The judge in the Jodi Arias penalty-phase re-trial can't prevent the public and news media from watching the show, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens, who oversaw the lascivious first-degree murder trial that ended in May with Arias' conviction, kicked members of the public and news media from the courtroom on Thursday. Arias' court-appointed defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, had argued that the publicity surrounding the latest court drama could make witnesses fearful of testifying.
Update below follows original article.
The latest decision, which hasn't yet been posted on the appellate court's website, stops Stephens from allowing Arias and her attorney, Kirk Nurmi, to present testimony from an unidentified witness in secret. But only while the court addresses "the merits of the special action petition in due course and after receiving any response or reply filed," according to published reports on Monday evening.
Attorney David Bodney, a former New Times editor, and other lawyers for the Arizona Republic and three Phoenix TV stations had argued for the stay of secret testimony while the court decides what to do. No announcement's been made yet on when testimony might resume, or whether the mystery witness (speculation is rampant) will be outed.
Restrictions on video footage from the trial are still in effect -- and while that limits the carnival-like atmosphere around the infamous murderer's life-or-death re-trial, it also makes public coverage more important. Arias, who butchered ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, is fighting for her own life now. The new jury, needed after the first jury deadlocked on the punishment question, will decide only whether the killer deserves life in prison or death by execution. (Most likely, the state will have purchased better drugs for that task, if it comes to it.)
The jury heard opening statements on the new trial starting October 21. The thrust of the testimony should be familiar even to passive observers of last year's super-viral trial: How Arias planned the murder in Alexander's home, (or, if you believe some of her tales, whether she planned it), and the level of Arias' cruelty.
Quite possibly, given the last bunch, at least one of the new jurors has a smidgen of sympathy for Arias.
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UPDATE: Tuesday -- Judge Stephens orders that no news witnesses can be called until November 12.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.