Jodi Arias in court Thursday for settlement conference; media not allowed

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Lawyers on both sides of the Jodi Arias case will be in court for a closed-door meeting today as they try to work out a settlement that could put an end to one of the most-watched murder trials in history.

After more than four months of testimony, 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.

Since then, prosecutors and Arias' defense team have been preparing to retry the penalty phase. Arias' first-degree murder conviction is not at issue -- only her sentence.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said the state is still preparing to seek the death penalty, but would consider resolving the case without another trial after consultation with the victim's family and defense lawyers, among other things.

"[T] he state is always willing to discuss possible resolutions to the case," county attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb said in a written statement late last month.

That's where the settlement conference comes into play.

The outcome of Thursday's proceeding, which is off limits to the media, could determine whether Arias lives or dies.

In order for Arias to be sentenced to death, there has to be a retrial of the penalty phase. In Arizona, only a jury can impose the death sentence.

If both sides agree to a settlement, it will be up to Judge Sherry Stephens to impose one of two possible sentences -- life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years or natural life in prison with no option for parole.

If there is no agreement and the death penalty remains on the table, Stephens will have to set a date for new trial. The first step in that proceeding will be seating a jury. Considering the intense media cover of the Arias trial, that process alone could take several weeks.

Because the new jury will have to review evidence and testimony from the original trial, the penalty-phase retrial could take months.

In the meantime, Arias announced earlier this month on Twitter that she is filing for bankruptcy. She  is now asking for donations on to help fund her appeals.

"This trust is for payment of the beneficiary's legal expenses related to the appeals of her pending criminal case, including, without limitation, attorney fees, investigator fees, expert-witness fees, and transcript filing fees," reads the site, noting that donations are not tax deductible.

If the penalty phase is retried and a new jury sentences Arias to death, her case could be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If she is sentenced to life in prison, her appeals could go as far as the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.