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Updated May 31, 2014 - 5:04 pm

Judge: Jodi Arias can still face death penalty

PHOENIX — 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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