Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jodi Arias Defense Wants Mitigation Witness List Sealed

As we patiently wait for the October 4, 2013 status hearing in the never-ending Jodi Arias penalty sentencing re-trial, "minute entries" on the Maricopa County Superior Court's website gives us a hint of what's happening behind the scenes.  In a 9/16/13 minute entry, Arias' attorneys requested that "all mitigation witness names shall be filed under seal with a copy to be provided to the state".  According to that court document, the hearing began at 9:53AM and ended at 10:26AM. Jodi Arias, Kirk Nurmi, Jennifer Willmott and prosecutor Juan Martinez were present when the meeting began at 9:53AM, but at 9:54AM the attorney for the State left the room - the remainder of the hearing was "Ex Parte" between the Court and the Defense.

Here is what was transcribed by the court reporter Mike Babicky:

IT IS ORDERED all mitigation witness names shall be filed under seal with a copy to be provided to the state.

IT IS ORDERED sealing this hearing not to be transcribed without Order of The Court.

IT IS ORDERED affirming prior custody orders.

IT IS ORDERED excluding all time.

10:26AM Matter concludes.

Interesting.  Another "minute entry" seems to point to the reason for the latest court delay.  It was requested by Jodi Arias' defense team.  In a 9/13/13 minute entry:

Discussion is held regarding the Defendant's Motion to Continue 9/16/13 Status Conference.

IT IS ORDERED continuing the Status Conference from 9/16/13 to 10/4/13 at 8:30AM.

IT IS ORDERED excluding all time.

10:55AM Matter concludes.

These minute entries are interesting, but frustrating to see how many deadlines have come and gone, and I'm wondering why this continues to happen in this particular case.  The various motions around the retrial have been known virtually since the previous mistrial was declared, or shortly thereafter.  Why hasn't Judge Stephens been able to rule on these issues and move forward? For example, a 8/26/13 minute entry from a status conference says the following:

IT IS ORDERED setting a Complex Case Management Conference on September 16, 2013 at 8:30AM in this division.

The Courts Oral Argument will be held at the next said hearing date of September 16, 2013 regarding Pending Motions filed.

JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT POINTS:

No less than two working days before each Case Management Conference, the parties shall file a Joint Case Management Report. The Report will inform the Court of:

1.  The specific progress made since the last Case Management Conference in completing activities previously previously established by the Court and the parties;

2.  Specific case preparation to be completed before the next Case Management Conference;

3.  Witnesses who have been interviewed in the preceding month;

4.  Witnesses who will be interviewed in the upcoming month;

5.  Pending issues to be resolved.

8:41AM Matter Concludes.

In a July 15, 2013 minute entry, it states that the defense had until August 5, 2013 to file a reply to the State's Response. Can this just go on forever? Back and forth, deadlines coming and going with new deadlines being set - then extended with no end in sight? At some point, don't all outstanding Motions need to be wrapped up so they can begin the jury selection? I'm really at a loss for our slow moving legal process.  Given the fact that the defense should have been ready to present mitigation during the first trial, you wouldn't think it would be too difficult to tweak it or refine it to present to the new jury panel. It just seems it shouldn't be like they are starting from scratch.

The remaining issues the defense is trying to iron out:


  • NOTE: Renewing Ms. Arias' request for individualized voir dire for by counsel
  • NOTE: Defendant's Motion to compel juror Twitter accounts
  • NOTE: Defendant's Motion to preclude or limit live media coverage of Sentencing Phase retrial
  • NOTE: Motion for Change of Venue
  • NOTE: Defendant's Request to sequester her jury
  • NOTE: Motion to Continue evidentiary hearing scheduled for 9/16/1
The State has objected to many of the Defense motions. Interestingly enough, the mitigation specialist name on the Case Information page for this trial still says "TBD". I guess that means Maria De La Rosa is out, and a new mitigation specialist is in? I have never seen a trial that has had so many delays, twists and turns as the Jodi Arias murder trial. Is this status quo for a death penalty case? It seems to me there have been other even higher profile cases that have gone to trial faster and more efficiently than this one.  I have a feeling the tactic all along has been to delay this thing until early 2014, hoping the public outrage over this violent murder will fade with time.  While that may be somewhat correct, the outrage will remain until Jodi Arias is sentenced one way or another.  The delay tactic may in fact backfire on the defense. A new jury may not feel sympathetic towards Jodi Arias, who was seen as public enemy number one during the first trial - rather, they may be able to take an objective look at the aggravating factors and weigh them against the mitigation and see how it balances out.

The first jury went through 5 months worth of testimony, and they had the opportunity to see Arias throughout the trial - and they heard her testify for 18 days straight. Like her or not, they may have formed a subconscious bond with her after spending so much time hearing her life story. Juan Martinez has also been given additional time to refine his arguments, which may not bode well for the defense! He may now have a better feel for the points he needs to drive home and where he may have feel short. Giving a prosecutor like Juan Martinez more time could turn out to be a very bad risk!

Until October 4th.......






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