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Arizona judge rejects bid to spare murderer Jodi Arias from death

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[February 08, 2014]  PHOENIX (Reuters)  An Arizona judge has rejected a bid by convicted murderer Jodi Arias to be spared the death penalty in the 2008 slaying of her ex-boyfriend, according to court papers made public on Friday.

Maricopa Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens said in a ruling that defense attorneys were wrong in claiming that a state law that allows for Arias to face a second penalty phase was unconstitutional and represented cruel and unusual punishment.

Arias, 33, was convicted by a jury in May 2013 of murdering Travis Alexander, whose body was found slumped in the shower of his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. He had been stabbed multiple times, shot in the face and slashed in the throat.

But the jury deadlocked on whether the former California waitress should be executed or face life in prison.

In a three-page ruling, Stephens made it clear the death penalty was still a possibility when a new jury reconvenes on March 17 for a second penalty phase of the trial.

"Defendant has not been 'acquitted' of the death sentence by the jury's failure to reach a verdict, and thus there is no constitutional bar to retrying the penalty phase," Stephens wrote.

The judge's ruling came down on Wednesday but was released on Friday.

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The five-month trial was punctuated with graphic testimony, bloody photographs and sexual revelations. Arias maintained the killing was in self-defense.

If there is another jury deadlock on the question of sentencing, a judge would sentence Arias to natural life in prison or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Leslie Adler)

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