Thursday, May 9, 2013 was the day to start the aggravation phase in the State v. Jodi Arias trial. Just twelve hours before the anticipated start, the GUILTY verdict was read and Arias officially became a “murderer.” The aggravation phase has been delayed to Wednesday, May 15. There is a lot of speculation as to why it has been delayed, and that is a topic for another post. Arias has moved the Court to force Travis Alexander's family to provide any impact statements via video.
Arizona has a Victim's Bill of Rights memorialized in Article 2, Section 2.1 of its state constitution. Here it is:
A) To preserve and protect victims’ rights to justice and due process, a victim of crime has a right:
- To be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse,throughout the criminal justice process.
- To be informed, upon request, when the accused or convicted person is released from custody or has escaped.
- To be present at and, upon request, to be informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present.
- To be heard at any proceeding involving a post arrest release decision, a negotiated plea, and sentencing.
- To refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or other person acting on behalf of the defendant.
- To confer with the prosecution, after the crime against the victim has been charged, before trial or before any disposition of the case and to be informed of the disposition.
- To read pre sentence reports relating to the crime against the victim when they are available to the defendant.
- To receive prompt restitution from the person or persons convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim’s loss or injury.
- To be heard at any proceeding when any post conviction release from confinement is being considered.
- To a speedy trial or disposition and prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction and sentence.
- To have all rules governing criminal procedure and the admissibility of evidence in all criminal proceedings protect victims’ rights and to have these rules be subject to amendment or repeal by the legislature to ensure the protection of these rights.
- To be informed of victims’ constitutional rights.
According to this, During the sentencing phase of a criminal case, the victim(s) are allowed to give an impact statement to the jury and/or the Court. This is the victim(s)' time to relate to the jury/court what impact the defendant's actions have had on them and their family. As you can imagine, when the crime is a murder these statements are emotional and sometimes heated. I have been to one that I had no involvement in and by the end I was in tears.
This was when it was the responsibility of the judge to determine life or death and it was very difficult for the judge to hold it together. The Supreme Court of the United States has since changed the law and mandated that a jury be the one that determines life or death. So, it will be the jury that the Arias Defense Team will have to convince to spare her life.
The Motion filed on Thursday is requesting the impact statements from Travis Alexander's family be presented to the jury via video.
I understand the legal reasoning behind the defense's desire for this. The team knows the statements will be powerful and emotional and could “prejudice the jury.” Well, of course their statements will “prejudice the jury;” however, they are allowed to do so under the Arizona Constitution.
Although I see the legal argument behind the Motion, I personally see it as cowardly. Once again this Defendant has insulted this family by trying to keep them silent in the courtroom. I am sure she does not want the jury to see the tears and the emotion up close and personal, after all, she doesn’t really have those emotions.
The Judge could grant the Motion but I find it highly unlikely. The victims have a right to address the jury and I believe they will be able to turn around and look straight at Arias and show her the impact her actions have had on them.