PHOENIX - JHJJodi Arias’ effort to get the death penalty option in her murder case temporarily set aside was met Friday with a swift rejection from the Arizona Supreme Court in a one-sentence response denying the motion filed just hours earlier.
Arias, 32, faces a potential death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of Travis Alexander in his Mesa home.
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After failing to win a mistrial or stay of the death penalty option in the lower court earlier this year, her defense attorneys sought relief Friday from the state’s highest court, which quickly rejected it. Her trial is set to continue Monday with the death penalty still on the table if prosecutors can secure a first-degree murder conviction.
An Arizona Supreme Court spokesperson said a decision on the death penalty matter will come at a later date.
"What it does is then takes the death penalty away as an option as a punishment for Jodi Arias," said attorney Brent Kleinman. "The goal in this is to say okay, if she's found guilty, her worst punishment would then be life in prison."
Arias’ attorneys argued in early January before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens, who is overseeing the trial, that the lead detective on the case perjured himself during a pretrial hearing aimed at determining whether the death penalty should be considered an option for jurors.
Mesa police Detective Esteban Flores testified at the hearing that based on his own review of the scene, and a discussion with the medical examiner, it was apparent that Alexander had been shot in the forehead first. Arias then repeatedly stabbed and slashed him 27 times and slit his throat, he said.
However, shortly before the trial began, the prosecution changed its theory of how the killing occurred, stating that Arias first stabbed Alexander, slit his throat and in a final savage salvo, shot him in the head. Their story aimed to undercut Arias’ claim of self-defense by noting the sheer brutality of the attack.
Arias’ attorneys claim she shot Alexander first to fend off his attack on her, but the bullet didn’t stop him, forcing her to continue to fight for her life by stabbing him, which they are hoping could lead to a conviction on a lesser second-degree murder charge or even an unlikely acquittal.
Contrary to Flores’ testimony at the previous hearing, a medical examiner later told jurors the gunshot probably would have incapacitated Alexander. So given his extensive defense wounds, including stab marks and slashes to his hands, arms and legs, it wasn’t likely the shot came first.
The detective later acknowledged that he misunderstood the medical examiner in his mistaken testimony, but he never admitted committing perjury.
On Friday, Arias' defense team asked the court to review the aggravating factor which led the state to seek the death penalty charge.
They also requested a stay of the aggravation portion of the trial until the legal issues can be heard.
In paperwork filed Friday with the court , Arias' attorneys alleged Mesa Det. Esteban Flores gave "false and misleading" testimony during an evidentiary hearing in August 2009.
According to the attorneys' paperwork, the single aggravating fact in the case was based on Flores' testimony.
The move Friday came just one day after Arias traded barbs with a prosecutor under a withering cross-examination as she struggled to explain why she can recall precise details of her life from years earlier, yet can't remember crucial aspects of the murder case against her.
Trial is set to resume Monday.
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