The Jodi Arias murder trial went through many shocking twists on March 6, when the trial jurors were allowed to ask the questions. As the defendant answered the first 150 questions, jurors placed more questions into a basket at the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona. This raises questions about the rarity of juror questions in the U.S. According to a March 7 CBS News report, only a few states allow jurors to ask questions during criminal trials. In most cases, the judge must notify the panel of its right to present questions. Most other states ban the process entirely or allow individual judges to decide.
Arias is fighting for her life in this historical death penalty case. She admitted to brutally slaying Travis Alexander, but claims she is innocent. The jury questions range from skepticism about her claims of self-defense to curiosity about her interpretations of the Mormon faith. One juror asked if she knew the definition of “Skank".
A growing number of viewers, twitter subscribers and television court analysts welcomed questions that challenged Arias' in surprising and often-praiseworthy ways. Since Arias was already on the stand for sixteen days, the questions offer the jury a way to clarify her vast array of expanding, incredible or changing statements as well as her selective memory.
Only three states require judges to take juror questions. They are Arizona, Florida, and Kentucky. According to US Legal, eight states expressly encourage judges to allow jury questions. They are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada and North Carolina. Georgia law only allows a jury to submit written questions to the judge. The highest state courts of Indiana and Kentucky have ruled in favor of jurors having a right to ask questions.
A more restricted endorsement of jury questions exists in other states. The Pennsylvania and Michigan state supreme courts ruled juror questions permissible at the discretion of the trial judge.
Two states expressly prohibit or limit juror questions. Texas prohibits juror questions in criminal trials. Mississippi is the only state that expressly forbids any jurors from questioning witnesses.