The Jodi Arias Trial: Justice Run Amok

jodiaariastrialjdugeForgive me, as a former federal prosecutor for 17 years, it is hard to watch the Jodi Arias trial, not because she is guilty and deserves the death penalty but because of the incredibly poor performance by Judge Sherry Stephens.  The trial has become a circus, and spun even more wildly out of control during jury deliberations.

Judge Stephens is a judge who has no business being a judge – an official who undermines any concept of the administration of justice.  My laundry list of complaints goes on for pages and I will not take up too much space writing about all of them.

First, Judge Stephens should have prohibited Jodi Arias from giving any television interviews during the trial and most especially during the deliberations.  The jury has been instructed to avoid the media and any mention about the case and the judge should have gagged her.  There is no First Amendment right to speak when the speech may undermine the very fairness of a lengthy and difficult criminal trial.  (Sheriff Joe’s constant refrain of support for the First Amendment right of prisoners was laughable and only revealed his ignorance of any concept of fairness and protection of the jury’s integrity).

Second, Judge Stephens forgot to read a portion of the jury instructions to the jury during the penalty phase of the trial.  You have got be kidding me?  In all my years of trying cases, and watching and supervising other prosecutors try cases, I have never heard of a judge forgetting to read a portion of the instructions.  That is a very important part of the process and every judge is especially careful when doing so.arias3

Third, Judge Stephens lost control of the courtroom from the very beginning.  She permitted the defense to request sidebars whenever they felt like it, dragging out the case, making incessant and ridiculous objections.  It is a wonder that Juan Martinez still has his hair.  When a judge loses control of the courtroom they undermine the very integrity of the judicial process.  I have seen judges who run a tight, efficient trial and make clear their expectations of the participants.  (One judge used to deny requests for a sidebar, and require the parties to stay after the jury leaves and consider them late in the evening).

Fourth, Judge Stephens should have finished this trial in one month – no more, no less.  If she had the intellectual capacity and judicial temperament to control a trial, she would have made sure the trial was over.  Instead, she granted numerous delays, requests for more time and other stalling tactics, all of which just allowed the defense to control the pace of the trial.  That is inconsistent with any concept of justice or fairness.

judgeI do not know how the sentencing verdict will come out – Jodi Arias clearly deserves the death penalty.  Judge Stephens, however, has made it as difficult as possible for the victim’s family, which has been in court every day, and for the government to prosecute this case.  Surely, there are better candidates for judicial appointments in Arizona.

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11 Responses

  1. Dawn says:

    I totally agree. The defense has controlled this process from the very beginning. It amazes me that the defense has called for mistrial time and time again. The judge has given them every break she could. I keep hearing she has to do this so there are no issues on appeal. I’m curious if that is the way most death penalty trials are ran. I’ve never seen a judge who cannot make a decision without having to hear the lawyers out!! Just doesn’t seem fair to the prosecution at all. It’s like she has no backbone!! She was the worst chosen for such a highly publicized trial.

  2. Sandi says:

    Totally agree. This is no trial – it is a three ring circus with Jodi Arias as the master ring leader. Total disgrace. Judge never had control over anything. Never have seen any court proceeding as out of control as this – delays, postponements, ridiculous amount of side bars. After seeing this, I can see why no one wants to be on jury duty.

  3. awareness says:

    I could not agree with you more. Judge Stephens is a farce to the judicial system and justice.

  4. run-that-by-me-again says:

    Thank you for putting the facts out there so eloquently. It is unbelievable the way this trial has been conducted. Jodi Arias must be laughing herself to sleep every night. Judge Stephens and Sheriff Joe… what a pair!

    *banging head against wall*

  5. Patty Cake says:

    Total agree. I’ve never seen anything like this!! All this dragging is doing no justice for Travis or his family They should have let Judge Judy handle this trial It definitely wouldn’t had all these shenanigans pulled! Maybe Judge Stephens needs to take lessons from Judge Judy. Mr. Martinez was spot on through this trial there for the true victim.

  6. Sherry says:

    As much as I hate these words Casey Anthonys’ was a death penalty trial and Judge Belvin Perry took no nonsense, he made sure everyone knew the trial would run on time, he had ground rules and he respected his jurors. This judge has no respect for jurors. They go for lunch, come back and the judge is in chambers for an hr +, probably a JA temper tanturm, and then calls court for the day.

  7. Sandy says:

    Might the judge, by granting Arias these interviews, be giving her enough rope to hang herself if a hung jury occurs? Wouldn’t all her shenanigans then be admissible?

  8. RuthyHope says:

    What I have found most interesting in drawing any parallel between the Casey Anthony trial and this one (which are the only two trials that I have ever followed closely), is how much more clearly we were able to recognize the courtroom control exerted by Judge Perry, how much more knowledge of both his position and the law in general he possessed, and how even elements of his colorful personality traits were clearly established despite his total professionalism.
    In contrast, here we have a judge that appears to be playing the role of over-burdened helicopter parent to defense, prosecution, witnesses and jury. It’s sad that even those who are not lawyers are able to see the myriad shortcomings of Judge Stephens.

  9. Angie says:

    Is this where are ? If this is our system, then it needs to be CHANGED, how on earth can a civilized nation put the victims family through this torture, she is guilty of a horrendous murder, the only way to have any type of justice is the death penalty. Some people say it won’ t bring Travis back, but oh my god, think of what the family has and will go through if she does get life…….exactly what is means – she WILL have a life. When I heard that the jury could not come to a decision therefore a hung jury, I felt sick, is this what we have become, a nation that gives more rights to a murderer?? I say let the Travis family say if it should be life or death – once convicted, it should be the family’s decision in ALL murder cases, it doesn’t bring their loved one back, but the relief and sense of justice would be incredible…………

  10. Kathy Young says:

    Judge Stephens is in Jodi’s pocket. I do not see any jury coming back with the death penalty, there will be one holdout. Judge Stephens will then give Jodi a life sentence with parole probably equal to the time she has already been in jail. Jodi will be free. Jodi will kill again. She said it herself. You are safe from me as long as you don’t abuse me. I truly believe Alyce LaViolette gave Jodi full on permission to kill anyone who says “I am sorry I don’t want you in my life”. Ms. LaViolett’s remark to the the Alexander family “Please don’t take this personal” and they are seeing pictures of their bothers body totally butchered. How could they not take it personal? There is no way Judge Stephens will give Jodi LWOP!

  11. chijojo says:

    What I found laughable, was when the “expert witnesses” Alyce LaViolette was on the stand and she said “Mr. Martinez, if you were in my clinic, I’d give you a time out” and a few other totally inappropriate things, like” Mr. Martinez, are you angry with me?” Mr. Martinez would wait for the Judge to say something to her, she never did, so Martinez would say, “Judge, could you please admonish the witness” ( for saying whatever she said) and the Judge would say, “yes, please just answer the question” This happened numerous times. My point is, that even the witnesses walked all over her.