Arias judge denies motion to sequester jurors
PHOENIX (AP) – The judge in Jodi Arias’ murder case on Thursday denied a defense motion to order jurors sequestered for the remainder of the trial during a bizarre week when one panelist was removed and videos emerged of Arias’ parents telling authorities she has mental problems.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi sought the sequestration after noting the release of the footage and parts of Arias’ journal to the media, explaining it could bias the jury.
“This case must be tried in the courtroom not in the media,” Nurmi told the judge.
He said that despite daily admonitions from the judge to the jury not to follow media coverage of the trial, some on the panel are likely doing it anyway, calling it an “absolute fiction” to believe they are not.
Judge Sherry Stephens denied the motion then admonished the jury again on Thursday to avoid all media coverage of the trial.
The move comes during a week when one juror was removed from the panel for making statements the defense claimed called into question her impartiality.
In a statement to the media after her removal, the juror said she would not comment on the case until a verdict is reached. Her removal came just a few days after defense attorneys accused prosecutor Juan Martinez of misconduct by posing for photographs and signing autographs for fans outside court. The judge has not yet ruled in that matter.
Thursday’s motion was just another twist in the murder trial that has captivated the nation with tales of lurid sex, lies and a bloody killing, playing out for the pubic via an unedited web feed from inside the courtroom.
Arias faces a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home.
Authorities say she planned the attack on her lover in a jealous rage. Arias initially denied involvement then blamed it on two masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.
Testimony has been ongoing for three months.
Later Thursday, psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette continued her testimony discussing Arias’ relationship with the victim after spending several days explaining to jurors the traits of victims and abusers in generalities.
The defense witness, who spent more than 40 hours interviewing Arias, said the defendant and the victim appeared to be in a comfortable relationship and that Arias wasn’t stalking him as some of Alexander’s friends have indicated.
“It looks like a comfortable relationship where there’s a lot of back and forth,” LaViolette said.
She also explained again how battered women tend to minimize the abuse by their partners “or not talk about it at all.”
Arias says Alexander was physically abusive and attacked her on the day of the killing, forcing her to fight for her life, yet no other evidence at trial has shown the victim was ever violent in the past. Arias says she was too ashamed to tell anyone.
In developments outside court, authorities released to the media videos of investigators questioning Arias’ parents after her arrest in 2008.
Both of her parents told police they believed Arias has mental problems.
“Jodi has mental problems, Jodi would freak out all the time,” Sandra Arias says on the tape. “I had quite a few of her friends call and tell me I needed to get her some help.”
On the tape, William Arias says he had suggested that she might be bipolar.
The videos have not been admitted into evidence at the trial, and Arias’ parents have not been called as witnesses.
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