5/31/2014 7:21 PM
Judge: Jodi Arias can still face death penalty
PHOENIX (AP) — A judge denied a motion from Jodi Arias' defense team this week to have the death penalty removed as a sentencing option for the woman whose murder trial became an international sensation.
Arias' attorneys argued that banning a defense aide from making jail visits last March affected the aide's relationship with the entire defense team and her ability to prepare for Arias' new punishment trial in September.
Maricopa County sheriff's officials say mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa was banned for a week after she took a drawing by Arias out of the jail.
In court documents filed Friday, Judge Sherry Stephens says Arias' attorneys showed no evidence that banning De La Rosa prejudiced the case. There is no proof the incident would impact the ability to present evidence in Arias' penalty phase retrial on Sept. 8, Stephens ruled.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi declined to comment Saturday.
Arias, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder last year in the 2008 killing of her lover, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on sentencing. The case captured headlines worldwide and became a cable television staple with its tales of sex, lies and a brutal killing.
She admitted killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home but claimed it was self-defense. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead. Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.
Stephens previously denied a defense motion in February that the Arizona law allowing a retrial of the penalty phase was unconstitutional.
Under Arizona law, while her murder conviction stands, prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure a death sentence.
If the second panel fails to end in a unanimous decision, the death penalty would be removed from consideration. The judge would then sentence Arias to spend her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.
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