Member of Arias defense team barred from Arizona jail over drawing

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2014 5:13 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A key member of Jodi Arias' defense team was barred from a Phoenix jail where the convicted murderer is being held after being accused of smuggling one of her drawings out of the facility, sheriff's officials said on Tuesday.

Maria De La Rosa, a so-called mitigation specialist who helps gather information to help spare her client a death sentence, will no longer be allowed to visit Arias or defendants at any of the other Maricopa County jails, said Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jack MacIntyre.

"She is very experienced and she knows the rules and regulations," MacIntyre said. "You have to make sure you re-impress upon people that they aren't visiting someone in grade school - this is serious business."

Arias, 33, was convicted in May of killing her ex-boyfriend at his Phoenix-area home in June 2008. Travis Alexander was found slumped in the shower, stabbed multiple times, his throat slashed and shot in the face.

The case, which began in January 2013 and lasted five months, was punctuated with bloody photographs and graphic testimony with descriptions of sexual situations. Arias took the stand for 18 days and maintained throughout that the killing was in self-defense.

Arias was found to be eligible for the death penalty, but a jury deadlocked on whether she should be put to death. A new penalty phase is set for September. Arias presented the artwork to jurors during the previous penalty phase as mitigating evidence.

Dan Raynak, De La Rosa's attorney, disagreed with the ban, saying his client did nothing wrong in taking the drawing from the jail and called the move a "publicity stunt" by the sheriff.

The long-delayed penalty phase resumed on Monday when county Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens ordered that jury selection should begin on September 8.

The high-profile case, watched live over the Internet by thousands of people, had been delayed by a series of unsuccessful defense motions.

State prosecutors had the option of retrying the sentencing phase of the trial. If there is another deadlock, a judge would sentence Arias to natural life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and G Crosse)