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Appeal by Jodi Arias cites 'circus-like atmosphere' at trial

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 01:12:36-04

Jodi Arias is asking an appeals court to overturn her murder conviction in the 2008 death of her former boyfriend, saying a prosecutor's misconduct and a judge's failure to control news coverage during the salacious case deprived her of the right to a fair trial.

In the appeal released Friday, Arias' lawyers said prosecutor Juan Martinez improperly questioned witnesses, ignored rulings on evidence and courted news coverage. They also said Judge Sherry Stephens let news organizations turn the trial into a "circus-like atmosphere," was slow to restrict journalists even when they broke the court's media-coverage rules and allowed trial spectators to become emboldened by what they saw on the livestream from the Phoenix courtroom.

"The court admitted that this desire to feed the unusual public interest in the trial caused the media to hound and harass the attorneys, witnesses, jurors and court staff," Arias attorneys Peg Green and Cory Engle said in the appeal.

Katie Conner, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which is handling the appeal, declined to comment on Arias' filing. Martinez didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Arias, 37, is serving a life sentence for her first-degree murder conviction in the 2008 death of Travis Alexander at his home in Mesa.

Prosecutors said Arias attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her.

The guilt phase of Arias' trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial began in late 2014 and stretched into early 2015, also resulting in a jury deadlock. That required Stephens to sentence Arias to prison for life.

The case turned into a media circus as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live around the world.

Despite her reservations about testifying during the sentencing retrial, Arias had actively courted the spotlight since she was arrested in 2008. She did interviews on TV's "48 Hours" and "Inside Edition" after her arrest and was on the witness stand for several weeks during the trial in which she was found guilty of murder. She also did a series of media interviews after her conviction.

Arias' attorneys say Martinez courted journalists and spectators, signed autographs and posed for photos during the trial. "This prosecutor unapologetically `played' to the audience outside as well as to those watching the livestream," Arias' lawyers wrote.

They also said Martinez made an unfounded accusation that an expert witness for the defense team had an inappropriate relationship with Arias. They also said Martinez disregarded court rulings by repeating questions after the judge had overruled them.

The appeal was filed after Arias tried unsuccessfully to bar the public from seeing her appellate brief.