The Jodi Arias Sentencing Hearing: Can it Get Any Worse?

stephensEven without television coverage, it is clear that the Jodi Arias sentencing hearing is yet again spinning out of control. It is amazing that Judge Stephens can continue to find new ways in which to bungle a trial. And remember, we are only talking about a sentencing proceeding, not even a criminal trial to determine guilt or innocence.

The Jodi Arias debacle is a textbook example of how NOT to run a judicial proceeding. A trial judge is responsible for managing a criminal trial and sentencing hearing. The trial judge determines how each side should present evidence, argues its case to a jury, and should manage the day-to-day experience and work of the jury.

A trial judge who does not know how to run a trial can undermine the entire credibility and reliability of a judicial proceeding. Judge Sherry Stephens set the bar low in the first trial and now has even lowered the bar in the current sentencing proceeding.

The Jodi Arias defense team apparently requested that the courtroom be closed so that Jodie Arias, the so-called mystery witness could testify without the “prejudice” from the presence of the media. Even assuming that the judge’s decision to bar media coverage of the sentencing hearing was proper, there is no way to justify prohibiting the media from even being in the courtroom during Jodi Arias’ testimony.

Judge Stephens is not the first – and not the only—judge to have handled a high-visibility criminal trial. We have seen examples of other judges who have conducted such proceedings without losing control of the case, without banning the media, and without derailing control of a criminal justice trial. Judge Stephens is hellbent on undermining the current sentencing proceeding.

stephens2Judges know when they are making reversible decisions and Judge Stephens had to know she was doing the same in this case. How could she rationally think that she could bar all media coverage of a sentencing hearing?

Our criminal justice system relies on transparency and sunshine as a disinfectant. To exclude the media in the interest of preserving some ability of the defendant to testify without media coverage is nonsensical. Of course, the risk of exposure may increase, but that is the job of a judge and a court to manage the jury and keep them away from any media reports on the issue.

Perhaps more troubling is Judge Stephens’ decision has created the appearance that Jodi Arias and her defense team has been able to manipulate the sentencing hearing. The public has the right to a fair and credible criminal justice system. The defendant has the right to a fair trial – allowing the media to cover the trial and to report on Jodi Arias’ sentencing hearing will not undermine the defendant’s rights..

Judge Stephens has no political or judicial savvy. She demonstrated her inept judicial temperament in the initial trial. She now has reminded everyone of her lackluster talents capabilities.

stephens3Unfortunately for everyone, Judge Stephens allows the Arias defense team to delay a sentencing hearing for over a week. She has burdened the Arizona Court of Appeals with an easy call – the media’s right to cover a public criminal trial.

Travis Alexander’s family has suffered again; they have been denied justice before. Judge Stephens, however, found a new way to do so again. For that she deserves every bit of criticism and judicial scrutiny.

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27 Responses

  1. Lina Jackson says:

    Completely agree!!

    • Genie says:

      A new DP qualified jusge needs to take over. JSS is making the AZ judicial system a laughing stock

  2. AnGie says:

    VERY well written and 100% factual article! Thank you! I could not agree more & WISH for her & superiors to read it too! I also wish for her superiorS to at least step in and start over-seeing the case (IN court) @ this point. Its needed. Rather than dump JSS and delay justice AGAIN, I believe this is the more reasonable alternative. But seriously, something HAS to be done. JSS lost control of her courtroom around week 1 in the FIRST trial (Guilt phase, even!) I dont think its going to get any better. & just when we think it can get no worse, JSS proves us all wrong. She has single-handedly ruined confidence in (@ least) the AZ justice system. And that to me is not only sad but ridiculous!

  3. Lori Cavasin says:

    I agree as well. At first I thought she was just being extremely careful, but now I just think she’s incompetent.

    • Jodi J. says:

      Yes! I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. At first. But I lost all faith in her a long time ago.

  4. Debi Gilley says:

    So very true. She is letting the murderes defense team run the trial.

  5. Diana Justus says:

    Completely agree! Judge Stephens has made this a circus! Why does the defendant have more rights than the victim’s family.

  6. Cara Vancleeve says:

    Is it acceptable practice for a defendant to refuse to move forward with sentencing, based on the fact that the Appellate court ruled against her? Could the judge demand that the defendant be prepared to continue with testimony next Wednesday? I have never seen a trial where the defendant was in control….until now.

