Arizona judge orders delay in sentencing retrial of murderer Arias

By David Schwartz PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona judge on Tuesday delayed witness testimony in the penalty phase retrial of convicted murderer Jodi Arias after an appeals court ordered the proceedings be opened to the public, court officials said. Judge Sherry Stephens ordered that no new witnesses be called to the stand until Wednesday in the retrial to determine whether Arias will be executed for killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. Stephens gave no explanation for her decision, which was announced after huddling in private with prosecutors and defense attorneys at a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court. On Monday, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that, for now, the public should be allowed to view courtroom testimony during the high-profile case that has generated nationwide interest. The decision by the three-member appeals court panel temporarily barred the taking of any further testimony from witnesses behind closed doors, something which had been challenged in court by several media organizations. At the request of defense attorneys, Stephens closed the court to the media and public last week for the testimony of an unidentified witness who is believed to have appeared Thursday. The legal maneuvering is the latest twist in the case of the 34-year-old former California waitress who was convicted of killing her 30-year-old ex-boyfriend. His body was found slumped in a shower at his home in Mesa, east of Phoenix. He had been stabbed multiple times, his throat was slashed and he was shot in the face. Arias said she acted in self-defense, but prosecutors accused her of killing her former partner in a jealous rage. A jury convicted her in May 2013 following a five-month trial that was filled with lurid testimony and graphic crime scene photographs. They found her eligible for the death penalty, but deadlocked on what punishment to give her. A new jury was impaneled last month for the trial, which is scheduled to last until late December. If the new jury also deadlocks, a judge will decide whether Arias gets life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. (Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)