Last night, I updated the post about the mystery witness in the Jodi Arias trial who required that the entire courtroom be cleared except for the victim’s family who have the right to be in all portions of the trial even those that are closed to the public or even held in chambers. Surprise! The mystery mitigation witness is, JODI ARIAS.
I will give you a moment to digest this. Take as much time as you need. I’ll wait. Read on when you are ready.
I imagine you just went through a lot of emotions. Perhaps incredulity, confusion, anger, and perhaps you eventually settled down in the same manner I did. Perhaps you thought, “Because, Arizona.” If you did, you are ready to move forward and look at the interesting laws, of the interesting state of Arizona. I’ll save you some time because I did that this morning.
The big question is why did Jodi seemingly live for the video cameras the last round but doesn’t want even a still photo of her on the stand now? What has changed? That would be Arizona Supreme Court Rule 122 that governs electronic and photographic coverage of public judicial proceedings. It seems that because of the Arias trial the SUPREME COURT OF ARIZONA has made changes to the state law governing media in the courtroom. It’s a bit hard to find the previous versions of the rule but this is the current, relevant portion.
(2) Limitation of coverage: Upon his or her own motion or upon the request of a party, victim, or witness, a judge may allow coverage as requested or may, after making specific, on-the-record findings based on the factors in paragraph (d)(1), impose limitations as follows:
(A) order that no one may photograph, record, or BROADCAST a criminal defendant, a law enforcement officer, or a victim in the courtroom;
(B) order that video coverage must effectively obscure the face and identity of that party, victim, or witness, or that there be only audio coverage of the testimony of a party, victim, or witness;
(C) prohibit coverage of the testimony of that witness upon a determination that coverage would have a substantial adverse impact upon that witness or his or her testimony.
My guess is that is a portion of the changes that went into effect on January 1, 2014. So, I suppose we can stop blaming Judge Stephens for this one.
So why would the defense decide to use this to keep Jodi’s testimony under seal? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m going to tell you mine anyway. First and foremost, I think Jodi really thought that we would buy her bullshit. She’s known to vastly overestimate her own intelligence and underestimate others. I think she finally understand that social media has judged her harshly, we believe she was rightly convicted, we believe she is a horrible person, she’s been referred to during the trial as “the most hated woman in the world.” That must come as a blow to someone with her enormous ego.
But there is more to it than that. It’s Arizona. Arizona is embarrassed. Arizona doesn’t like having its legal proceedings dissected in social media.
So in addition to the changes above there were also some limitations to Arizona Supreme Court Rule 122.1 which governs the use of electronic devises in the court room. It’s unclear what all the changes to that were, but as it reads now everyone is allowed to use their electronic device for basically anything other than a voice phone call.
Check out this very interesting blog here, (Please click the link and read the whole thing) that discusses a recent panel on the subject of electronic devices in the courtroom that occurred on October 17, 2014. One of the five members of the panel was Jennifer Willmott. Willmott is clearly against electronic devices in the courtroom allowing spectators to give live accounts of on Twitter of proceedings. Part of her contribution to the panel was to point out that, “What we want is an honest and fair trial.” Then she brought up that on social media (that’s us), “Cyberlynchings occur on social media among people who know nothing about the case.” Oh Willmott, I try very hard to support you. I really do. But, there are plenty of us out here in social media that are well-informed on the case. And the large percentage of us know that “Fairytale!” is not a proper objection in a death penalty case. I understand that having a camera follow your every decision at work would be a terrible burden. But that is part of your job. Especially when you are on a death penalty trial that has the attention of the entire country.
Another member of the panel, Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery, echoed Willmott’s feelings, “talking heads give their theory of the prosecution and they don’t even understand the law in our jurisdiction. Bad media can affect how people act in the courtroom.” So because Nancy Grace exists, we no longer have our constitutional rights to public trials? Montgomery wants to do his work outside the glare of the public eye, or more importantly public opinion? Remember they are talking about people being able to report live from the courtroom from an electronic device. It seems Montgomery missed a few days in law school. Perhaps when he joined the legal profession he misunderstood the public sentiment toward lawyers. Perhaps all this public scrutiny is just too much for Montgomery so we should all look away? Whose courtroom behavior is he worried about the media changing?
Oh wait, here is one more quote from Montgomery, ” “When someone drives several states to get a prosecutor’s autograph, and when he’s told no, he breaks down, this system is not working.” The system is broken because whackadoodle trial junkies drive across the country to get Juan Martinez’s autograph because they are fans of his work? How the hell does that effect anything? What is in the water in Arizona???
Bill Montgomery is an idiot and a crybaby, in my opinion. Allegedly. So it would seem.
So the reason they cleared the courtroom was because in Arizona, everyone is allowed to use their mobile devices in court. Not just attorneys or media, they make no distinction. For that reason, the only way to get the mobile devices out of the courtroom was to throw everyone out on their ear, and seal the proceedings. There are mean bloggers out there that are judging the entire state on this case. So they take the courtroom viewers’ access to social media away. Only they can’t do that, so the went with removing “the media” from the courtroom. And in Arizona, everyone is given the privileges of media. Anyone with an electronic device is afforded media access, so they are all able to “broadcast” (see bolded law above) so all spectators were removed from the courtroom to keep people from live tweeting.
Updated to clean up typos and bold major points for the readers from Arizona. And Florida. You’re welcome.