Jodi Arias’ retrial has become consumed not by the question of the appropriateness of penalty, but instead of the media’s insatiable lust for ratings. The door was closed again on January 3rd for a hearing about her upcoming sentencing. According to reports, prosecutor Juan Martinez looked pleased by the hearing, but Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Wilmott, the defense, did not. An official date for the retrial has not been released, but the victim’s brother wrote on Facebook to his followers that it will be in February. The next hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 13th.
In November, Judge Sherry Stephens granted a defense request to bar live coverage in an effort to control the tabloid circus and focus on the serious proceedings. One still camera will be allowed to take photographs. Also banned are all electronics, which will restrict reporters from live-updating their details. Not surprisingly, the media is enraged and claiming First Amendment violations. However, not to be ignored are the Constitutional amendments the judge took into consideration to make the brave, but conscientious decision of stopping the already over-the-top and at times inaccurate reporting that could continue to affect any ability to seat a fair and impartial jury for sentencing. With the type and amount of coverage in the original trial and sentencing, not to mention the hate-fueled Internet postings, getting a fair sentence will be extremely difficult to obtain. Especially considering that in an about face to the live coverage ruling, Judge Stephens has decided not to sequester the jury.
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on May 8, 2013. As the case turns to whether or not Arias meets the standard of being sentenced to life or death, the media turns to the cost and “secretiveness” of the proceedings as their lead byline.
The AP notes that the judge
“has denied each [defense] 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.”