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Judge rejects bid to move murderer Jodi Arias sentencing retrial

Jodi Arias talks with her defense attorney Jennifer Wilmott (L), during a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, Jul
Jodi Arias talks with her defense attorney Jennifer Wilmott (L), during a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, Jul

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona judge has rejected a bid by convicted boyfriend killer Jodi Arias to move her sentencing phase retrial from Phoenix despite the widespread publicity surrounding the sensational murder case, court documents showed on Friday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens also ruled that video cameras that streamed the original trial live each day to throngs of Internet viewers will not be allowed back when the case resumes. She did not give a reason for that decision.

Arias, 33, was found guilty in May of murdering Travis Alexander, whose body was found slumped in the shower of his Phoenix-area home in June 2008. He had been stabbed multiple times, had his throat slashed and was shot in the face.

But jurors deadlocked on whether the former waitress from California should be executed or face life in prison in the high-profile murder that captivated the nation with its tale of a soft-spoken woman found responsible for such a brutal attack.

The five-month trial was punctuated with graphic testimony, bloody photographs and sexual situations. Arias took the stand for 18 days and, despite fierce cross-examination by prosecutors, maintained the killing was in self-defense.

The judge was forced to declare a mistrial in the penalty phase, and no new date has been set to select a fresh set of jurors to decide Arias' fate.

State prosecutors have the option of retrying the sentencing phase of the trial, which would require that a new jury be empanelled. If there is another deadlock, a judge would sentence Arias to natural life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Defense attorneys had asked that the penalty phase retrial be moved to another county in light of media coverage they said made it impossible for it to be fair.

They argued that the publicity created a "circus-like atmosphere" and that Arias was being frequently referred to as a "stalker, a liar, crazy and a seductress."

But in her ruling, Stephens said Arias' lawyers had failed to prove the media glare required a change of venue.

"The court has no basis for finding the publicity about this case has been so outrageous that it will turn the new sentencing proceeding into a mockery of justice or mere formality," Stephens wrote.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Philip Barbara)

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