In the wake of the Jodi Arias’ mistrial (a second time), trial watchers on social media have demanded that the lone juror who thought that Jodi Arias should not be executed be investigated for misconduct.  And Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery actually kowtowed to them.  Juror 17’s attorney, Tom Ryan, calls the probe “an abuse of office and…shameful”.

In the wake of the post-mistrial outing of Juror 17’s personal information, Ryan said, “I believe a crime was committed by the release of confidential juror information…”

Juror 17 has been threatened, harassed, and currently lives under police protection.  All because she answered the call of jury duty.  All because some trial watchers can cross the line between active citizens and blinded mobs.

Juror 17 told the Arizona Republic, “No one else is being researched…It’s upsetting and it makes you lose faith [in the system].”

On top of all of the mistreatment of Juror 17, the actions of prosecutor Juan Martinez are once again being debated. Was it appropriate for Juan Martinez to request that Juror 17 be removed from the jury deliberations after he found out that she was the only juror blocking him from a death sentence?  Legal experts can’t agree.  Martinez even tried to use the juror’s Facebook page to get her ousted.  Judge Sherry Stephens refused, not seeing evidence of bias. Interestingly, minutes after the mistrial was declared, the same Facebook screen shot was posted online and emailed to journalists waiting to interview the jurors.  Juror identities are protected in Arizona and it is a crime to reveal them.

It is a very short list of people who know who the jurors are:  Martinez, the judge, her staff, the case detective, the defense, Jodi Arias, and the victim’s family.

“When I find out who outed her, it is at least a civil case of invasion of privacy,” Ryan said, “Whoever did this did it with intent to harm.”

“There is a constitutional obligation and a right to serve on jury duty,” said Larry Hammond, a prominent defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

“To interfere with someone’s privacy while they are serving on a jury may be actionable,” Hammond said.

“I think we all should be concerned with the integrity of the legal process if the prosecutors are allowed to investigate jurors simply because they don’t agree with them,” said Arias’ defense attorney, Jennifer Willmott, “If the jury ends up saying that the community wants things a certain way, that may keep you from voting your conscience. Will you do jury duty if you will need police protection or if you need to hire a lawyer?”

It is also a crime to influence, coerce, or threaten juries.  But the same people who threatened juror 17 and the previous jury foreman don’t seem to care. In Arizona, a juror doesn’t have to disclose their reasoning, “the subjective motives or mental processes” that led them to vote one way or another. In addition, in capital cases, jurors do not have to come to a unanimous decision as to the weight of mitigating evidence that may persuade one to vote for or against the death penalty.

Jurors are told repeatedly to vote your conscience.

The Arias case has blazed new trails in cyberspace, with many pro and anti Arias groups attempting to insult and influence the media coverage as well as the justice system.  Integrity to them is a meaningless word.  Impartial juries, fair trials, are not in their vocabularies, winning is.  Winning at all cost and that has been the central issue of the justice system for years.  Duty and the constitutional way are replaced with an “us vs. them” “she deserved it”, “he deserved it” attitude. In June of 2008, Arias killed her boyfriend, Travis Alexander.  She confessed to the murder, but argued self-defense.  In 2013, after a 21-week trial, the jury convicted her of first-degree murder.  They also found her eligible for the death penalty due to the especially cruel manner of the murder.  However, the jury could not agree on a sentence and a mistrial was declared.

In the wake of that decision, despite the split being 8-4 in favor of death, the jury foreman got most of the brunt of the attack.  Those unable or unwilling to see the evidence that Travis Alexander was abusive verbally toward Arias, attacked him saying that he was “in love” with her.  There is nothing more romantic than convicting someone of first-degree murder and at least ensuring that all of their days are spent in a cage the size of a small child’s room.

A new jury was impaneled in October of last year.  Their initial vote was 7 – 5.  As deliberations wore on, things got nasty in the jury room.  Inside the deliberations seemed to mirror the vicious arguments some have on social media.

Juror 17 said, “right away I got the feeling that they were not an impartial jury.”

The jurors initially in favor of the death penalty came out of the deliberation room swinging at Juror 17.  First, they asked for her to be removed and replaced with an alternate.  They accused her of bias.  Prosecutor Juan Martinez jumped on the bandwagon of the request for removal.  Judge Sherry Stephens noted that the jury’s concerns (mostly surrounding a discussion in the jury room about the made-for-TV movie about Arias) were known to the court during voir dire.  So, Juan Martinez went out in search of something that could remove her. He displayed prominently in the public courtroom, Juror 17’s Facebook page, her personal information.  Stephens refused to remove Juror 17.  Martinez would not be deterred and asked the judge the next day to remove her.  She refused and declared a mistrial not long afterward.

The jurors also came out of the jury room after the mistrial attacking Juror 17.  They did not identify themselves publicly, but they lambasted the juror that disagreed with them. Once Juror 17’s information was out, it went viral.  People on social media asked others to pass it on. What is the motivation of people like this?  What kind of message does this send to future jurors?  What effect will this have on our justice system? This is an example of one of the issues that Willmott and Kirk Nurmi brought to the court when they petitioned to have the trial closed to the public. High profile cases that are being fueled by hoards of out of control “fans” of one of the parties involved, may force the justice system to change the openness of our system which helps ensure everyone a fair trial, which we are constitutionally entitled to have.

Juror 17 canceled all of her social media, she changed her phone number.  She had become the target of all these people’s frustrations over the Jodi Arias case. Her relatives also started receiving threats.  Trial watchers scoured the Internet for information about Juror 17’s life.  They found that her ex-husband had been prosecuted by Juan Martinez.  This fueled speculation that Juror 17 was taking revenge on Martinez and was a “stealth juror”.

“This woman is living in fear of her life,” Ryan said.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has called on trial watchers to appeal to their reasonable side.

“You’re telling people that their opinion really matters and that they should consult their consciences and understand that this is one of the most important decisions you can make,” said Hammond, the defense attorney, “But please be forewarned that the prosecutor can conduct an investigation into your private dealings while you’re doing that.”

Michael Terribile, a defense attorney who says outright that he is not a Martinez fan, thinks it’s not a conflict of interest nor a coercion, “I don’t know if a lawyer does anything wrong by checking it out. It’s what you do with the information later. Where it broke down is, the judge didn’t tell the other jurors that nobody has a right to tell anyone they’re wrong.”

All legal experts agree that revealing the juror’s personal information was unequivocally disturbing.

“That’s more than troubling,” said former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton. “If someone disclosed that information to intimidate her, that is of extraordinary concern. If it was done intentionally, then someone needs to answer for that.”

 

Juror 17 said this of jury duty, “You’re asked to take an oath that you’re going to be impartial and you’re going to take everything under consideration…you do and [you] get punished.”

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