Jodi Arias says she was getting death threats

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It's not uncommon that the sentencing retrial of convicted murderer Jodi Arias starts late, but Tuesday's proceedings had a different twist.

The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning issued an opinion that revealed why Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens closed the courtroom to the media and public in October when an unidentified witness wouldn't testify if the proceeding was open to the public.

The opinion revealed that it was Arias who refused to testify in an open courtroom during her sentencing retrial partly because she was getting death threats.

News organizations went to court, and the Arizona Court of Appeals later overruled the judge.

In the opinion,  the court said Arias and her lawyers told the judge in October she was receiving threatening mail and death threats and media coverage of her testimony would affect her ability to think and answer questions in a manner "she truly means."

The judge suggested the public and press be moved to an overflow room, but Arias objected.

"Her reason was - she would be confused by testifying in front of the media - which of course she already did for five weeks before" said legal expert Jeff Gold. "Part of the 'test' of testimony is that you have to go before the community that sits in the courtroom. The Court of Appeals said you can't testify in secret."

Shortly after the opinion was issued Tuesday, defense witness Dr. Bob Geffner returned to the stand.

The defense has pleaded with the court to spare her life because she has an assortment of mental health issues.

Geffner on Monday testified Arias showed signs of having mental health issues, like anxiety, depression and coping mechanisms, where she would block out negative situations.

Arias was convicted in the June 2008 murder of her former lover and boyfriend Travis Alexander.

On Dec. 8, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens asked the jury to take the week off last week while she decided on the defense's motion to dismiss Arias' murder conviction.

The defense claims police officers deleted pornographic photos found on murder victim Travis Alexander's computer.

The retrial is now expected to last until January.

The jury has actually been off nearly two weeks after two evidentiary hearings Dec. 4-5.

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

Because of that, Judge Sherry 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.