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Jodi Arias' lawyers tried to quit, judge said no, court minutes show

Jodi Arias, left, demonstrates how she had her arm around her sister in a photograph that had been admitted into evidence Monday March 4, 2013 in Phoenix. She put her arm around defense attorney Jennifer Willmott during redirect from defense attorney Kirk Nurmi. Arias is on trial for the murder of Travis Alexander in 2008. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle, POOL ) Tom Tingle

Jodi Arias, left, with defense attorney Jennifer Willmott, March 4, 2013. Defense lawyers Willmott and Kirk Nurmi reportedly tried to withdraw from the case.
AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle, pool

(AP/CBS)PHOENIX - Attorneys for Jodi Arias asked to step down from the case after their client was convicted of first-degree murder, but a judge denied the request, according to court minutes obtained Thursday.

PICTURES: Jodi Arias: Guilty of first-degree murder

Details about the motion were sealed, but legal experts said Arias complicated efforts for her defense when she gave an interview to a Phoenix Fox affiliate minutes after her conviction last week saying 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.

Arias will return to court Thursday for the final phase of her trial as the same jury that convicted her weighs whether the former waitress should be sentenced to life in prison or death, for the June 2008 murder of her lover, Travis Alexander.

Her attorneys must convince jurors she shouldn't be executed. But during a closed-door meeting with the judge on Tuesday, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott sought permission to withdraw from the case, the minutes state.

Defense attorneys told CBS News' Crimesider this week that working to save the life of a defendant who wants to be executed can be problematic.

"Usually, you're in lock step with your client where you're moving toward the same goal, but in this case...now you're no longer together," California criminal defense attorney Michael Cardoza told CBS News' Crimesider. "You're working at odds, and that makes the job very difficult."

In capital cases, experts say, the predicament is far from unheard of.

"It's not unusual for clients who face the death penalty to decide they want to die," said Lisa Wayne, a Colorado criminal defense attorney and immediate past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "They give up hope."

It remains unclear why Arias' lawyers sought to withdraw, however.

Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It's up to the jury to recommend a sentence.

On Wednesday, the panel took less than three hours to determine that Arias should be eligible for death because prosecutors proved the murder was especially cruel and heinous.

In the penalty phase, prosecutors will call Alexander's family and others to testify in an effort to convince the panel that Arias should be put to death.

Arias' defense lawyers will have her family members testify, and likely others who have known her over the years, in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors to save her life. It's not yet known if Arias will testify.

Complete coverage of the Jodi Arias trial on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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