Jodi Arias judge delays retrial decision again; new hearing date is Oct. 4

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX – The judge in the Jodi Arias trial has delayed the next hearing nearly three weeks.

Judge Sherry Stephens had originally planned to set a date for Arias’ penalty phase retrial on Monday. She also was expected to rule on defense motions relating to media coverage and access to the prospective jurors' Twitter accounts.

Now none of that will not happen until Friday, Oct. 4

The delay was announced on the Maricopa County Superior Court’s official Twitter account late Friday morning. No reason was given.

The last hearing was Aug. 26, and lasted only minutes as Stephens announced the continuance to Sept. 16. Arias did not even have the chance to sit down before being escorted from the courtroom and back to jail.

After a trial that went on for more than four months, a jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder in May. While they found her eligible for the death penalty, they could not unanimously agree to sentence her to it.

The plan now is to seat a second jury to decide Arias’ fate. Her conviction on first-degree murder is not in question and will stand. The new jury, which the defense wants sequestered, will deal only with her sentence.

Arias' attorneys had sought to have set aside the jury's determination that Arias killed her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in an "especially cruel" manner, one element of so-called aggravating factors that allows the panel to then consider the death penalty.

The judge denied that motion earlier this month, leaving death on the table.

If, like the original jury, the jurors in the penalty phase retrial cannot come to a unanimous decision, Arias will be sentenced to life in prison automatically. In Arizona, only a jury can hand down the death penalty.

Should that automatic life sentence kick in, Judge Sherry Stephens will decide if Arias should be eligible for parole after 25 years.

While a retrial penalty should not last as long as the original trial, it will not be a short process.

Jury selection alone could take several weeks, considering the widespread publicity of the trial that captured worldwide headlines with lurid tales of sex, betrayal and a bloody killing. That lengthy process would be followed by reading testimony and evidence to bring the fresh panel up to speed before jurors would once again attempt to decide whether Arias should live or die.

Associated Press writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this story.