Arias’ attorneys argue that the definition of “especially cruel” is too vague for jurors with no legal experience to determine what makes one killing more cruel or heinous than another. Their June motion appears to challenge a landmark 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a defendant has the right to have a jury, rather than a judge, decide on the existence of an aggravating factor that makes the defendant eligible for capital punishment.
The high court in that case, which originated in Arizona, determined that allowing judges to make such findings violated a defendant’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. Prosecutors argue that state and federal courts have found the process continues to pass constitutional muster, and that the defense motion lacks merit.
Judge Sherry Stephens gave defense attorneys until Aug. 5 to file final motions supporting their arguments. She set another status conference in the case for Aug. 26.
“It appears there are a number of issues that are unresolved so I am reluctant to set a firm trial date for the penalty phase retrial at this time,” Stephens told attorneys Tuesday.
It is supposed to happen at around 10:30 PDT, give or take a few hours knowing that courtroom. I expect the retrial for the penalty phase will be postponed for several months. The defense attorneys have several other cases they are working on for the next few months.