PHOENIX — The Jodi Arias murder trial unexpectedly recessed for the day on Monday after her lawyers asked for but were denied a mistrial after a key defense witness allegedly received death threats.
After the decision by Judge Sherry Stevens, defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott then asked to withdraw from the case, a request that was also denied.
Arias was back in court on Monday for the continuation of the penalty phase of her trial, with jurors considering a sentence of life in prison or execution for murdering her one-time lover. She along with an ex-boyfriend had been expected to speak in court before the panel begins deliberating.
Her attorneys said they have no plans to call any witnesses now -- except for Arias herself on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, jurors deliberated for about 15 hours over four days before convicting Arias, 32, of first-degree murder in the killing of Travis Alexander.
Arias acknowledged killing Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home on June 4, 2008 -- after initially denying any involvement and later blaming the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, Arias said she killed Alexander in self-defense.
The jury then took less than three hours to determine that the killing was especially cruel, meaning the death penalty would be a consideration for sentencing. Last week, jurors heard tearful statements from Alexander's brother and sister as they described how his death has torn their lives apart.
Her attorneys previously had asked to step down from the case -- after their client was convicted of first-degree murder, but the judge denied the request, according to court minutes obtained last Thursday. Details about the motion were sealed, but legal experts had said Arias complicated efforts for her defense when she gave an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ minutes after her conviction, saying she preferred death over life in prison.
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