Jodi Arias seeks delay of penalty phase retrial

August 13, 2014 - 4:04 PM
Jodi Arias

Jodi Arias, right, looks at her defense attorney Jennifer Wilmott during a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Phoenix, Ariz. Arias is asking for a delay in the penalty phase retrial of her murder case while a judge considers whether to allow one of her attorneys to quit the proceedings. She was convicted last year in the 2008 murder of her ex-boyfriend, but the jury deadlocked on a sentence. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle, Pool)

PHOENIX (AP) — Jodi Arias asked a judge Wednesday to postpone the second penalty phase of her murder trial, explaining she would no longer represent herself if one of her two attorneys is allowed to quit the case.

Arias, 34, was convicted of murder last year in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on sentencing, setting the stage for a Sept. 8 retrial to determine her punishment.

Judge Sherry Stephens previously granted Arias' motion to represent herself while her two court-appointed attorneys stay on as advisers.

However, one of those attorneys asked the judge on Wednesday to let him quit the case. Lawyer Kirk Nurmi explained in a motion filed last week that "a completely fractured relationship between counsel (and client) now exists."

Arias has acknowledged killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home but said it was self-defense. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.

Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

The hearing on Wednesday marked the first time Arias had argued her own motions. She spoke softly while seated at a defense table alongside the two lawyers, one of whom occasionally whispered in her ear.

Arias asked for the delay to give her time to interview an expert witness she plans to call to testify and to review evidence.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez vehemently objected, noting the case has dragged on long enough. He said the ruling that allowed Arias to represent herself also said there would be no delays.

"She agreed to those terms," Martinez told the judge.

Arias has tried to fire Nurmi several times, and he has sought to get off the case in the past after frequent clashes with Arias over strategy.

In response to his latest request, Arias told the judge that she would no longer serve as her own attorney and would allow her other lawyer, Jennifer Willmott, to argue the case if Nurmi was permitted to quit.

"As far as I know, he has not done anything" lately to assist in the defense, Arias told the judge.

Arguments were then closed to the media and public, and it was not immediately clear if the judge issued a ruling.

The prosecutor and defense attorneys left court without comment.

A hearing is set for Aug. 22 on Arias' motion to postpone the retrial.

Under Arizona law, Arias' murder conviction stands and prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure the death penalty.

If a new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed from consideration. The judge would then sentence Arias to spend her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.