Judge Sherry Stephens denied a motion by Jodi Arias’ defense attorneys to have the death penalty removed as a sentencing option because the banning of Maria De La Rosa from making jail visits in March affected their ability to prepare for the September sentencing phase.  Maria De La Rosa, Jodi Arias’ mitigation specialist, was banned for one week from Maricopa County, Arizona jails for taking a drawing by Arias out of the facility.  The drawing is to be possibly used as mitigation evidence.

Judge Stephens ruled that Arias’ attorneys did not show that banning De La Rosa prejudiced the case.  Stephens said that banning the mitigation specialist from the jail did not impact their ability to present evidence at Arias’ death penalty sentencing.

Arias, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder in a sensationalized trial, but jurors couldn’t agree on sentencing.  Arias admitted to killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense.  Jurors believed prosecutors who said that she killed Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair.  Arias faces 25 years to life, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.  Under Arizona law, the prosecution can put on a second penalty phase with a new jury, which they have chosen to do.  If the second jury also results in a hung jury, the death penalty will automatically be removed as an option.  Judge Stephens would then decide whether to sentence Arias to 25 years to life or life without parole.

In another ruling, the judge banned live broadcasting of the sentencing.  Judge Stephens rejected media requests to allow live broadcasts of court proceedings.  She ruled that the penalty phase can be recorded, but the video and audio cannot be made public until after the verdict.  The judge also ruled that in the effect that she changes her ruling, all live broadcasts would be subject to a 15-minute delay.  Her trial had been live broadcasted on television and the Internet for months.  The coverage arguably crossed lines and was controversial.  There were questions as to whether the intense media scrutiny was infecting the trial, given that the jury was not sequestered, a common remedy to prevent bias.

Judge Stephens’ reasons were not made public.


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