Jodi Arias: Death penalty still an option, says judge

Jodi Arias faces a September retrial of the penalty phase of her case. Jodi Arias was convicted of murder but the jury deadlocked over sentencing her to death or life in prison.

An Arizona judge has again turned down a bid by convicted murderer Jodi Arias to be spared the death penalty during her sentencing retrial for killing her ex-boyfriend in 2008, court documents showed on Friday.

In a written ruling, Judge Sherry Stephens dismissed claims made by attorneys that the case was compromised when a key member of Arias' defense team was temporarily barred from visiting Maricopa County jails.

"The defendant has failed to establish she suffered any prejudice as a result of the incident involving the mitigation specialist," Stephens said in a ruling logged by the court on Friday but dated May 27.

Mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa, who helps gather information to spare defendants a death sentence, was barred in March from the jail system after being accused of smuggling one of Arias' drawings out of a facility.

The ban by sheriff's officials was lifted a week later and she was again allowed to visit Arias, who faces a September retrial of the penalty phase of her case.

Arias, 33, was convicted last year of killing Travis Alexander in his Phoenix-area home in what authorities have described as an especially brutal murder. He was found slumped in the shower, stabbed multiple times, his throat slashed and shot in the face.

The jury that convicted the former California waitress of murder also found her eligible to be executed, but could not decide if she should actually be sentenced to death, prompting a penalty phase mistrial.

A new jury is set to be picked on Sept. 8 in a high-profile case that has been delayed for months by maneuvering that has occurred almost exclusively behind closed doors. If there is another deadlock, a judge will sentence Arias to natural life in prison or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

The original trial took five months to complete, with jurors given a heavy dose of graphic testimony, bloody photographs and sex-laced situations. Arias testified for 18 days, proclaiming her innocence and maintaining she acted in self-defense. (Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Prudence Crowther)

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