Jodi Arias seeks to keep appeal opening brief from going public
PHOENIX — A sizeable portion of the trial that sent Jodi Arias to prison for life in the 2008 death of her former boyfriend was shrouded in secrecy.
A white-noise machine was turned on regularly during Arias’ sentencing retrial three years ago to keep spectators from hearing what lawyers argued as they huddled around the judge’s bench. At other times, the public wasn’t allowed in the courtroom, like when a judge let a skittish witness testify behind closed doors without revealing that the person in question was Arias.
Now, Arias is seeking more secrecy: Her lawyers asked the Arizona Court of Appeals on Friday to bar the public from having access to the opening brief in her appeal.
“The contents of the opening brief may endanger some members of the public, given the continuing interest in this case by the public and the media,” her lawyers wrote, without explaining what the peril was and who would be affected by the public release of the brief.
Peg Green, an attorney representing Arias, didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking elaboration on her bid to keep the brief private.
Mia Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Arizona attorney general’s office, which is now handling the Arias case, said the agency is opposing Arias’ request.
Arias is serving a life sentence for her first-degree murder conviction in the 2008 death of Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa.
Prosecutors said Arias attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.
The guilt phase of Arias’ trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial began in late 2014 and stretched into early 2015, also resulting in a jury deadlock. That required Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens to sentence Arias to prison for life.
The case was marked by secrecy after the first trial, which turned into a media circus as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live around the world.
Despite her reservations about testifying during the sentencing retrial, Arias had actively courted the spotlight since she was arrested in 2008. She did interviews on TV’s “48 Hours” and “Inside Edition” after her arrest and was on the witness stand for several weeks during the trial in which she was found guilty of murder.
She also did a series of media interviews after she was convicted.
In the sentencing retrial, Stephens repeatedly held secret hearings and kicked members of the public out of the courtroom as the first witness called in Arias’ defense took the stand.
At the time, the judge didn’t reveal the witness’ identity, saying only that the decision to close the courtroom was difficult but necessary because the witness wouldn’t otherwise testify in public.
A month later, the Arizona Court of Appeals threw out Stephens’ ruling that let the unidentified witness testify in a closed courtroom. Eventually, it was revealed that the person testifying in private was Arias.
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