PHOENIX, Ariz. — There was another strange, unexpected twist in the Jodi Arias sentencing retrial.
KPHO reports that the judge kicked everyone out of the courtroom.
Superior Court judge Sherry Stevens announced Thursday that an anonymous witness refused to testify if the public and media were allowed to stay in the courtroom. As a result, Stevens decided to clear the courtroom.
Chris Moeser, a media law attorney who represents KPHO and several other media outlets, told Stevens that the public has a First Amendment right to follow the trial.
However, the judge insisted that Arias’ right to a fair trial outweighed the public’s right to know.
“I don’t want to say it’s unprecedented, but it’s extremely rare,” said Moeser. “There’s a presumption that criminal trials are open to the public – open to the media – and anyone who wants to attend can attend. The notion that we have a secret proceeding right now is troubling.”
The judge would not reveal who the mystery witness was, or why their testimony was so important.
Moeser has requested that a transcript of the testimony be made available as soon as possible.
Arias is facing the death penalty or life in prison for the 2008 murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander.
Alexander had been stabbed 30 times and shot in the head.
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2013.
Alexander’s family was allowed in the courtroom for the mystery witness’ testimony Thursday. Arizona law allows victims and victims’ family members to be present during court proceedings.