April 10, 2014
A New York man who threatened two television hosts covering Jodi Arias’ murder case will stand trial on May 8.48-year-old David Lee Simpson was originally scheduled to face a Maricopa County judge on April 1, but officials have pushed back his court date, the Associated Press reported this week.
Investigators allege the Bath, N.Y. resident sent threatening tweets to TV personalities Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace during their extensive coverage of Jodi Arias’ proceedings.
Simpson also reportedly tried to scare an unidentified Arizona woman on Twitter concerning Arias, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing former lover Travis Alexander in his Mesa home.
Simpson now faces five felony counts for the Twitter threats, which he reportedly directed at both of the HLN Network analysts while they reported on the Jodi Arias trial in 2013. Simpson has pleaded not guilty to each charge against him.
Although the 48-year-old was in the state of New York when he posted the tweets, Arizona officials said the threats were sent to Grace and Velez-Mitchell while they were covering a case happening in Maricopa County. Simpson’s trial, therefore, will take place in the south-central Arizona county.
33-year-old Arias was indicted for the June 2008 death of Alexander on May 8, 2013. But a jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision for her sentencing at the time. The prosecution was pushing for the death penalty while Arias’ defense team tried for life in prison. After multiple pushbacks, Arias’ final sentencing date has been scheduled for September of this year. A jury will decide at that time whether Arias should be put to death, or if she’ll be sentenced to natural life in prison with no parole option.
If jurors can’t reach a decision at that time, the death penalty will automatically be taken off the table. In that instance, Arias would theoretically be sentenced to life in prison.
Attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in his murder case, recently weighed in on Jodi Arias’ odds of escaping the death sentence. O’Mara told HLN-TV that Arias’ chances are stacked against her, since it appeared as though she prepared to kill Alexander before carrying out the murder.
“There’s really a lot against her, the fact that she tried to ingratiate herself to the jury and that didn’t work is really going to hurt,” O’Mara said. “On the other hand, the defense has to focus on this lady being out of touch with reality, some mental health mitigation, which is what we call in the business trying to get away from the death penalty by showing that there’s things about Jodi Arias that you should sort of forgive her for.”