PHOENIX — The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld Jodi Arias’ first-degree murder conviction and life prison sentence in the 2008 killing of her former boyfriend.
Arias’ lawyers had argued that a prosecutor’s misconduct and a judge’s failure to control news coverage during the case deprived her of the right to a fair trial.
But the three-member appeals court, in a 29-page opinion, unanimously concluded that prosecutor Juan Martinez’s conduct in the case didn’t outweigh Arias’ guilt.
“We conclude that Arias was convicted based upon the overwhelming evidence of her guilt, not as a result of prosecutorial misconduct,” the ruling said.
However, it noted “an egregious case of misconduct by a highly-experienced prosecutor” who “improperly engaged in self-promoting conduct.”
The panel condemned Martinez’s “argumentative phrasing of questions” to defense witnesses, adding that his “aggressive tone and combative, bullying behavior” were recurring issues in the trial and Arias’ attorneys moved for a mistrial six times.
“We strongly disapprove of his actions, we are compelled to follow the well-established principle that we do not ‘reverse convictions merely to punish a prosecutor’s misdeeds.’”
Arias was convicted of killing ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander at his home in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. Prosecutors have said Arias violently attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but claimed she acted in self-defense after he attacked her. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.
The case attracted worldwide attention as salacious and violent details about Arias and Alexander were broadcast live.
The guilt phase of Arias’ trial ended in 2013 with jurors convicting her of murder but deadlocking on punishment. A second sentencing trial ended in early 2015 with another jury deadlock, leading a judge to sentence Arias to life.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office moved to fire Martinez this year after suspending him. But the dismissal was stayed pending his appeal under civil service protections. Martinez has been a county prosecutor for 30 years.
A call to Martinez seeking comment on the court ruling wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday.
Peg Green, one of Arias’ attorneys, declined comment on the appeals court opinion.