• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Jodi Arias' attorneys wanted to withdraw but were denied

Jodi Arias is seen in court on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the gruesome 2008 killing of her one-time boyfriend, Jason Alexander, at his Arizona home.

May 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Jodi Arias' attorneys asked to step down from the case after their client was convicted of first-degree murder, but their request was denied.

During a closed-door meeting with the judge on Tuesday, Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott sought permission to withdraw from the case, according to court minutes released Thursday.

According to legal experts, Arias complicated efforts for her defense team when she gave a TV interview minutes after her conviction last week, saying she preferred to die over spending the rest of her 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 told Fox affiliate KSAZ.

Meantime, the jury deciding Arias' fate heard dramatic and emotional testimony from the family of Travis Alexander. His siblings broke down in tears as they told jurors that Arias should be executed for stabbing him to death in 2008.

The testimony came as the trial's penalty phase opened in a Phoenix courtroom, with attorneys giving arguments on whether Arias should get a life sentence or be executed. The same jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder last week.

Wednesday, the panel took less than three hours to determine that Arias should be eligible for death in the killing of her one-time lover after prosecutors proved the murder was especially cruel.

In addition to the testimony on Thursday, defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi told the court that Arias will testify. He also listed several factors that the jury can consider in deciding to grant her mercy, including her age, troubled upbringing, lack of criminal history before the killing, and even her skills as a talented artist.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez went through each factor and sought to turn the attention to the gruesome killing, asking what her age, background and art skills have to do with what happened the day Alexander was stabbed nearly 30 times.

Other witnesses in the penalty phase will include Arias' friends and an ex-boyfriend who lived with her for several years in California.

Arias, 32, acknowledged killing Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home after a day of sex. She initially denied any involvement then later blamed the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she settled on self-defense.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.