Jodi Arias Trial Sealed Transcripts (Court Documents) Released
Jodi Arias sidebar sealed court documents released today …….HLN reported: The full complement of documents will be available shortly, as the judge has ordered full transcripts to be prepared for the public domain. Check back…
PHOENIX — Much of the Jodi Arias trial took place behind closed doors or at the judge’s bench with conversations drowned out by the whir of a white-noise machine. Midway through the trial, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens began to seal the record of those sidebars and in-chambers discussions.
But the information is beginning to leak out. Stephens has released the text of the questions the jurors asked as they came to an impasse on whether Arias should be sentenced to death
On May 30, Stephens ordered that much of the secret conversations be released to the public, as well. Court staffers are working on making them available. Stephens, however, is still keeping the seal on sidebars or closed-door hearings where witnesses or jurors were present. Those hearings contain details of the death threats against witnesses and attorneys and details about why three jurors were dismissed.
But unsealed transcripts obtained by the Arizona Republic show how defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott and prosecutor Juan Martinez quibbled over witnesses and evidence while at the bench and how at times the back and forth turned insulting.
Arias, 32, was found guilty of first-degree murder on May 8 for the brutal 2008 slaying of her sometime lover, Travis Alexander, 30. Five years ago this week, Arias shot Alexander in the head, stabbed him nearly 30 times, slit his throat and then dumped his body in the shower of his Mesa home. She said she killed Alexander in self-defense; the jury thought otherwise.On May 22, the jurors sent a note to Stephens asking which form they should use in the event they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence Arias to death or life in prison. Stephens called them into the courtroom and read them instructions on how to resume deliberations.
The next day, according to juror questions released Wednesday, the jurors said, “We would like to explain our earlier question.” They had not yet reached impasse, they said, but wanted to know what to do in the event they did. Stephens wrote back that they should use a juror questionnaire form. Later that day, they sent another message.
“After long and careful deliberation, we are unable to reach a unanimous decision,” it said.Stephens scribbled a note back to them: “Do you think breaking until Wednesday, May 29, could benefit your deliberations?”
The response: “We do not feel further deliberations will change the outcome.” Stephens told them to complete a verdict form to that effect. It was over.
Other unsealed materials are yet to come out. But a review of on-the-record transcripts give a glimpse into what the lawyers and the judge talked about during trial sidebars. There were frequent arguments over what could and could not be admitted as evidence. And exchanges on April 2 and 4 show the lengths of discourtesy sometimes reached at Stephens’ bench.
One argument began as Willmott was explaining what she expected to elicit from defense witness Alyce LaViolette, a domestic-violence expert who raised so much controversy both in and out of court that she became a target of death threats. Specifically, Willmott was discussing whether Alexander at one point told Arias that he would kill himself.
“There’s a lack of trustworthiness there,” Martinez said. “She’s a liar. So, I’m just having a difficult time seeing how she can say that Mr. Alexander attempted suicide.”
Willmott and Martinez bandied back and forth. Then, Martinez said, “But the thing is that if Ms. Willmott and I were married, I certainly would say I F’g (sic) want to kill myself. That doesn’t mean I want to kill myself. It just means there’s a bad relationship and I want you to leave me alone.”
Willmott protested. “Judge, just for the record, I think that that was an insult because he’s trying to say that if he and I were married …” Martinez cut her off: “That was a compliment, bad joke.”
Willmott: “I don’t see it as either.”
Stephens did not reprimand Martinez. Instead she said, “All right. Let’s move past that.”
Two days later, the subject came up again at another bench conference, when Martinez said to Willmott, “Well, then maybe you ought to go back to law school.” Stephens did not step in.
Nurmi did, asking Stephens to admonish Martinez for both the law-school and the marriage remarks. ”Counsel, I understand some of this is tongue and cheek (sic),” Stephens finally said. “Some of it is just the stress of trial, but let’s try to be as professional as possible when we have these bench conferences.”
SOURCE: ARTICLE BY DETROIT FREE PRESS JUNE 6, 2013
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