Legal Analyst Coffey: Killer Unlikely to Win Defending Self

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 05:47 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Convicted murderer Jodi Arias has every right to represent herself in trying to persuade a jury to spare her the death penalty — but it's unlikely to work, veteran legal analyst Kendall Coffey says.

"I don't think it's going to help her one bit,'' Coffey said Thursday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"Just maybe … there'll be one person on that jury – which is all it takes to save her from the death penalty – who feels sorry for her or sees something in her that's humanity, [which] should be saved. But I wouldn't count on it.''

This week, a judge approved Arias' request to act as her own lawyer at the second penalty phase of her trial for the killing of her ex-boyfriend.

Arias, 34, admitted killing Travis Alexander at his Phoenix home in 2008 but claimed it was in self-defense. Alexander was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead.

Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder, carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair, according to The Associated Press. Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on sentencing — which allowed prosecutors to call a new jury in a bid to secure the death penalty.

"The prosecution can and will use selectively, not all of it, but will use the most compelling evidence from the last trial, and they've got a lot to work with,'' Coffey said.

Arias has a constitutional right to represent herself, but judges are not in favor of it, according to Coffey, a founding member of Coffey Burlington PL, in Miami.

"It's not a good thing for the system, but unless you can demonstrate that the defendant who wants to be their own lawyer is in some fashion mentally incompetent … there's a constitutional right.

"What an outrage it's going to be to have somebody who's guilty of just an appalling crime trying to play lawyer and deal with these gut-wrenching and horrifying issues.''

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