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Jodi Arias penalty phase retrial could start September: judge

Jodi Arias listens as the verdict for sentencing is read for her first degree murder conviction at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix
Jodi Arias listens as the verdict for sentencing is read for her first degree murder conviction at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona judge said on Tuesday she hopes to start picking jurors in September for a penalty phase retrial for convicted murderer Jodi Arias to decide whether the one-time waitress should be put to death for the killing her ex-boyfriend.

But the judge, who had been expected to set a date on Tuesday for arguments over when jury selection should begin, postponed that hearing until August at the request of defense lawyers.

Arias, 33, a former waitress from California, was convicted in May of killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, following a sensational five-month trial that captured attention in the United States with its tale of a soft-spoken young woman accused of such a brutal crime.

But the Maricopa County jury that found Arias guilty of murder deadlocked on whether she should be executed or sentenced to life in prison - forcing Judge Sherry Stephens to declare a penalty phase mistrial.

Alexander, who met Arias at a 2006 conference in Las Vegas, was found dead in the shower of his Phoenix-area home on June 9, 2008. He had been stabbed 27 times, his throat slashed, and he was shot in the face.

Arias, who initially denied to police that she killed Alexander, later told jurors during 18 days of testimony during the trial that she had done so in self-defense.

After jurors deadlocked over her punishment, state prosecutors had the option of holding a second penalty phase before a new jury, or allowing Arias to be sentenced to life in prison.

After the first jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on a sentence, Montgomery said his office would assess its next steps, but was proceeding "with the intent to retry the penalty phase."

Prosecutors had asked that a new penalty phase begin on July 30, while defense attorneys had asked to postpone the proceedings until January.

The judge, following a brief hearing on Tuesday, said she hoped to start jury selection in late September to allow time for the defense to prepare and to address any pre-penalty phase retrial issues. A fresh hearing that may decide a firmer date was scheduled for August 26.

Arias, who entered the courtroom on Tuesday shackled and wearing black-and-white striped prison garb, did not address the court during the brief hearing.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Grant McCool)

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