In a stunning move Monday, attorneys representing convicted killer Jodi Arias announced they would not be calling a single witness to plea for her life in the penalty phase of her trial. The move means Arias will be the only person pleading for leniency.
Arias was expected to take the stand after her lawyers were to call a former boyfriend and childhood friend.
However, that plan failed when one of the witnesses backed out at the last minute. In a last ditch effort, the defense asked the judge for a mistrial in the death penalty phase.
The motion was filed on Sunday after Patricia Womack, a childhood friend of Arias, decided she would not testify. She complained that she had been receiving death threats.
"This is constitutionally unacceptable," defense attorney Kirk Nurmi told Judge Sherry Stephens.
According to the defense motion, the threats Womack received included "threats on her life if she were to testify on Ms. Arias' behalf."
Womack is not the first defense witness to complain of being harassed. Dr. Richard Samuels, a psychologist who testified that Arias suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, said he received so many threatening communications that he refused to answer his cellphone.
Alyce LaViolette, a domestic violence expert who said Arias was abused, also claimed she was being threatened.
Nurmi also complained to the judge about prosecutor Juan Martinez, whom he alleged intimidated defense witnesses throughout the trial.
"This cannot be a modern-day version of stoning or witch trials. When you have a prosecutor that this court allows to personally attack witnesses and counsel, it breeds this sort of environment where intimidating can take place," Nurmi.
"And this has been happening throughout trial."
When the judge denied the motion for mistrial, Nurmi renewed a previous request for himself and co-counsel Jennifer Willmott to withdraw from the case.
"We are in a position where we cannot provide effective assistance ... We cannot present the complete picture," Nurmi said.
Stephens denied the motion.
It was the second time during the Arias trial that the attorneys had asked to step down from the case. The first came immediately after she was convicted of first-degree murder.
Legal experts had said that Arias complicated efforts for her defense when she gave an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ after her conviction. During the interview Arias said she preferred death over life in prison.
"I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it," Arias said.
Upon hearing the judge's decision today, Nurmi announced the defense would not be calling a single witness to speak on behalf of Arias.
"Given the court's ruling, and the incomplete picture, we will not be calling witnesses in the defense case," attorney Kirk Nurmi told Judge Sherry Stephens.
Following the announcement, the attorneys went into chambers with the judge for a private meeting. Afterward, Stephens announced the trial would resume Tuesday. She did not elaborate on the reason for the delay.
Arias, 32, was convicted May 8 of first-degree murder. The capital murder verdict, reached after more than 15 hours of deliberations, was a clear rejection of both Arias' self-defense claim as well as defense psychologist Richard Samuels' contention that she suffered from PTSD and acute stress disorder.
Arias' attorneys did not put much effort into the aggravation phase. They offered no witnesses and gave only a brief opening statement and closing argument.
Last week, the same jury that convicted Arias declared she was eligible for the death penalty. The jury made their decision after less than three hours of deliberation.
With no witnesses to speak on her behalf, Arias is expected to take the stand Tuesday to address the jury herself. Her words could determine if she receives the death penalty or life in prison.
Will Arias apologize, accept responsibility and express remorse? Or will she remain defiant to the end, maintaining her innocence in the brutal slaying? Courtroom watchers have seen the many faces of Arias throughout the trial, so her next move is anyone's guess.
The trial resumes Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. EDT.