In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. ~Sixth Amendment (Amendment VI) to the United States Constitution
When I look over the sixth amendment, I don’t see anything in there about secret testimony out of the public view. The point of a public trial is to benefit the defendant so that “the system” can’t pull any funny stuff. Or if they do pull some funny stuff then we all know about it. It’s a way for us to keep an eye on the legal system. So when they do crazy shit, and in Arizona they do a lot of crazy shit, we can, if nothing else, make up silly catchphrases about their crazy shit. Because, Arizona.
So on October 30, 2014, after gut wrenching victim impact statements from the brother and sister of Travis Alexander, imagine everyone’s confusion when the public, including media, was thrown out of the courtroom so that a mystery witness could take the stand and testify in secrecy.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Court of Appeals made an appellate ruling on the media’s motion to overturn Judge Sherry Stephens ruling that JODI ARIAS be allowed to testify in secret. The shocking news is not that they overturned the ruling and stated the public has a right to view the trial, the shocking part is that they made it very clear what Channel 10 in Phoenix discovered at the time, that JODI ARIAS was indeed the witness.
So as with all things Arizona, I have a ton of questions. The media have requested a transcript of Jodi’s testimony, which they will probably get. I’m dying to see that. But will that testimony have to be tossed out now? If it is can Nurmi get a mistrial? If it isn’t, will Jodi resume testimony in public? If so, will the jurors be told why she is now testifying in public? Were they told why she wasn’t testifying in public before?
This ruling was specific to testimony by Jodi Arias. If Nurmi wants to call more character witnesses for Arias to try to invent some glimmer of mitigating circumstances, will they be allowed to testify in secret?
One would think the constitution is the constitution but it’s not always. In 1966 The Supreme Court Ruled on Sheppard v. Maxwell, that the right to a public trial is not absolute. If the publicity of the case would impede defendant’s right to due process, limitations can be put on public access to the proceedings. The limitations should be of the least restrictive alternative available. Twenty years later, a ruling on Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court gave a defendant the right to request a private trial if “first, there is a substantial probability that the defendant’s right to a fair trial will be prejudiced by publicity that closure would prevent, and second, reasonable alternatives to closure cannot adequately protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
While, technically, Jodi is not a defendant anymore as she has been convicted of first degree murder, I can see Nurmi trying to make an argument here. However, in a normal court requiring witnesses to testify openly in their support of Jodi is not a violation of her right to due process. But I am just and Imaginary Internet Lawyer and not a real one and this is Arizona so who knows if any other witnesses will be allowed to testify in secrecy. Didn’t we already try that the first time?
What we do know is that if Jodi wants to do anymore talking to the jury, be it an allocution or an actual witness situation, the media will be there tweeting to us live.
See ya next week, trial watchers.