Last week, Judge Sherry Stephens approved Jodi Arias’ request to represent herself in her sentencing hearing in September while cautioning Arias to reconsider. Arias, 34, admitted to killing Travis Alexander at his home in Phoenix, AZ in 2008, but claimed it was self-defense. Prosecutors argued that she planned the murder out of anger after Alexander ended their relationship. Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder last year, but jurors deadlocked on sentencing. Under Arizona law, prosecutors had the option of either pursuing a second sentencing or dropping the death penalty and allowing Arias to be sentenced to life in prison or 25 years to life in prison. Prosecutors decided to pursue the death penalty a second time. This new sentencing hearing will have a newly impaneled jury.
Arias’ defense attorneys, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott were ordered to remain as legal advisory council. Arias has long had problems with her defense attorneys, often trying to fire them. Her 5 month trial, which began in January of last year was broadcast live and provided endless sensationalism to tabloid and 24/7 news.
California defense attorney Daniel Horowitz said, “If she can get just one juror to bond with her on some level…it’s harder to kill someone…it [was]…easy to convict her. But that’s a lot different than killing somebody.”
Arizona defense attorney and former Maricopa County judge and federal prosecutor, Mel McDonald said, “I think generally that anybody that represents themselves has a fool for a client, but it also gives her a way, if she’s out there making a fool of herself, to maybe invoke some sympathy…”
The September sentencing hearing will not be broadcast live. If the new jury deadlocks, the death penalty is automatically removed and Judge Stephens will decide whether Arias is eligible for parole after 25 years or not. A few days after the judge allowed Arias to represent herself, Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ lead attorney, requested to be allowed to withdraw. Nurmi’s previous request to withdraw was denied in 2011, but circumstances were different. In his new motion, he notes that in 2011 he was told he had an ethical obligation to remain on the case, but now as advisory counsel, “his ethical obligations are of…lesser import.” He also noted that his client has repeatedly tried to fire him.
At the hearing where the judge approved Arias’ request to represent herself, Nurmi stated that he and his client disagree on how to proceed at the sentencing hearing in September.
Arias was previously granted the right to represent herself during pretrial hearings. She argued motions that her attorneys did not think were correct. Her motions were denied and she requested to be represented by her attorneys again.