  7. jo oh says:

    So what is the solution ,? Never talked about that ,and the lawyer stopping all the court hearings ,and appeals , is there recorse for him stalling the whole thing ,Some of the stuff is all from last year , hashing it over then saying secret witness ,which was Jodi the defendent herself ?

  8. chris says:

    Great article and I agree with you 100%. She is torturing the Alexander along with the murderer and he defense team.

  9. Jill Mertens says:

    The Alexander family gets that knife stabbed in their heart with every delay. Maybe the Judge has a crush on Jodi. This trial needs to proceed and get it over with. Haven’t the Alexander’s suffered ENOUGH..

  10. lauri says:

    Spot on. She has catered to the defense, shown a total lack of backbone, reminds me of a boat caught in a storm with no rudder, tossed back n forth aimlessly!

  11. Genie says:

    Why can’t another judge step in? JSS has made a mockery of this case & is in way over her head, as she is NOT DP qualified.

    She appears to be biased towards jodi at least that is what I see when I see the theatrics she has allowed to go on.

    She told Juan Martinez that he could NOT mention or show jodi’s lack or remorse or show that she is a liar.

    If the defense can bring those points up as mitigating factors, why can’t the prosecution show proof these factors are not true?

    I believe JSS is considering extending this *sentencing phase* til January 2-15 because that is what the defense wants!

    The defense is filing some Omnibus & Joinder motions, something about wanting to present different theories to the current jury?

    Doesn’t the defense realize jodi has already been found GUILTY of Premediatated Murder One? This jury is present, when allowed to be present, to decide her SENTENCE.

    They are not going to decide whether she is guilty or not nor will they reverse that decision!

    JSS cannot make an on the spot decision, it always takes her about a week;
    she cannot control her courtroom, she allows nurmi to do that;
    she ties the prosecutions hands on what he CAN and CANNOT prove or talk about & allows the defense EVERY leeway;
    she doesn’t seem to know what she is doing;
    in the last video I saw, she looked upset with Juan Martinez as he told her she had every right to force nurmi to continue with the case, she actually looked upset with Juan throughout his comment but she was very attentive to nurmi, so I am beginning to think she might be prejudiced against Hispanics;
    she conducts business in her chambers;
    she found the ruling by the higher court *confusing*;
    she is like a fish out of water, it’s actually painful to see her floundering about;
    she had plenty of time to clear her docket for THIS case yet court meets 1-2 days a week, if even that!

    Justice delayed has been Justice denied for Travis and his family!

    How long has this case gone on and how many similar cases have been tried, decided, and the inmate is now serving their sentence? What makes jodi so special?

    This jury will probably be dismissed next week and JSS will allow nurmi to continue his games, delays, & motions and this case will be postponed til NEXT YEAR to appease nurmi & jodi.

    JSS has messed this case up and I don’t know HOW or WHO allowed a Family Court judge to suddenly preside over a Death Penalty case when she had NO Death Penalty qualifications and that is SO evident even to the average person!

    JSS has made a mockery of the court, this case, and a CIRCUS of the AZ Justice system, because EVERYONE is watching & wondering HOW this is allowed to go on or continue.

    A higher court or judge needs to step in and OUST JSS. Someone who is Death Penalty qualified needs to step in.

    The NEW judge only needs to keep the peace, and if he is Death Penalty qualified, he already KNOWS what to do!

    With JSS, this case WILL go well into at least February of 2015 with all these delays.

    A NEW Death Penalty qualifed judge could step in with a MINIMAL delay and this case COULD be wrapped up by December 2014, not June 2015!

    She may be a good Family Court judge, but with her as a judge on this case it looks like a slam dunk for jodi….freedom in 19 years.

    I’m sorry, I have NO respect for a judge like this, she appears to be PRO jodi!

  12. Jayne says:

    Brilliantly said!

  13. John Morris says:

    every one is banging the judge. They are more learned in the law than most commentators. I am sure she knows what she is ruling on.

    • kate says:

      NO, A-hole. This “judge” does NOT know what she’s doing. If you want to support the heinous murderer with diseased body parts, then go to her support page.

