(PHOENIX) — Convicted murderer Jodi Arias will be back in court Tuesday where the judge who oversaw her murder trial will be asked to throw out a jury’s finding that made her eligible for the death penalty.
Arias was found guilty in May for the 2008 murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. The Arizona jury then found the murder to be “especially cruel,” which made her eligible for the death penalty. But the jury could not agree on whether Arias deserved the death penalty.
The judge declared a hung jury, and Maricopa County prosecutors have said they will seek a new sentencing phase for Arias to argue for the death penalty in front of a new jury.
But Monday, Arias’s attorneys are asking Judge Sherry Stephens to vacate the decision by the last jury that Alexander’s murder was “especially cruel.” Attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Wilmot argue that a jury is not qualified to make that ruling because of a lack of legal knowledge.
Under Arizona state law, the death penalty is only an option for murders that are found to have aggravating factors, including cruelty. Nurmi and Wilmot hope to convince Stephens to vacate the jury’s cruelty finding and make the decision about aggravating factors herself, giving Arias another chance at avoiding the death penalty.
Stephens will hear arguments on the motion at 1:30 p.m. EST.
Arias, 33, claimed that she killed Alexander in self-defense. She is now being held in Maricopa County jail awaiting the sentencing phase of her trial. If a second jury is seated for a new sentencing phase, both the prosecution and defense will spend weeks presenting evidence to catch the jury up on the five-month long murder trial. The second jury could sentence Arias to death.
If the prosecution decides not to seek the death penalty a second time, Arias will not face the death penalty, and Stephens will sentence her to either life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Arias initially denied killing Alexander but eventually told police she killed him in 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.
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