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Judge denies mistrial for woman accused of Arizona lover's murder

Jodi Arias answers written questions from the jury in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Tom Tingle/
Jodi Arias answers written questions from the jury in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Tom Tingle/

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A judge denied the latest defense request for a mistrial on Tuesday in the capital murder case against Jodi Arias, the California woman charged with slaying her lover at his Arizona home in what she has insisted was an act of self-defense.

Defense lawyers requested the mistrial in a motion they filed on Sunday accusing a juror of misconduct, suggesting she may have prejudiced her peers on the jury.

Although Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens refused to declare a mistrial, she agreed to excuse the juror in question before resuming proceedings on Tuesday, according to a twitter message posted by the court.

Stephens has denied several previous defense motions to call a halt to the sensational trial.

Arias, 32, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower of his Phoenix Valley home in June 2008. He had been shot in the face, stabbed 27 times, and his throat was slashed.

Arias admitted shooting Alexander with his pistol, but said she opened fire on him after he attacked her in a rage because she dropped his camera while taking snapshots of him in the shower. She has said she cannot remember stabbing him.

Lurid circumstances of the case, which went to trial in January and has often featured graphic testimony and the presentation of a sex tape, has unfolded in live Internet telecasts of the proceedings, attracting wide media attention.

Arias met and began dating Alexander, a businessman and motivational speaker, in the fall of 2006. She testified that they continued to have sex despite breaking up, in a relationship characterized by emotional and physical abuse.

She told the court that Alexander made her feel "like a prostitute." Arias said he kicked her and attempted to choke her, although she admitted never reporting the alleged abuse to the police, seeking medical treatment, or documenting it in her journal.

The judge suspended testimony last week for a closed-door session to question jurors about whether they had seen or been aware of prosecutor Juan Martinez posing for pictures and signing autographs for bystanders outside the courthouse.

From information divulged during the session it was revealed that "statements Juror 5 made in front of her fellow jurors amounts to misconduct that inserted partiality in what is supposed to be an impartial body," defense lawyers wrote in their latest motion.

(Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)

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