Jodi Arias: Judge sets date for retrial of penalty phase

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- After months of legal wrangling, a judge has finally set a date to retry the penalty phase in the ongoing legal drama that is the Jodi Arias murder trial. It will begin March 17, a little more than two months from now.

The trial began more than a year ago, ending four months later with the conviction of Arias on first-degree murder.

While the jury found that Arias is eligible for the death penalty, they were not able to sentence her to it.

The past several months have been filled with motions, mostly from Arias' lawyers.

The defense wanted the trial moved out of Phoenix, citing intense media coverage. Judge Sherry Stephens denied two separate motions.

The defense also wanted to monitor the Twitter handles of the new jurors. Stephens denied that motion, as well, saying she was not going to assume that there will be juror misconduct.

In November, Stephens banned live television coverage of the new trial. The guilt phase of Arias' trial, with its graphic photos and testimony, was broadcast in its entirety -- all four months of it.

In her decision, Stephens said she expected "significantly less coverage of the case during the retrial of the penalty phase."

In addition to motions filed by attorneys for both sides, Arias herself made a request of the judge. She said she no longer trusts Kirk Nurmi and asked to fire him. Stephens denied the motion. She denied a similar motion Arias made in June.

A settlement conference could have put an end to the legal maneuvering and the need for retrial. No deal, however, could be reached. With no settlement, Arias retains her right to appeal her first-degree murder conviction down the road.

Through all of these motions and decisions, Stephens held off on scheduling the retrial of the penalty phase.

On Monday, she finally set a date.

This retrial deals with just the sentencing of Arias. Her conviction on first-degree murder is not in question.

A new jury will be seated and can choose to hand down the death penalty or sentence her to life in prison. If they, like their predecessors, cannot reach a unanimous decision, Arias automatically will be sentenced to life and it will be up to the judge to decide if Arias will be eligible for parole in 25 years.

In Arizona, only a jury can sentence a convicted killer to death. If that is their decision, the case will automatically be reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court.

It's not clear how long it will take to seat a jury, nor is it known how long the retrial will last. Because the jury will be new to the case, it's expected that prosecutors and defense attorneys will need to go back over evidence presented in the original trial in order to lay the groundwork for their arguments regarding Arias' sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that it was the defense -- not the prosecution -- that requested access to jurors' Twitter handles.