PHOENIX (AP) — The legal team for Jodi Arias will keep pushing for jurors to spare her the death penalty in the 2008 slaying of her ex-boyfriend as the convicted killer’s sentencing retrial resumes Wednesday.
The trial gets back underway after a nearly two-week break during which news organizations protested a decision to let a skittish defense witness testify in private and authorities were accused of destroying files on the victim’s computer that defense attorneys say would have helped them in their case.
Arias was convicted of murder last year in Travis Alexander’s death, but jurors deadlocked on whether she should be sentenced to death or life in prison. A new jury will decide her fate.
Prosecutors say Arias attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.
The trial has been in recess since Oct. 30 after a judge ordered that the public be kept out of the courtroom during testimony by the first witness called by Arias’ lawyers.
Defense attorneys launched a new legal attack Monday when they sought to dismiss the case by alleging that authorities destroyed thousands of files on Alexander’s computer — including files from pornographic websites — that would have been beneficial in defending Arias.
Her attorneys, who alleged Alexander had treated their client in a sexually humiliating manner, say the missing computer files deprived Arias of a fair trial.
At her first trial, Arias testified she once walked in on Alexander viewing child pornography and that he would get angry when she raised the encounter with him. No evidence was submitted at the first trial to support those claims, and prosecutors contended that Arias was lying.
The Maricopa County attorney’s office and Mesa Police Department, the two law enforcement agencies that led the investigation, declined to comment on the allegations of destroyed computer files.
In another facet of the retrial, news organizations succeeded in getting an appeals court to bar Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens from closing the courtroom to the public after some of the testimony by Arias’ first witness was conducted in private.
Arias’ attorneys said in court records late last week that several people were unwilling to testify because of the potential negative consequences of speaking on their client’s behalf.
The lawyers said some defense witnesses at the first trial were threatened and harassed for their role in the case and that those willing to testify for her at the second trial will do so only in private.
It’s unknown whether the first defense witness, whose identity hasn’t been publicly revealed, will continue testifying on Wednesday or whether others will be called.
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