Sheriff's office bans Arias defense aide from jail

PHOENIX (AP) -- A colored-pencil drawing of a pinwheel has gotten a member of Jodi Arias' defense team banned from the Phoenix jail where she's being held until her murder case's penalty phase starts in September.

Mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa was accused of trying to take the drawing by Arias out of the jail last month.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office officials said the drawing is contraband and De La Rosa cannot deliver things for Arias, who was convicted in May of first-degree murder in the 2008 killing of her boyfriend.

As of last Friday, De La Rosa has been banned from the jails that are run by the sheriff's office although she has at least five other clients facing the death penalty.

"I believe that it's a stupid publicity stunt by MCSO that is consistent with their harassment of inmates at the jail," Dan Raynak, an attorney for De La Rosa, said Tuesday. "She can't have any private calls from jail and can't send or receive any letters from her clients. That undermines the attorney-client privilege."

As a mitigation specialist, De La Rosa gathers evidence and anecdotes from the defendant's life in an attempt to persuade jurors against imposing the death penalty.

De La Rosa was carrying the drawing in a packet of legal papers and apparently was taking them to Arias' attorneys.

"She basically was acting as a conduit," MCSO Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said. "She can't circumvent the rules. She's not a rookie at this business. She knows what the contraband rules are for the jails."

As a mitigation specialist, De La Rosa gathers evidence and anecdotes from the defendant's life in an attempt to persuade jurors against imposing the death penalty.

Raynak said he planned to meet with attorneys for the sheriff's office to work toward a solution to getting De la Rosa's ban lifted.

Keeping De La Rosa from her clients in jail could present trial issues for them because they are entitled to present mitigation in their cases, Raynak said.

Arias' artwork was presented in her first sentencing trial, and her lawyer said the confiscated drawing was of potential use in the mitigation case.

Arias, 33, admitted that she killed her one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home but claimed it was self-defense.

Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead. Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

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