Judge denies request to lift camera restrictions during penalty phase of Jodi Arias trial

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PHOENIX — A judge Monday refused to lift restrictions on video coverage of the penalty phase retrial in Jodi Arias' murder case.

Citing Arias' right to a fair trial, Judge Sherry Stephens is sticking by a previous order that no footage can be broadcast until after the verdict.

A media lawyer had asked Stephens to amend her ruling and allow footage to be broadcast 30 minutes after the end of each day's proceedings, arguing the current restrictions deny the public their constitutional right to witness criminal proceedings.

Arias last year was convicted of murder in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on her sentence. The retrial of the penalty phase begins Sept. 29. Jurors will determine whether Arias receives the death penalty or life in prison.

Stephens said her restrictions "provide for the least restrictive media access to the trial that will protect the defendant's right to a fair penalty phase retrial."

A delay of 30 minutes until after each day's court session ended "will not diminish or eliminate the likelihood of harm," the judge wrote in her ruling.

Arias' lawyers had argued that daily broadcasts of the trial might lead to defense witnesses backing out for fear of being harassed or threatened.

David Bodney, the attorney who represented television stations in their request for less restrictive camera coverage, said the judge's ruling Monday was expected but that it is a setback for transparency.

"It practically prohibits the vast majority of the interested public from witnessing what happens in the sentencing phase of the trial," Bodney said.

Arias' first trial was broadcast live, but the judge denied that right this time around.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment on the latest development.

Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi had argued that the motion to allow the daily release of video footage was simply a desire by the media "to exploit this trial for profit."

Prosecutor Juan Martinez didn't object to daily video broadcasts, noting that Arias has sought media coverage herself, offering interviews before, during and after the trial.

Martinez said Arias' defense is just seeking "to manage or attempt to control what's going out on the air waves."

Meanwhile in Colorado, a judge is considering a similar request from media attorneys to allow cameras in the courtroom for the trial of James Holmes, the defendant in the suburban Denver movie theater mass shooting.

Holmes is set for trial in December on charges of killing 12 people and wounding 70 in the 2012 attack. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the death penalty case.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in that case say witnesses would be vulnerable to harassment and threats if cameras are allowed in court during the trial.

A ruling is expected next week.

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