Prosecutor discusses next steps for Arias case

AP News
Posted: May 30, 2013 3:30 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — The top prosecutor in Phoenix said Thursday that he is confident an impartial jury can be seated to determine the punishment for Jodi Arias, and he is open to input from defense lawyers and the family of the victim about possibly scraping a new trial in favor of a life sentence for the convicted murderer.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery discussed the next steps for the Arias case at a news conference Thursday. A jury convicted her of murder earlier this month but was unable to reach a verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty for the killing of her lover Travis Alexander five years ago.

The deadlock means that Montgomery's office will have to put on a new trial to determine her punishment. But it's also possible that lawyers agree to end the case without a trial and give Arias a life sentence with no parole.

Several factors are being weighed by Montgomery's office ahead of a court hearing scheduled for June 20, including feedback from Alexander's family. He declined to say whether defense lawyers had come forward with an offer to take the death penalty off the table, but added that he has "an ethical obligation" to consider such a deal.

"That's really the strongest statement or commitment I can make to look at resolving" the case, he said.

Montgomery said the Alexander family's response will be important, noting that the Arizona Constitution has a victim's bill of rights that allows the Alexander family to confer with the prosecutors before the case is resolved. The Alexander family said it would not comment on the case until it is resolved.

"And so input from victims, not just on this case, but on any other case, does carry weight," he said. "It's one of many factors that are considered."

The original trial lasted nearly five months and became a media sensation with its explicit sex and violence. Montgomery was asked if a new trial might be moved to a different county because the case has received so much attention and generated emotionally charged responses from the public about Arias and her punishment. Montgomery believes a jury could in fact be seated in Phoenix.

"We are a county of 4 million total people, and over a million registered voters can find their way onto a jury pool," he said. "We have had other very high-profile matters that we have tried in the county in which a change of venue motion had been filed and was denied. Certainly the degree to which this trial has been covered is very different relative to the others. But I don't want to presume that we wouldn't be able to seat a jury."

When asked how his office would overcome the media saturation if it proceeds to trial, he joked to the room full of reporters: "By asking the media to stop."