Jodi Arias will sit down in a settlement conference with prosecutors on Oct. 24, according to her case calendar on the Maricopa County Superior Court website.
Arias’ defense attorneys have not said what they will be talking about.
“The court asked if the parties would be willing to discuss a potential settlement,” said Maricopa County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb. “Consistent with what the County Attorney has said all along, the State is always willing to discuss possible resolutions to the case. Neither side has presented an outline of an agreement or an official position to the court.”
Cobb said the conference will be made in front of retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Keppel.
Settlement conferences are usually handled by a judge other than the one who presides over the case.
But neither side has very much in the way of bargaining power.
Arias, 33, has already been found guilty of first-degree murder, and there are three sentencing options: death, natural life in prison, or life with a chance of release after 25 years.
Under state law, prosecutor Juan Martinez and his boss, County Attorney Bill Montgomery, need a jury to get a death penalty.
They do not need a jury or an agreement from Arias to get a life sentence; all they need to do is drop the intent to seek the death penalty and the decision would then go to Judge Sherry Stephens. And in the unlikely event that Stephens were to impose a sentence of 25 to life, there is no longer any mechanism to facilitate a release short of clemency granted by the governor.
The option of parole for first-degree murderers was eliminated in 1994, although the phrase “life with chance of parole” has erroneously lingered in court parlance. And even the chance of “release” after 25 years has been eliminated for murders committed after 2012.
So what’s left to bargain?
The state could ask Arias to waive appeals in exchange for a life sentence, but that would be foolish on her part, as her attorneys have made a careful record alleging court and prosecutor errors.
In fact, Arias has a more immediate appeal strategy if she is sentenced to death. Death sentences go directly to the Arizona Supreme Court for review, and from there can be taken directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, before it bounces back to Superior Court and works its way back to federal court.
The Debra Milke and Johnathan Doody first-degree murder verdicts were thrown out in federal appeals courts after those defendants spent more than 20 years in prison and are back in Superior Court for retrials.
If Arias is sentenced to life in prison, her appeals would go instead to the Arizona Court of Appeals, then to the Arizona Supreme Court and then back to Superior Court for what is referred to as “post-conviction relief.”
And what does Arias have to offer the state? Mostly avoidance of another several months of expense and judicial circus if she does not go back to trial.
Arias also has an evidentiary hearing this Friday, which, like the list of Arias’ mitigation witnesses, will be sealed.
Source: AZ Central, Michael Kiefer/ Picture Allvoices
There is also some activity by the defense as they respond to the change of venue and object to KPHO’s media request. Again, one thing is certain….things are always busy in the trial land of Jodi Arias. We will see what happens next.
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