Quantcast

Arias attorneys will put one witness on: Arias

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 9:45 p.m. MDT

Jodi Arias' defense attorneys Jennifer Wilmott and Kirk Nurmi react after Judge Sherry Stephens denies their request to withdraw from the case on Monday, May 20, 2013 during the penalty phase of Jodi Arias' murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Ariz.  Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander, 30, in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. (The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool) (Associated Press) Jodi Arias' defense attorneys Jennifer Wilmott and Kirk Nurmi react after Judge Sherry Stephens denies their request to withdraw from the case on Monday, May 20, 2013 during the penalty phase of Jodi Arias' murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Ariz. Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander, 30, in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. (The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool) (Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Complaining that Jodi Arias' sensational murder case has become a modern-day "witch trial," her lawyers tried to quit in the middle of the death-penalty phase Monday, then said they will call only one witness: Arias.

When Arias addresses the jury on Tuesday, the big question will be whether she pleads for mercy or repeats what she told a TV reporter minutes after she was convicted: that she would rather be executed than spend the rest of her life in prison.

The courtroom fireworks came as the jury that found Arias guilty of murder in the 2008 shooting and stabbing death of boyfriend Travis Alexander was hearing evidence on whether the former waitress should get the death penalty or a life sentence.

Last week, Alexander's brother and sister tearfully described for the jury how his killing had torn their lives apart. This week, the defense planned to call its own witnesses, including a female friend and an ex-boyfriend of Arias, in hopes of convincing the jury her life is worth saving.

Jodi Arias looks at her defense attorney Jennifer Wilmott on Monday, May 20, 2013 during the penalty phase of Arias' murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, AZ.  Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander, 30, in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. (The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool) (Associated Press) Jodi Arias looks at her defense attorney Jennifer Wilmott on Monday, May 20, 2013 during the penalty phase of Arias' murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, AZ. Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander, 30, in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. (The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool) (Associated Press)

But defense attorney Kirk Nurmi told the court Monday morning that the female witness refused to testify after receiving threats, and he asked the judge to declare a mistrial in the penalty phase. He argued that he could no longer effectively defend Arias without all of the intended witnesses, and that "a partial picture is not good enough for this jury."

Nurmi also renewed arguments that the judge should have sequestered the jury during the nearly five-month trial and that it should never have been broadcast live. The case became a tabloid and cable sensation, with its tales of sex, lies and death.

"The court had a duty to protect Ms. Arias' right to a fair trial and failed to do so time and time again," Nurmi told the judge. "This cannot be a modern-day version of ... a witch trial."

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company