    • Ethel Close says:

      I thought the Lawyers would be going over the original trial to brief the Jury because it is the final stage that they must vote on. I am confused that there is a secret witness. WHY???? that phase was suppose to be over….

  14. Tavie Janney says:

    Nurmi wanted off this case time after time and now he’s the one making all these
    Motion’s and hollering mistrial, that’s what he’s after and SOMEBODY NEED’S to
    step in and make JSS follow the law and get thus trial over that should have been
    Yrs ago !

  15. judy says:

    Well written. I am all for everything said here. My Only fear is calling the judge out now can get IT life instead of death. Although I guess in saying that allowing Judge to keep messing up will do the same

  16. Edie Morse says:

    Judge Sherry Stephens is a disgrace to the bench. She has violated the AZ Judicial Code of Conduct by granting numerous “ex-parte” meetings to the convicted murderer, resulting in significant tactical advantages & benefits to the killer; she has violated the AZ Victim’s Bill of Rights, with excessive postponements for over a year, 4 months (the original re-trial date was set for July 18th, 2013), at the convicted murderer’s behest; and, she has violated the US Constitution with her unconstitutional secrecy, when the convicted murderer demanded a secret trial. Clearly, Stephens is aided-and-abetting the convicted murderer to avoid the DP; and as such, she should be impeached from office immediately– for, a judge is not supposed to interject her political viewpoints and/or personal bias into a criminal trial. Stephens should hang her head in shame, and Presiding Criminal Judge Norman Davis should replace her with a competent, honest, and fair judge, akin to Judge Steinle who oversaw the Marissa DeVault capital murder trial or Judge Kreamer who adjudicated over the Bryan Wayne Hulsey capital murder trial..

  17. Jesse says:

    JSS may have learned about the law but she clearly doesn’t know how to display that in this case, she has made a mockery if this case and there is no doubt in my mind if a more qualified and someone who
    Isn’t afraid to take control of their courtroom would have been on this case it would have been long over and done with a Jodi would have her sentence.

  18. Edie Morse says:

    Judge Sherry Stephens is unfit to serve in public office. She violated the AZ Judicial Code of Conduct when she granted numerous, inappropriate “ex-parte” meetings to Jodi Arias, the convicted murderer, resulting in major tactical advantages & benefits to the unethical defense team; and, she violated the AZ Victim’s Bill of Rights, by granting numerous delays over the course of 2013 & 2014, following the hung jury, last May 2013, demanded by the convicted murderer, after the original final penalty re-trial date, was set to begin on July 18th, 2013; and, she has violated the US Constitution with excessive secrecy, as insisted upon by the convicted murderer. The AZ Judiciary (Presiding Criminal Judge Norman Davis) should replace Stephens will a competent, decent, and honest judge, akin to Judge Steinle who adjudicated over the Marissa DeVault capital murder trial or Judge Kreamer who oversaw the Bryan Wayne Husley capital murder trial. Stephens is incompetent, corrupt, and biased; and her coddling of Jodi Arias, the convicted murderer, is unprecedented, costly, and cruel. She is a pathetic excuse for a “judge”, who should be impeached from public office!

  19. Lori says:

    Agree, this Judge should be very ashamed the way she is running this court room and trial, never have I ever watched a judge do unthinkable things in a case that she has done in this one and especially a DP CASE. JSS should be ashamed of her self and step down from this case or better yet be fired by the higher up courts to get her off this case. JSS is weak and doesn’t have a back bone, she is also Bias. She needs removed from this case ASAP.

  20. Monica Rossy says:

    Mr. Michael Volkov, I pray the right people with proper credentials and authority read your words and heed your advice because we do need someone higher than the Honorable Judge Stephens to oversee the retrial. I feel she is making reversible decisions to let someone else take the blame for a mistrial. I do not believe she likes the defense team and jodi. And I commiserate with Mr. Juan Martinez, a brilliant and tenacious justice fighter, because he must feel utterly frustrated with JSS. I also agree with commentator Genie here, “Justice delayed has been Justice denied for Travis and his family!” I’m curious now what jodi said in her testimony because I’m afraid she’s trying to tell the new jurors that her dad molested her, a ploy used by Casey Anthony leading to her acquittal.

  21. Lorraine Antonio says:

    What I can’t understand is why the taxpayers are paying for this when she is making plenty of money on the side??? Why?