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Jodi Arias lawyers take case to court of public opinion

PHOENIX -- Jodi Arias' attorneys have tried motions for mistrials, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, appeals to higher courts, even efforts to quit the case entirely.

Now, after losing every time inside the courtroom, this week they took their case to the court of public opinion as prosecutors consider whether to continue to pursue the death penalty.

``It is solely for them to determine if continuing to pursue a death sentence upon Ms. Arias, who is already facing a mandatory life sentence, is a good and proper use of taxpayer resources,'' defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott wrote in a statement provided only to The Arizona Republic.

Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, declined to comment Wednesday on the defense lawyers' statement, and said no decision had yet been made on how to proceed.

However, San Francisco-area criminal defense lawyer Michael Cardoza said the move by Arias' attorneys to reach out to the public, specifically through Arizona' largest newspaper, was strategic and canny.

``They're definitely doing the right thing by pandering to the public and calling a new trial a waste of resources,'' Cardoza said. ``They're hoping someone will lean on the prosecutor's office. And unfortunately today, many DA's (district attorneys) are very much affected by public opinion.''

Nurmi and Willmott did not return telephone messages from The Associated Press.

A jury convicted Arias on May 8 of first-degree murder in the June 2008 stabbing and shooting death of her lover, Travis Alexander, in his suburban Phoenix home. About two weeks later, the same jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence the former waitress to life in prison or death.

While her murder conviction stands, prosecutors now must decide whether to try one more time for the ultimate punishment or simply take death off the table. Removing the death penalty option would leave a judge to determine whether to sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars, or give her life with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Under Arizona law, if prosecutors insist on death, a new panel must be seated to hear arguments and testimony before deliberating once again on a sentence. That process could take several months and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last week, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he is confident an impartial jury can be seated for a second penalty phase, despite the widespread media attention of the salacious case.

However, Montgomery also indicated he is open to input from defense lawyers and the victim's family about possibly scrapping a new trial in favor of a life sentence, noting he had an ``ethical obligation'' to consider a potential deal.

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