The judge presiding over the homicide trial of Jodi Arias rejected her lawyer's plea today to remove the possibility of the death penalty if she is convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander.
Judge Sherry Stephens made her ruling after defense attorney Kirk Nurmi argued for a mistrial as he and prosecutor Juan Martinez became increasingly tense with one another.
Nurmi said that Martinez had violated a court order by having potential witnesses who were watching the trial at home text him helpful information, including inconsistencies in testimony. A friend of Alexander's testified this morning that she had been in contact with Martinez's paralegal while watching the trial at home, contacting the paralegal whenever she had helpful information about testimony she heard.
He said that violated the judge's order that witnesses not watch trial.
"To impose no sanction is to condone the behavior, to say that there no consequences for that kind of behavior," Nurmi said, alleging that Martinez's misconduct had pervaded Arias' trial and made it impossible for her to receive a fair trial.
The defense lawyer said that the judge should at least removing the possibility of the death penalty as a consequence of the prosecutor's alleged misconduct.
"Miss Arias' life is at stake and the prosecutor has violated a court order," Nurmi said. "If there's no consequence there's no reason to stop."
Arias could face the death penalty if she is convicted of murdering Alexander in a vicious attack in June 2008. She and her defense team claim she killed Alexander, 27, in self defense.
Nurmi also said that Martinez inappropriately yelled at witnesses, threw evidence on the floor, and lied about the existence of text messages on Travis Alexander's phone.
Martinez called the hearing, which took place before today's testimony began, a "sham allegation of misconduct" and denied any wrongdoing.
Stephens, siding with Martinez, denied the motion after saying that Nurmi had not proved that the prosecutor actually engaged in misconduct. She refused to remove the death penalty as a possible sentence in the case.
The ruling came before Arias took the stand for the fifth day to testify about her relationship with Alexander, hoping to convince the jury that he was controlling and abusive enough that it would be plausible that she killed him in self-defense.
Arias is expected to testify today about the end of her relationship with Alexander in the spring of 2008. She has alleged that Alexander had becoming increasingly obsessed with "deviant" sex and more frequently violent and abusive toward her in 2008.
On the day she moved away instead of waving good-bye he gave her a rude gesture with both hands, she told the court today.
She has not yet discussed the fight that turned deadly, on June 4, 2008, in which the pair had sex and took nude photos of one another in the shower before Arias killed him by stabbing him, slashing his throat, and shooting him in the head.
Before Arias gets off the stand she can expect a withering cross examination by the prosecution. The defense could then call a handful of experts to discuss their relationship. The case could go to the jury in as little as a week.