PHOENIX - Ticket scalping is nothing new in the sports and music world, but for a murder trial?
Dozens of people flock to court each day for a chance to score one of a handful of seats open to the public in Jodi Arias' ongoing murder trial in Arizona. The seats are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and nearly four months into the trial, the crowds are growing.
This week, one trial regular sold her spot to another person for $200 - and both got reprimands from the court on Tuesday.
Desiree Lee, a regular attendee, said another woman had traveled from Michigan to see the trial but couldn't get a seat because she was too far back in line.
"She was asking a couple of people ahead of me if they wanted to sell their seats," Lee, who lives in the area, told ABC15 in Phoenix. "I said yes because I can come every day if I wanted to. … I seriously didn't know I was going to get in trouble.
"I'm a little embarrassed more than anything," Lee added.
She said she was told to return the money. The purchaser kept her seat for free.
Court officials confirmed the incident. The court's rules prohibit saving spots in line, and that's why the woman was asked to give the money back, although she doesn't face any charges.
The message played for callers to the judge's courtroom explains that seats are indeed limited.
"This is a public trial, but it's likely you will not get a seat," the message says.
Arias faces a potential death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of her one-time boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities say she planned the attack on Travis Alexander in a jealous rage. Arias initially denied involvement then later blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.
While there is no specific law preventing the public from selling a spot in line to get into the trial, Phoenix criminal defense lawyer Julio Laboy said it undermines the seriousness of the case.
"I think this particular trial has brought out so many salacious facts and sordid details that what happens is people lose sight of how very real this is," Laboy said Wednesday. "Whether you like Jodi Arias or not, whether you side with Travis Alexander or not, for these families, it's very real."
One person is dead and another is on trial for her life, Laboy said.
"It's extremely disheartening, as if people were bartering to get into a Yankees game," he said. "For Jodi Arias, this is her life on the line."
Others said the antics aren't unusual, and even occur at the nation's highest court in Washington.
"As distasteful as it is to most people, it happens at the U.S. Supreme Court each time there's a big case," said San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Michael Cardoza. "It's distasteful, but it's not unusual."
In fact, during the highly publicized Scott Peterson murder trial in 2004 in the San Francisco area, where Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death in the killing of his pregnant wife, Laci, hundreds of trial enthusiasts would show up at the courthouse each day for a chance to score one of about 28 seats open to the public.
Court officials there operated a lottery system, not first-come, first-served, drawing random numbers and calling them out to the applause of each winner. The tickets in that case could not be transferred or sold.
"I think this particular trial has brought out so many salacious facts and sordid details that what happens is people lose sight of how very real this is. Whether you like Jodi Arias or not, whether you side with Travis Alexander or not, for these families, it's very real."
Julio Laboy, Phoenix criminal defense lawyer