Jodi Arias and her attorneys returned to the Maricopa County Superior Court yesterday for a status hearing relating to her penalty phase retrial. The proceedings were not televised. I didn't expect to learn much during this trial, as we have come to expect nothing in the form of decisions or hard dates. Rather, the proceedings seem to move further and further on out into the future. Yesterday's hearing seemed to be more of the same.
I think most of us who have followed this story and the trial found the arguments made by the defense laughable and hypocritical. The defense is asking Judge Stephens to ban live television coverage in the courtroom for the retrial. CNN and other networks are crying foul. In fact, CNN attorney David Bodney addressed the judge, saying "she (Arias) has voluntarily thrust herself into the vortex of this public controversy, it's unfair to deprive the public because someone can't control her own speech".
The defense is still arguing for a sequestered jury, and disclosure of any Twitter accounts so juror accounts can be monitored. Mr. Nurmi, who is monitoring your client's Twitter accounts, and the Twitter activity done through outside proxy for Jodi Arias? The Twitter motion is perhaps the most ironic of all the defense's motions. It seems Jodi Arias can use Twitter to get her message out, but these jurors cannot be trusted to follow the Judge's admonishment? Wouldn't the admonishment have extended to Jodi Arias herself during her trial? Why wasn't her "shout outs" being monitored and addressed during the trial?
The prosecution fired back at Kirk Nurmi & Co on the Twitter issue, noting that the defense has failed to acknowledge Jodi Arias' role in creating her own publicity about the trial. "She cannot create what she now considers a problem and then expect the court to change it's procedure to solve the problem", the State's motion read. I don't know why I'm so surprised that Judge Stephens made no rulings on these outstanding motions. These motions have been around since late May, why on earth hasn't she ruled? This makes no sense for me, what is she waiting for? She's heard arguments from both sides on all of these issues. The main issues being sequestering the jury, Twitter account disclosure, media coverage and a change of venue. Am I missing something, or should Judge Stephens have walked into yesterday's status hearing ready to rule on these things?
I don't get it folks. True, there is a settlement conference scheduled for October 24th. That doesn't mean anything will be agreed upon - therefore they need to move forward and get this retrial on the road! I'm a little disgusted at how little progress is being made over a 5 month period. This should be over by now. I'm looking at a July 15, 2013 article from cbsatlanta.com, where it says "Judge Sherry Stephens met with attorneys from both sides in her chambers Monday and emerged saying she was not prepared to rule on motions made by defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott before setting a new trial date". At that hearing, Judge Stephens set a new status hearing for September 16, 2013.
The hearing that was supposed to occur on September 16, 2013 was pushed back to October 4, 2013. What happens next? This all seems so shameful, and justice should not move at a snails pace.
The latest court minute entry, filed on October 1st says: "the parties have agreed the pretrial hearings/oral arguments scheduled for October 4, 2013 and October 18, 2013 should be closed to the public. The court finds an open proceeding for these pretrial hearings presents a clear and present threat to the due administration of justice, specifically the right of the parties to a fair penalty retrial from an impartial jury. The Court finds there is a compelling interest that overcomes the right of public access, specifically there is a substantial probability that publication of information provided during these court hearings (through arguments or evidence) could taint the jury pool and significantly impact the parties' ability to effectively present matters at trial. The Court also finds that in light of the intense media coverage of this case, there is no less restrictive means to achieve these compelling interests. Good cause appearing; IT IS ORDERED closing the hearings scheduled for October 4, 2013 and October 18, 2013."
There you have it. It seems Judge Stephens made at least one decision over the last month. If this is all ordered, shouldn't Ms. Arias have to cease speaking to the public via her websites as well? That would only seem fair. She has publicly discussed her case and her cause via the website and Twitter all along and has considered to do so. What gives? Does this seem fair to you? The defendant can get her "goodwill book ambassador" word out for all to see, but the public should only have access to what she says, and not what is said in the courtroom? Shame on the justice system. Shame, shame shame.