Jodi Arias trial to cost Arizona taxpayers more than $3.2 million: officials

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2015 4:09 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The trials of convicted murderer Jodi Arias in Arizona will end up costing taxpayers more than $3.2 million to cover defense and prosecution expenses during the closely watched proceedings, county officials said on Friday.

This week a second jury failed to reach a verdict in a sentencing phase retrial for the 34-year-old former waitress from Salinas, California, who was convicted in 2013 of killing her ex-boyfriend at his Phoenix-area home five years earlier.

That means a judge will now sentence her to life in prison or to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

The court determined at the start of the proceedings that Arias was unable to afford her own defense, and the latest estimates show her lawyers have billed Maricopa County more than $3.1 million during the case, the officials said.

The prosecution has billed almost $133,000 in witness fees and travel costs, the officials said, but that amount does not include any staff attorney or police costs incurred.

Officials had declined to release any cost estimates in the case until the penalty phase retrial was complete.

"Even this defendant under our law, under our Constitution, is entitled to a defense," County Attorney Bill Montgomery told reporters after the judge announced on Thursday that the second jury had failed to reach consensus on Arias' sentence.

Before deciding her fate, Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens will hear from both sides' lawyers again on April 13. Relatives of the victim will also be allowed to make statements, and Arias could address the court.

The body of Travis Alexander, 30, was found in a shower at his home. He had been stabbed 27 times, his throat was cut, and he had been shot in the face.

Arias says she acted in self-defense, but prosecutors said she murdered him in a jealous rage.

The new jury of eight women and four men started hearing the sentencing phase retrial in October, then began six days of deliberations last week. Afterward, they said the vote was 11-1 in favor of the death penalty, and some questioned the rigidity of the one female juror who held out.

Montgomery said the fact that taxpayers would foot the bill demonstrated the strength of the criminal justice system.

"(It shows) you don't have to be powerful, wealthy or privileged to be able to make the arguments you feel you need to make," he said.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)