Lawyer pleads for life sentence for Marissa Devault - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

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Lawyer pleads for life sentence for Marissa Devault

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Marissa Suzanne Devault is accused of first-degree murder in the hammer beating death of her husband in 2009. (Source: CBS 5 News) Marissa Suzanne Devault is accused of first-degree murder in the hammer beating death of her husband in 2009. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

An attorney for an Arizona woman convicted of fatally beating her husband with a hammer has urged jurors to spare his client's life and portrayed her as someone who became warped by a chaotic childhood.

Marissa Devault entered the penalty phase of her trial Tuesday in which jurors will decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or to execute her for the 2009 death of Dale Harrell.

Devault's attorney, Alan Tavassoli, told jurors that Devault was sexually abused as a child and had no adults who truly protected her.

Prosecutor Eric Basta told jurors that the case boils down the choices people make in their lives.

On Monday, the jury found one aggravating factor that would make her eligible for execution, but it was unable to reach a verdict on a second aggravating factor.

  • Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News as this story develops.
  • Jurors left for the weekend after deliberating a second day on Thursday and reconvened on Monday morning. The court announced the jury had reached its verdict just after 11:30 a.m.

    If no aggravating factors had been found, the judge would have sentenced Devault to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

    Prosecutor Michelle Arino said Devault carried out the 2009 attack on Harrell in an especially cruel manner for the purpose of getting life insurance money.

    Devault's attorney Alan Tavassoli said the argument that the killing was carried out to collect insurance money is undermined by the fact that one of the two policies in question covered only accidental deaths, and Harrell's death wasn't an accident.

    Devault claims she killed Harrell in self-defense and told investigators that Harrell had physically and sexually abused her in the past.

    Prosecutors contend the January 2009 attack on Harrell was premeditated and that she wanted to collect on an insurance policy taken out on her husband because she owed about $300,000 in loans from her boyfriend.

    They said Devault has given conflicting accounts of her husband's death and that people who Devault claimed had witnessed some of the past abuse didn't back up her claims.

    Harrell died nearly a month after the attack at a hospice after suffering complications from head injuries.

    The jury convicted her of first-degree murder on April 8.

    Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on the sentencing phase of the trial.

    Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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