Jodi Arias’ retrial will be very different from her original murder trial, which was broadcast live and garnered national media attention back in May 2013.
The public was shut out from a closed door hearing that took place on Jan. 3 regarding her upcoming retrial. According to Court Chatter, “As parties emerged from the courtroom, prosecutor Juan Martinez looked pleased while [Arias attorneys] Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Wilmott did not.”
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A date for the retrial has yet to be set and the next oral argument is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 9:30 a.m., reports the court blog.
In November, Maricopa County Judge Sherry Stephens granted a request to block live coverage of the proceedings and instead only allow one still camera photographer inside the courtroom. She also banned all electronic devices, effectively restricting reporters from live-tweeting details of the trail.
As a result, media outlets are complaining that the public’s First Amendment right to attend a public trial is being violated.
“The trial court has gone from transparency to blackout and bewilderment,” said attorney David Bodney, who represents several media outlets fighting for transparency, according to the Associated Press. “There have been repeated flagrant violations of the public’s constitutional right to attend proceedings.”
“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.”
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on May 8, 2013 in the ghastly 2008 death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix, Ariz. home. However, the same jury that found her guilty failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, a retrial will be held later this year to determine whether she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.
Judge Sherry Stephens has held multiple hearings behind closed doors over the last several months, including arguments over sequestering the new jury, moving the case out of Phoenix, Arias’ request to fire her lead attorney and allowing live television coverage of the retrial.
The AP also notes that the judge “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