Day 24 of Jodi Arias trial: Judge postpones decision on death penalty

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Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi shown during proceedings on Jan. 9, 2015. (Source: CBS 5 News) Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi shown during proceedings on Jan. 9, 2015. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Jodi Arias in court on Jan. 9, 2015. (Source: CBS 5 News) Jodi Arias in court on Jan. 9, 2015. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A judge was expected to decide Monday if the death penalty should be taken off the table for convicted murderer Jodi Arias.

Instead, Superior Court judge Sherry Stevens put the decision on hold.

"Because this is such a high profile case, she wants to be very careful about what she does," said legal expert Dwayne Cates. " Also - this is going to be in the Court of Appeals for the next 20 years. When she makes a ruling she wants to make sure she's legally correct, and she has a good basis for what she does. I believe she is just being careful."

Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens on Friday that a number of issues have come up that have made it impossible for his client to receive a fair trial.

He claims prosecutors withheld key evidence and 14 witnesses have been afraid to come forward because the court won't protect their identity.

And he said her conviction was based on false testimony.

More specifically, a Mesa police officer testified during the original trial no pornographic material was found on the computer of murder victim Travis Alexander, Arias' ex-lover, when in fact testimony revealed pornographic images were there.

Arias' attorney insisted the false information hindered her case and the judge has no choice but to have the state no longer seek the death penalty.

Mesa Police Det. Estaban Flores acknowledged on the witness stand Monday, that evidence was found to indicate that pornographic websites had been accessed on Alexander's computer.

Prosecutors had told the judge that there was no intentional mishandling of evidence, and that Arias' attorneys have made no real effort to subpoena those 14 witnesses who might have been afraid to come forward and testify.

Transcripts closer to release

In another potential development, transcripts from Arias' secret testimony are expected to be released on Tuesday.

Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court denied Arias' request to delay her trial, which meant that the transcripts from her closed-door testimony in October were closer to being released.

But the transcripts, which the media has been fighting to be made public, can't be released until the notes from the court reporters are turned over to the Clerk of the Court to be recorded and put into the proper format for release.

The court's decision also means a Jan. 16 status conference will not be held.

In a ruling that overturned Stephens' decision barring the public from watching Arias' testimony, the Arizona Court of Appeals ordered the transcripts released.

A lawyer for media organizations Thursday requested release of the transcripts from her closed-door testimony Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, from which the media and public were barred.

However, Stephens said she wouldn't do that until the state Supreme Court ruled on defense lawyers' motion to pause the retrial while they appeal the Court of Appeals' ruling.

The oft-interrupted proceedings in the Arias sentencing retrial resumed Thursday morning as the jury continued to determine whether Arias deserves life in prison or the death penalty.

Stephens sent jurors home three days before, saying the petition had been filed by the Arias defense with the state Supreme Court regarding the transcript of Arias' testimony.

The Arias defense team continued to try and convince the jury that Arias was a victim and suffered from some type of mental illness in the hope jurors might give her life in prison and not the death penalty.

Legal experts believe the Arias defense team is trying to show that the convicted killer has a personality disorder that was brought on by a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse, which could be a mitigating factor in the jury's decision to sentence Arias to death or life in prison.

The Arias trial has garnered national - even worldwide - attention. On May 8, 2013, a jury convicted her of murdering Alexander, and while they found her eligible for the death penalty, they could not unanimously agree to hand down the sentence.

Because of that, Stephens declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial.

After months of legal wrangling, a new jury was eventually impaneled, and a retrial of the sentencing phase began Oct. 21. It is expected to last until the middle of the month.

In the meantime, rumors that Arias herself will once again take the stand continue to swirl.

The courtroom action will be described by CBS 5 News reporters each day on Twitter @CBS5AZ or on cbs5az.com.

Copyright 2015 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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