Jodi Arias Trial Update Today: Jodi Arias Twitter and Jury Selection Problems Foretell a Lengthy Retrial
By Staff Writer | September 06, 2013 03:51 PM EDT
Jodi Arias trial update: Jodi Arias attorneys are asking a judge to make potential jurors turn over information about their Twitter accounts. A trial expert says that move shows how much social media can influence courtroom proceedings.
In defending their request Jodi Arias' defense attorneys said that during the first Jodi Arias trial, an alternate juror was caught posting on Facebook about Jodi Arias' temper. Judge Sherry Stephens gave Jodi Arias jurors explicit instructions prohibiting them from commenting about the Jodi Arias trial on social media.
On May 14, Tara Kelley, Juror No. 17, wrote in the comment, “If she [Arias] does have Latina blood, it may explain a temper lol."
Jodi Arias’s lawyers also claimed that Kelley was caught tweeting with criminal defense attorney Mike Eiglarsh. Eiglarsh appeared on HLN a number of times. Jodi Arias' defense calls him a "member of the media." Appearing on HLN, Kelley denied Jodi Arias’ attorneys' claims that she was commenting about the Jodi Arias trial online.
Jodi Arias was convicted of the grisly murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. The former waitress and budding photographer stabbed him 27 times, shot him in the face and cut his throat from ear to ear with such force she almost took his head off. Jodi Arias said she did it in self-defense. She claimed Travis Alexander had a violent outburst while they were shooting a nude video and she dropped his camera. The jury found her guilty but couldn’t decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or give her the death penalty.
Judges routinely admonish jurors about talking about a case during the trial. Jurors are also supposed to avoid media coverage and are supposed to limit their social media exchanges while a is being heard.
Jodi Arias’ lawyers wrote that the admonition alone, without the ability to monitor jurors' Twitter activity, could affect whether Jodi Arias gets a fair trial under the rights of the Sixth Amendment.
Jury consultant Richard Gabriel says "[Social media is] incredibly powerful because it is a juror interacting in their natural environment. It's them unedited, uncensored and not trying to couch things in way that's politically correct. So you have a candid view of the juror, and it allows you to see how they view the world and how they express themselves." Richard Gabriel has 28 years of experience. He worked high-profile cases like the O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony and Phil Spector trials.
A Sept. 16 hearing has been set for Judge Stephens to hear arguments on the defense's request regarding jurors' Twitter accounts and other motions. Gabriel says Judge Stephens could grant Jodi Arias’ defense's motion. Social media is become a major concern in U.S. courts. Gabriel cites judges who have their staffs monitor jurors' social media accounts during trials.
Gabriel said "It's this whole dynamic tension between jurors who clearly are very used to communicating in this particular way. The judge wants the jurors to not research the case. But, on an almost daily basis, jurors Google terms, they talk to their friends. So, they are so used to doing this stuff, that oftentimes they do slip up."
The new sentencing phase in the Jodi Arias trial will take weeks. Prosecutors and Jodi Aria’s defense attorneys must choose a new set of 12 to 18 jurors. They then have to bring them up to date regarding evidence from murder trial. The new Jodi Arias jury will see shortened versions of the cases that went to original jury. Those jurors will decide whether Arias will be sentenced to death via lethal injection or life in prison.
According to Gabriel social media monitoring begins as soon as the attorneys get the list of names in the jury pool. Gabriel said if you are an attorney, "you're doing a Facebook search, you're doing a Twitter search, and other things to get you something fast. Because in a typical scenario, you're showing up, the judge is bringing the jurors in, you get the list and you're picking a jury that day or in two days. When you're lucky, you have overnight and you can do searches. So you get interns or anybody in the office who can do the search quickly.”
Attorney are also barred from getting around privacy settings on social media and are not allowed to use social media to communicate with the jurors outside of the courtroom.
Gabriel said "If you cross the line, you can be thrown in jail. The attorneys are officers of the court. They know any attempt to contact a juror can be construed as jury tampering. So, most of the time you are not going to get thrown in jail, but you could be sanctioned or [subjected to] a punitive measure that the judge makes the ruling on because of how you deal with this. If you find something about a jury and have crossed the line, [the judge] could say I'm keeping this juror, you can't keep them off now. So, there's all sorts of bad ramifications for doing this and crossing the line. In the worst-case scenario, the judge could throw you in jail."
The new jury will only rule on whether or not Arias will be put to death. If they cannot reach a decision, a second hung jury will be declared and Judge Stephens will sentence Jodi Arias to either life in prison with parole or life in prison without parole.
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