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Friday, May 24, 2013

Jodi Arias Jurors - Sequestration in the Age of Instant Media

I would not wish jury sequestration on my worst enemy, but it's hard to fathom how a trial conducted in the media was not corrupted by the preponderance of news that was presented on every computer bit possible.

The First Amendment was glorified in tweets, texts, websites, blogs,  FaceBook, YouTube, the press, and omnipresent HLN television. All of this appears inconsistent with the Sixth Amendment right of a defendant to be tried in an open trial with an impartial jury.

It's hard to believe that the jurors honestly answered Judge Sherry Stephens daily question about whether or not they had seen anything in the media about the case. Kirk Nurmi, an Arias attorney, said this was a "fairy tale" and a "...fiction beyond belief."

He asked for sequestration April 4, 2013, after ABC news reported that Jodi's parents told news outlets that Jodi had "mental problems", an obvious fact, but one not presented as evidence during trial.The judge denied the defense motion.

The defense may have been thinking more about high profile cases like the OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony trials in which "guilty" defendants were acquitted than the Sixth Amendment rights of Jodi Arias.  It has shown that "group thinking", overexposure to the defendant,  and the desire for harmony can cause surprising verdicts.

Jodi herself is media savvy and certainly guilty of over exposure, but that doesn't mean her rights as a defendant should not be upheld.  In the new age of televised trials and instant internet commentary, the courts need to deal with how 21st century technology should interface with our constitutional rights.

UPDATE:  The just rendered unanimous decision that there was no decision will afford Arias another trial on the penalty phase starting July 18.  Jose Baez, the defense attorney in the Casey Anthony case, stated today on CNN that Judge Stephens made a mistake not sequestering the jury and allowing cameras in the courtroom specifically because of social media.  The fact that potential mitigation witnesses felt threatened via the internet during the penalty phase is a serious issue for the Appellate Courts to review.

Article first published as Jodi Arias Jurors - Sequestration in the Age of Instant Media on Technorati.

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