. When she drove to Travis's house she took great pains to disguise herself and create an alibi. She called a friend in Utah and arranged to visit him. On June 3rd 2008 she rented a car and she drove to Arizona. She bought three large gas cans so that she wouldn't need to buy fuel in Arizona (i.e. no credit card transactions to prove she had been in Arizona). She dyed her hair before the trip. She turned her cell phone off before entering Arizona, and didn't turn it on again until she left Arizona. She then rang her friend and said she would arrive late because she had got lost.

Jodi arrived at Travis's house unannounced on June 4th. First they had sex. Then Jodi attacked him with a knife while he was in the shower. While injured he ran out of the bathroom through the hallway, but Jodi continued to stab him. He received a total of 29 knife wounds to his chest, back and hands. After this she dragged him back to the shower, where she slit his throat. Finally she shot him in the head. She began to clean up the crime scene, but gave up and drove into the desert, where she burnt her clothes and disposed of the murder weapons. Then she continued her journey to Utah. While in Utah she made several phone calls to Travis, leaving normal voice messages saying she would see him soon.

When Travis's death was discovered his neighbours immediately blamed Jodi. They said she was a crazy woman who had been stalking him. At first she denied having been in Arizona, but DNA evidence placed her there. She then told a story that Travis had been killed in a mob hit "like the Sopranos". Two assassins had killed him before her eyes, but spared her. When she failed to convince the police of this story she invented another story, that she had killed Travis in self-defence.

Jodi remained in prison from 2008 until the trial began on January 2nd 2013. The trial, which is now slowly coming to an end, has been a total farce. It's a disgrace to the American legal system, highlighting faults which deserve to be corrected. To people like me from other countries it's incomprehensible that such an open and shut case with overwhelming evidence should last more than a week. It makes a mockery of the "right to a fair trial". Jodi's lawyers have been using all the tricks at their disposal to cloud the case. I don't blame them, they're both good lawyers, and I would be glad to have them defend me if I were ever unjustly accused of murder. Instead, I blame the legal system that allows them to use dubious tricks. What do I mean? Jodi has accused Travis of being abusive to her, she says he forced her into sexual acts against her will, and she also claims that he was a paedophile who masturbated to pictures of young boys. The case has effectively put Travis on trial. It's dragged on for week after week, while the defence lawyers have sought unsuccessfully to prove that he was an abusive pervert, in the hope that they might win sympathy for Jodi among the jurors. But I repeat, don't blame her lawyers, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott, they're doing their best to defend her. They're not stupid, they know that Jodi's lies aren't true, but they're working hard to persuade the jurors otherwise.

The defence team's two psychological witnesses are a different case. Dr. Richard Samuels is an older man who developed feelings for Jodi when visiting her in prison and became convinced she was innocent. He visited her repeatedly and bought gifts for her. He developed a theory that she is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the trauma of Travis attacking her before she killed him in self-defence. He carried out psychological tests, but he later went back and rescored them to make the results sound more positive for her. The other witness is Alyce LaViolette, a lesbian who helps women who have been abused by men. She decided before she even met Jodi that Jodi had been abused, and she ignored all the evidence that went against her opinion. In court it was obvious to all that she couldn't even conceive the possibility that Jodi might be the abusive one in the relationship. These two, Samuels and LaViolette, are the ones who sat in court for weeks reaping big salaries ($300 per hour) by talking about things totally irrelevant to the murder case.

Some people have objected to the film being made. They say that Travis Alexander should be respected and allowed to rest in peace. I disagree. This is a case that should be made public, if only to highlight the weaknesses in the American legal system. It's also an opportunity to present Travis to the world as he really was: innocent, likeable, but too weak to resist Jodi's charms.

It was obvious to me from the beginning that the Jodi and Travis story would be filmed. I just didn't expect it to be so soon. The trial isn't over yet. Supposedly they'll film as much as they can now, and the final scenes will be filmed after the verdict is announced. If found guilty Jodi will face the death penalty. I'll make another post at a future date with my thoughts on the death penalty, in America and in general. But for now, I look forward to seeing the film.

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