Arizona Supreme Court denies review in Arias case

AP News
Posted: May 29, 2013 6:19 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal on whether a judge improperly allowed prosecutors to seek a death sentence for Jodi Arias in the 2008 stabbing and shooting of her former boyfriend.

Arias' lawyers filed the mid-trial appeal with the state high court three months ago after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens denied a mistrial motion and a mid-level state court then refused to consider an appeal.

Arias' lawyers say Stephens wrongly allowed a potential death sentence to be based on trial testimony that contradicted a police detective's testimony during a 2009 hearing about how Travis Alexander was killed.

A jury in Phoenix convicted Arias on May 8 of first-degree murder, but jurors deadlocked May 23 on whether to impose a death sentence.

A new jury is to be impaneled in July to begin considering Arias' sentence, a process that will require a mini-trial of sorts in the case that became a national spectacle because of its prurient aspects.

Arias, 32, testified she killed Alexander in self-defense at his home in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.

The appeal centered on prosecutor's contention during the trial that Alexander, 30, was killed in a cruel manner because he suffered mentally and physically by being stabbed and slashed before being shot.

Under Arizona law, committing a murder in a cruel manner is one of the grounds that can subject a convicted person to a death sentence.

Arias' lawyers argued in January that the lead Mesa police detective on the case perjured himself during a 2009 pretrial hearing aimed at determining whether the death penalty should be considered an option for jurors.

Detective Esteban Flores testified at the 2009 hearing that based on his own review of the scene, and a discussion with the medical examiner, it was apparent that Alexander had been shot in the forehead first. Arias then repeatedly stabbed and slashed him 27 times and slit his throat, he said.

Contrary to Flores' testimony at the 2009 hearing, the medical examiner told jurors the gunshot probably would have incapacitated Alexander. So given his extensive defense wounds, including stab marks and slashes to his hands, arms and legs, it wasn't likely the shot came first.

Defense lawyers argued that the detective's 2009 testimony was perjury, but Flores denied that and said during his trial testimony that he just misunderstood what the medical examiner told him.