Jodi Arias: Hell Hath No Fury

Jodi Arias fades from view as case veiled in secrecy

jodi-arias-8-27-13PHOENIX (AP) — For months, Jodi Arias was a television staple, every minute of her murder trial broadcast live while cable network commentators railed nightly about the case. The now-convicted murderer took to the spotlight in celebrity style and embraced the attention at every turn as she spent weeks on the witness stand and did a series of media interviews.

But Arias has vanished from view since her trial ended in May, and the judge has done a complete about-face. She has shut the media and public out of nearly every hearing in the case and drawn complaints from First Amendment lawyers that she has gone too far.

“The trial court has gone from transparency to blackout and bewilderment,” said attorney David Bodney, who represents several media outlet, including the Arizona Republic, fighting for transparency. “There have been repeated flagrant violations of the public’s constitutional right to attend proceedings.”

Arias was convicted of murder in May, but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on her sentence. Prosecutors are now pursuing a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to get the death penalty. No date for a new trial has been set.

Arias, 33, admitted she killed her boyfriend in 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home but claimed it was self-defense. Travis Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead in what prosecutors argued was a jealous rage.

Judge Sherry Stephens has held hearing after hearing behind closed doors as the next steps of the case unfold almost entirely under a shroud of secrecy. Over the last several months, she has heard arguments over sequestering the new jury, moving the case out of Phoenix, Arias’ desire to fire her lead attorney and allowing live television coverage of the retrial, among other issues.

She has denied each request, but quietly with orders released days after the secret hearings as the case languishes without public scrutiny even as Arias’ legal tab is being picked up by taxpayers at a cost exceeding $1.7 million. Meanwhile, in yet another element of secrecy, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has refused to provide a tally of how much it has cost to prosecute the case, including paying for expert witnesses throughout the five-month trial.

Stephens allowed virtually unfettered access to the first trial, which was broadcast live and became to fans like a real-life soap opera as they traveled from around the country to get in the courtroom.

She now says the hearing closures are intended to protect Arias’ right to an impartial jury, but Bondey says the judge has gone to the extreme, often simply locking the courtroom doors without issuing an order as to why, in violation of the Constitution.

“The public is deprived of its First Amendment right to attend criminal proceedings,” Bodney said. “The public has a right to be heard before they’re just locked out.”

Even arguments by attorneys over media access to proceedings in the case have been closed to the media.

An irony not lost on Bodney is that the intense media interest in the case has largely evolved from Arias’ own actions by courting interviews and operating a Twitter account and selling her artwork from behind bars through a third party. She regularly posts inspirational quotes, links to purchase her drawings and solicitations for donations for her appeals.

A clerk for Stephens said the judge could not comment on an ongoing case. Defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi has not returned telephone messages.

While all the requests to close hearings have come from defense attorneys, prosecutors haven’t objected.

“It’s a balance, but I believe when push comes to shove, a defendant’s right to a fair trial is probably going to trump what otherwise is considered the public’s right to attend trial,” Montgomery said.

Phoenix defense lawyer Mel McDonald, a former Maricopa County judge and federal prosecutor, said the judge likely never expected the Arias case would attract such publicity and is now trying to dial back access to protect the record for inevitable appeals.

“The more that comes out, the harder it’s going to be to find an impartial jury and the greater the risk of prejudice and error,” McDonald said.

Bodney doesn’t buy it.

He said the judge’s decision to ban live television coverage and the use of all electronic devices, meaning reporters won’t be able to provide real-time updates via Twitter as occurred during the first trial, is a “severe overcorrection” that will “deprive the public a lens into the concluding chapter of this trial.”


Source: AP

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Kara Blanchard says:

As much as I’m angered over Jdg Stephens total lock-out of further media access, I’m loving it as well. Jodi was absolutely obsessed and addicted to the insane amount of attention she received last year and the closest thing to sticking that needle in her arm and being rid of her for good is to completely devoid her of ALL attention. She can’t stand it, she downright LOATHES it. Which is also why giving her life w/no parole but serving that life on death row is beautiful. I’m all for chopping her up, injecting her, electrocuting her – what have you – but she would suffer – keyword SUFFER – horribly being deprived of everything every sad pathetic day of her life!!

Diana says:

Judge Sherry Stephens is a joke. I have been watching live trials for 20 years and have not seen a Judge like her. She makes OJ Simpson’s judge look good. Someone should close the doors on her, the way she locks the courtroom doors violating the constitution.

InDisbelief says:

I just want to see jodi fade…….faaaaaaaaade away as a result of the death penalty injection. she is EVIL and might be beyond redemption since she STILL continues to lie and show NO REMORSE and thinks only of herself.

Its HORRIBLE that the jail allows her to sell her *tracings* and profit from them.

I don’t understand it. How many other CONVICTED FIRST DEGREE MURDERERS are allowed to do this type of thing?

InDisbelief says:

Maybe the judge has a crush on jodi? jodi obviously seduced her expert witnesses, if you can call them that, into putting their career in the toilet by essentially lying for jodi, so yeah, its possible the judge has sipped the same *koolaid*.

Its obvious that the judge sympathizes with jodi as she keeps ruling PRO jodi & keeps delaying rulings til later. I don’t think this judge has a CLUE or CONTROL of her courtroom….it has clearly become jodi’s courtroom as she gets everything she asks for.

Ironic jodi calls & contacts media via twitter & on the phone but demands these next jurors make THEIR twitter accounts public knowledge.

IMO, anyone that believes or sympathizes with someone who viciously murders a person the way she did Travis & then does nothing but LIE also has some serious head problems!

This judge is a joke…an EPIC failure as a judge & she should do everyone a favor & step down. She can’t even make ONE decision!

Knilja says:

This judge has lost her dam mind

This should have been over years ago

Almost 2 million $ cost to taxpayers?

Are you F’ing kidding?

Judge is the root of this trials epic fail

Jeannie says:

I still wear my “Justice for Travis” bracelet, he has not been forgotten.

sUSIEaNNE says:

Sherry Stevens is a joke. She lost all control of her courtroom and gave the power to Nurmi. Watching the trial, Nurmi made decisions for her and she didn’t have the nerve to demand him to give a legal argument for his (& Wilmont’s) countless objections and sidebars.
Listen to her~she stutters while overruling objections and never reprimanded defense council to control their client.
Stevens decision to ban all media coverage is probably because she doesn’t want further scrutiny from the public and most of all~like a genie in her bottle~granting Nurmi all of his wishes


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