PHOENIX >> The trial to determine the punishment for Jodi Arias resumed Wednesday with testimony from an expert witness and arguments over allegations that authorities destroyed evidence that may have benefited the convicted murderer’s case.
Arias was found guilty of murder last year in the 2008 killing of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home, but jurors deadlocked on whether she should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Prosecutors have one more shot with a new jury to secure a death sentence. Otherwise, Arias faces life in prison.
The sentencing retrial resumed Wednesday after a lengthy break during which news organizations protested a decision to let a skittish defense witness testify in private and authorities were accused of destroying evidence on Alexander’s computer.
Defense attorneys say files were deleted by police from Alexander’s computer that showed he had visited numerous pornographic websites, something they claim would have helped bolster Arias’ contention that the victim was a sexual deviant. They are seeking a dismissal of all charges or at least to have the death penalty removed as a sentencing option.
The judge denied a request by the defense to delay the trial based on the allegations of the destruction of evidence, explaining she would take up the matter at a later date.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez said his office had the computer reanalyzed just this week, and it showed the defense claims are false. He also noted that if anything was deleted from the computer, it was done by Arias’ previous defense attorneys, not authorities.
“It confirmed that he had not accessed any of the (pornographic) sites that they’re claiming he accessed,” Martinez said.
But defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi told the judge a “plethora of evidence” is being uncovered by computer experts “as we speak.”
Meanwhile, defense-witness testimony resumed after news organizations succeeded last week in getting an appeals court to bar Judge Sherry Stephens from closing the courtroom to the public after some of the testimony by Arias’ first witness was conducted in private.
Arias’ attorneys say several people are unwilling to testify on her behalf unless it is done in private because they are afraid of public backlash. They have said that some witnesses at Arias’ first trial were threatened and harassed for their role in the case.
That first defense witness remains unidentified to the public and did not take the stand again on Wednesday. Arias attorneys began with a different witness, a psychologist who testified that Alexander was deeply torn between his intense sexual urges and his devout Mormon beliefs as attorneys work to portray him as a sexual deviant who played on Arias’ naivete.