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Ban lifted on Arizona jail visits for Arias defense team member

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona sheriff's officials lifted a ban on Wednesday on jail visits by a key member of Jodi Arias' defense team over accusations she tried to smuggle one of the convicted murderer's drawings out of the facility, an administrator said.

Mitigation specialist Maria De La Rosa, who helps gather information to spare clients the death penalty, will be allowed to see Arias and other clients inside any of the Maricopa County jails, said Jack MacIntyre, the Sheriff's Office chief deputy.

"I think we have made our point on this matter," MacIntyre said. "She has been re-instated immediately and there are no other conditions."

De La Rosa had been banned for several days from seeing Arias, who was convicted in May of killing ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in a sensational trial that was broadcast live on the Internet and attracted tens of thousands of viewers.

Authorities found Alexander slumped in the shower inside his Phoenix-area home in 2008, stabbed multiple times, his throat slashed and shot in the face. Arias claimed she acted in self-defense.

But the same jury that convicted Arias of murder deadlocked on whether the former California waitress should be executed for her crime or face life in prison. A retrial of the penalty phase of her case is due to begin in September.

Arias presented the artwork to jurors during the previous penalty phase as mitigating evidence.

An attorney for De La Rosa has said his client did nothing wrong in taking a drawing from the jail last week, describing the ban on visits as a publicity stunt by the sheriff that he said on Wednesday was "completely and wholly inappropriate."

"The point that was made was that the sheriff's office will not bully and intimidate hard-working citizens in the state of Arizona," Attorney Dan Raynak told Reuters. "They will fight back and they will be successful. That's the point."

He said he is exploring taking legal action to "right this terrible wrong."

The high-profile case had been delayed for months amid a flurry of unsuccessful defense motions, and most recently by the prosecutor's conflict with another case. If there is another deadlock, a judge would sentence Arias to natural life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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