Jodi Arias trial: Defense cross-examines state's key witness

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Thursday was a crucial day for the Jodi Arias' defense as it tried to convince a jury that the convicted killer deserves a life sentence and not the death penalty for killing her former lover nearly seven years ago.

Day 35 of the sentencing retrial of Arias got underway at 10 a.m. in Maricopa County Superior Court before Judge Sherry Stephens.

Attorney Kirk Nurmi cross-examined the state's key witness, psychologist Janine DeMarte.

DeMarte admitted Arias suffers from a mental illness. The testimony comes just two days after the same doctor refuted claims that Arias was a victim.

"It's good for the defense because maybe they can get one person on the jury that thinks 'I don't know if I can give somebody with mental illness the death penalty.' So that puts something in the jurors' minds to think about," said Jen Wood of Jen's Trial Diaries.

Several court watchers said the defense scored major points but it won't be known if it's enough until the sentence is handed down.

Arias, who was convicted of first-degree murder in Alexander's death, is fighting for her life as this jury determines whether she should spend the rest of her life in prison or should be executed.

The jury that convicted Arias on May 8, 2013, was unable to reach a verdict in her sentencing, and Stephens declared a mistrial May 23, 2013.

The body of the 30-year-old Alexander was found in his Mesa apartment. He had been stabbed, his throat slit and he had a gunshot wound to his forehead.

Arias, who initially denied she killed Alexander, would eventually admit she killed him in self-defense, but jurors didn't buy into that claim.

Members of the current jury, which was selected from more than 400 potential jurors over several weeks, have been shown graphic photos of the crime scene, listened to interrogation tapes in which Arias produced a number of lies and had a juror dismissed for asking a woman journalist in attendance if she was TV journalist Nancy Grace, since the retrial began Oct. 21.

The trial has generated an online and cable news audience nationwide.