PHOENIX – As she awaits a decision by prosecutors on the future of her murder case, Jodi Arias and her attorneys are returning to court Tuesday to ask the judge to throw out the jury’s finding that made her eligible for the death penalty.
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder May 8 in the stabbing and shooting death of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. About two weeks later, the jury that delivered the verdict failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence Arias to life in prison or death.
Her case is now in limbo as prosecutors decide whether to put on another penalty phase with a new jury in pursuit of the death penalty – or simply take the death penalty off the table, a move that would either see Arias spend the rest of her life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years. That decision would be up to the judge.
Oral arguments Tuesday focus on a determination by the Arias jury that she killed her one-time lover in an “especially cruel” manner. The determination meant that Arias was eligible for the death penalty.
Arias’ attorneys argue that the definition of “especially cruel” is too vague for jurors with no legal experience to determine what makes one killing more cruel or heinous than another.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said the state is preparing to seek the death penalty again for Arias, but would consider resolving the case without another trial after consultation with the victim’s family and defense lawyers, among other things.
If the second panel failed to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty would automatically be removed from consideration, and the judge would sentence Arias to life.
Arias, 33, admitted she killed Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her. Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after the victim wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.