Jury selection to begin in Arias penalty phase retrial in Arizona

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2014 5:34 AM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Jury selection is set to begin in Arizona on Monday to decide whether convicted murderer Jodi Arias will be executed for the 2008 slaying of her ex-boyfriend in a case that drew a national audience with its titillating and gore-spattered testimony.

A pool of 300 potential jurors have been called to Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix to see if a dozen of them can succeed where an earlier trial jury failed, and determine a punishment for the former waitress from California.

The process of picking the 12-person jury plus alternates for the penalty phase retrial will likely last several weeks.

"The big key (for prosecutors) is being able to convince the jury that this was a depraved woman seeking a vengeance killing against her ex-boyfriend and that it is sufficient for the death penalty," said Brent Kleinman, a local criminal attorney who attended most of the original trial.

The 34-year-old Arias was convicted by an eight-man, four-woman jury in May 2013 of killing Travis Alexander, whose body was found in a blood-stained bathroom at his Phoenix-area home.

Police said he had been stabbed 27 times, his throat was slashed, and he had been shot in the face.

The five-month murder trial was punctuated by graphic, sex-laced testimony and grim photographs from the crime scene, capturing the attention of many U.S. television and Internet viewers with the aid of live-streamed broadcasts.

Arias herself took the stand for 18 days, saying she acted in self-defense when grilled by prosecutor Juan Martinez.

Following the guilty verdict, jurors found her eligible for the death penalty, but deadlocked on what punishment to give her, forcing Judge Sherry Stephens to declare a mistrial.

Since then there has been a flurry of motions, mostly filed by Arias' lawyers, that have been dealt with largely behind closed doors as the judge apparently seeks to counter some critics who said the original trial had elements of a circus-like atmosphere.

Stephens has turned down requests for the proceedings to be streamed live or broadcast the same day, ruling the footage can be shown only after the verdict.

The new jury should begin hearing the case next month, with the trial scheduled to conclude Dec. 12. If they deadlock also, a judge will decide if Arias gets life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis)