(PHOENIX) — The judge presiding over the homicide trial of Jodi Arias rejected her lawyer’s plea Wednesday 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 Wednesday 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.
The defense lawyer said that the judge should at least remove the possibility of the death penalty as a consequence of the prosecutor’s alleged misconduct.
Arias could face the death penalty if she is convicted having murdered Alexander 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 Wednesday’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.
The case could go to the jury in as little as a week.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN
Tara Bench, KSL.com
Sonya Hamasaki, CNN
Saeed Ahmed, CNN