Legally Speaking: Arias judge’s mistakes are on the record

Sep 11, 2014, 4:12 PM | Updated: Apr 27, 2015, 8:39 pm
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We would like to think that judges do not make mistakes, that they are unbiased and perfect.

Well, that is just not the way it is and even the best of them make mistakes. Ask any of the trial watchers, who follow State v. Jodi Arias, if they think Judge Sherry Stephens has made a mistake in the trial and the overwhelming response would likely be “Yes.”

They may cite the fact that she has allowed numerous continuances that stemmed from defense requests, or the admission of evidence that many felt was fabricated. There was one mistake that was recently, presumably, made either by Stephens or her staff, that had the followers of the Arias trial in an uproar.

The minute entry (aka order) issued by the court on Aug. 20, 2014 ordered at page 3, paragraph 4:

“Defendant requests that the State set a date and time certain for her Investigator to observe the crime scene. The Prosecutor will contact his case agent immediately following this hearing to schedule a date and time certain, on or before August 28, as requested by Defendant.”

Those in Maricopa County, including the community where Travis Alexander lived, and others across the country lashed out at Stephens on social media and in print media about how could she possibly allow Arias and her investigator to visit the crime scene.

After all, Arias murdered Alexander in 2008, six years previous. It was clarified shortly thereafter that only the investigator was allowed to go back to the scene. Many analysts, including myself, speculated why Stephens would allow this. Aug. 28 came and went with no confirmation that Arias’ investigator had, in fact, visited the crime scene. There was speculation, but no proof of the visit. Well, now we know why — the court made a mistake.

In a subsequent minute entry, dated Sept. 4 the mistake was clarified:

“IT IS ORDERED amending the Court minute entry dated August 20, 2014, page 3, paragraph 4, as follows. Defendant requests that the State set a date and time certain for her investigator to review evidence maintained at the Mesa Police Department. The prosecutor will contact his case agent immediately following this hearing to schedule a date and time certain for that review to occur. The meeting shall occur on or before August 28.”

Stephens did not grant Arias’ investigator permission to return to the crime scene. The minute entry contained a mistake, not a simple typographical mistake, but one that tweaked the ire of many.

It is common for minute entries to be dated and show a different electronic filing date only to have them show up on the clerk’s website several days later; the process is not instantaneous. Yet it is interesting that it took roughly 16 days for the correction to hit the website.

Makes me wonder if there are others, meaning other than Jodi Arias, who want the media frenzy to continue.

Monica Lindstrom

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Legally Speaking: Arias judge’s mistakes are on the record