Jodi Arias to represent self at murder trial sentencing

PHOENIX — Jodi Arias will represent herself in her upcoming retrial to determine whether she deserves the death penalty.

At least that's the story as of her Monday appearance in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Judge Sherry Stephens granted Arias' motion to act as her own attorney, as is her right.

But the judge warned Arias: "I do not believe it is in your best interests. I strongly urge you to reconsider."

In April 2013, after a media-circus trial, Arias, 34, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing her lover, Travis Alexander, in the shower of his Mesa home in 2008. The jury, however, could not agree on whether she should be sentenced to life or death, forcing Stephens to declare a mistrial.

A new jury must be impaneled to consider only the life or death sentence.

That retrial is scheduled to begin Sept. 8. Stephens said that there will be no further delays because of the change.

Arias' attorneys, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott, will stay on as advisory legal counsel, but Arias will be calling the shots. She will interview jurors and witnesses and present evidence at trial — if she follows through with the intent to represent herself.

In 2011, more than a year before her first trial, Arias asked to defend herself because she wanted to argue a motion that her attorneys at that time, Nurmi and Victoria Washington, did not want to entertain.

Specifically, Arias wanted letters admitted into evidence that purported that Alexander was a pedophile. Prosecutor Juan Martinez maintained that the letters were forgeries. After Stephens refused to admit the letters, Arias told the court that "she was in over her head," and asked to have her lawyers back.

Whether she is entertaining a similar strategy now remains to be seen. Stephens excluded the press, the public and the prosecutor from the courtroom while Arias stated the reasons for her decision.

She has repeatedly asked to remove Nurmi from the case. Nurmi has tried to withdraw, and in court on Monday, Nurmi told the court that he and Arias had different defense strategies.

But Arias will not be locked into representing herself if she finds she is over her head again.

Stephens also told Arias that if she decided at any time that she needed attorneys, she would appoint them. But she told Arias that if that happens, it will be final.

"There will be no do-overs," Stephens said.

Arias will be back in court Aug. 13.


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