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» Death Penalty, Ethics » A Disgrace

A Disgrace

It appears that at some point the fame finally got to L. Kirk Nurmi, former lawyer for celebrity capital defendant Jodi Arias. After he came out with a tell-all book about representing his famous client called “Trapped with Ms. Arias,” the equivalent of wiping his ass with ER 1.6, Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice got right to the root of the problem:

Did Arias consent to Nurmi’s disclosure? Did Nurmi obtain consent after disclosing to Arias what he would be revealing? Given what Nurmi has to say about Arias, it seems inconceivable, and even if it was conceivable, there remains the problem of Arias being disturbed, as Nurmi claims, such that she would be incapable of consenting as lacking the capacity. Because she’s friggin’ disturbed.

And yet, there it is, a tell-all book by a lawyer about his client, in all its scintillating detail. This is inexcusable conduct, no matter how good a story Nurmi has to tell. Do a big case and everybody wants to know the inside story, the “truth,” as if cocktail party chatter is an exception to the obligation to protect our clients’ confidences, or that distant acquaintances are exempt because, well, they really want to get the scoop.

We all have stories, really cool, titillating stories, we learn during the course of our representation. And we take them to the grave, because that’s what our duty to our clients demands.

It doesn’t matter how awful, how horrible, how inappropriate your client was or is. It’s not your story to tell. Kirk Nurmi is a disagrace for having done so. He should be disbarred and the book should be pulled from the shelves and destroyed. A criminal defense lawyer is not entitled to give up his client’s confidences no matter what, and it is an intolerable affront to the profession that Nurmi has done so. There is never an excuse to trash a client, no matter how bad she is. Never.

Sadly, the book is the tip of the iceberg. Nurmi also went on Nancy Grace to plug it. It’s an interview so painful you really have to see the whole thing to believe it:

As bad as it is in general, there are a few things that stand out, like him blaming his unsuccessful supposed “trash the victim” approach on his client. Does he not realize she is going to be filing a petition for post-conviction relief at some point? She’s going to try to argue ineffective assistance of counsel, and the state is sure to take note of his various statements. By claiming things were reasonable trial strategy or done because of demands made by the client, he’s doing something that may have a real negative impact on her ability to obtain relief. Does he not care that he’s potentially harming someone who once trusted him with her life? He might as well just help write the state’s response.

The most uncomfortable part for me is when he talks about trying to get off the case, though. At one point, he says he saw where the case was going. Nancy Grace interprets that as him saying he wanted off because Arias was gonna be convicted. She says she doesn’t believe him because, when it comes to public defenders, “most of their clients do get convicted…because they’re guilty.”

Does Nurmi do anything to correct her? Does he defend his former colleagues? Does he do anything to suggest he isn’t a spineless fame-seeker willing to put up with anything if it keeps his name in lights?

Nope, he just says he wanted off because he saw where it was going with the media. He says he had a sense of what it would become with regard to media exposure and what she was going to do, and he didn’t want to do capital work anymore.

With regard to the first claim in particular, I call bullshit.

He’s so obviously milking his five minutes of fame that it’s painful. As if writing a book trashing his client wasn’t enough, he went on Nancy Grace. He also wrote a weight loss book. And did a three-part interview with KTAR continuing his assault on someone to whom he continues to owe a sacred duty, not that he seems to care. He’s not alone in trying to capitalize on the publicity, as the prosecutor has written his own soon-to-be-released book about the case too, but I expect much better from a defense lawyer. We’re in the business of helping people, not filling prisons.

I want to feel bad Nurmi, but I just can’t. Even though he apparently has cancer, there’s no serious illness exception to our duty to our clients. If he was on his death bed with the best client story ever, that still doesn’t change a thing. He’s very clearly not in the right field, as a good defense attorney simply doesn’t do the sort of thing he’s doing.

If it’s fame he wants, he should move to LA and wait tables until he gets discovered. Furthering his own agenda at the expense of a client is as unforgivable a crime as a defense attorney can commit.

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7 Responses to "A Disgrace"

  1. […] about a case they participated in, even if the accused is appealing the verdict. Who cares right? Click here to read one of several blogs written by attorneys about the disgrace Kirk Nurmi brought to his […]

  2. When one takes a job,any job You just do the best you can…did K.N. EVER try…his book says it all…NEVER. What person would not cringe upon reading such hate and ask..What if I was trapped with the likes of that….LAWYER? Seems to Me there were two persecutors working for the state. Can the real prosecutor’s book top K.N. book of hate ,vile and yes lies. Many have said that Her other lawyer failed Her….well was J.W. not trapped with K.N.? ask any who would want such a ….SHOW…TRIAL ? Unless folks stand up to undue this injustice the die is cast.

  3. Sandra says:

    The corruption and exploitation in this trial from both sides knows no bounds. Nurmi calls anyone who supports Jodi in any way, even her right to a fair trial, “weird”. Actually so did Monica Lindstrom. What was weird to me, well one of the many things “weird” during the trial, is that Kirk Nurmi only filed certain key motions after Jodi had made contact with a few of her supporters and sought the help of a private investigator. Jodi’s court appointed investigator, according to Nurmi, felt the same disdain for Jodi as he did. Sadly, this investigator will never have a chance to thank Nurmi for mentioning him in his book. Or to call him out. He is deceased.

  4. Andrew B says:

    I would hope that the State Bar is investigating this sua sponte.

    1. Matt Brown says:

      Me too, though I expect plenty of people have reported him as well. It’s such a blatant violation. It’s hard to believe other lawyers who know him didn’t take him aside and talk some sense into him.

      1. Andrew B says:

        Per today’s Republic, an investigation has been opened on both Nurmi and Martinez.

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