PHOENIX - The same jury that found 28-year-old Sammantha Allen guilty of murdering her 10-year-old cousin Ame Deal will now decide whether the woman will face the death penalty in the case.
Jurors listened to arguments from both sides, mostly from the defense, which described Allen's upbringing as an uncontrollable factor that heavily impacted her as an adult. Allen's attorney suggested Deal was treated differently by the adults in the family because there was suspicion over whether David Deal was the girl's biological father.
"That became the parting line in the house when it came to Ame," said John Curry, Allen's attorney. "'Ame's bad, Ame lies, Ame steals.' That was the refrain."
Curry painted a picture of a home life that was unstable, riddled in poverty and ruled by Allen's mother and grandmother. Both women and David are currently serving time for child abuse charges connected to Ame.
The prosecution spoke briefly in court and declined to provide an opening statement, but did have a witness advocate read a written statement from Ame's mother, Shirley Deal, to the jury.
"Knowing that I couldn't protect Ame from the abuse she suffered, and ultimately her murder, haunts me daily," Shirley wrote.
A juror was excused from the trial due to emotional distress and the judge appointed an alternate juror to step in.
Court proceedings will continue on Tuesday morning.