Court papers have revealed that Jodi Arias was allowed to secretly testify at her own sentencing hearing due to threats on her life, but the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in November that the judge shouldn’t have closed the proceedings to the public and confirmed suspicions that Arias had been the mystery witness during the retrial.
As Reuters reported, Arias could get the death penalty after being convicted in the murder of her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, at his home in 2008. The three-member court panel found that Arias had been allowed to testify in private on October 30, after her lawyers successfully argued that media coverage would affect her concentration and her ability to answer questions. They also told the court about the death threats.
The retrial was made necessary after the original jury couldn’t decide whether Arias should be given the death penalty or allowed to serve a sentence of life in prison. The appeals court found that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens allowed the private testimony even though she might have felt manipulated by the defense to do so.
USA Today reported that Stephens said at the time the secret witness was necessary to Arias’ defense, and the witness would testify without the media and members of the public present. However, the state appeals court said the defense attorneys had not proved that there was a “clear and present danger” that required the testimony to be given in private, and ordered the transcript of the testimony be publicly released.
The decision by Judge Stephens was appealed by media organizations, but Arias’ defense attorneys have already said they will appeal the court’s decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.
In the appeal filing, the defense attorneys started that Arias would be prevented from being “able to fully communicate what she wants to say, communicate her remorse and go through all the mitigating factors and get them out there in front of the jury with… the public there.”
For now, the appeal is preventing the retrial testimony from being released to the public.
Stephens had banned live television from the trial, as reported by the Inquisitr, but she had allowed cameras into the courtroom. However, no footage was to be released until after the retrial had ended.
The new sentencing trial has begun, and if the jury becomes deadlocked again, the judge will sentence Arias to life in prison or life without the possibility of parole until she has served 25 years.
[Image by The Arizona Republic]