Arias death penalty eligible, (PHOENIX) — Jodi Arias returns to court for the final phase of her trial as the same jury that convicted her of first-degree murder last week now weighs whether the former waitress should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
Jurors on Wednesday took less than three hours to determine that
Arias should be eligible for the death penalty in the killing of her
one-time lover after prosecutors proved the murder was especially cruel
Arias, 32, acknowledged killing Travis Alexander on June 4, 2008, 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.
On Thursday, the penalty phase of her trial begins during which
prosecutors will call Alexander’s family and other witnesses in an
effort to convince the panel Arias should face the ultimate punishment.
Arias’ defense lawyers will have her family members testify, and likely
others who have known her over the years, in an attempt to gain sympathy
from jurors to save her life. It’s not yet known if Arias will testify.
Arias showed no emotion Wednesday after the jury returned a decision
that was widely expected given the violent nature of the killing. She
slashed Alexander’s throat, stabbed him in the heart and shot him in the
forehead. The victim suffered a total of nearly 30 knife wounds in what
prosecutors described as an attack fueled by jealous rage after
Alexander wanted to end his affair with Arias and prepared to take a
trip to Mexico with another woman.
The jury simply had to determine the killing was committed in an
especially cruel and heinous manner to complete the “aggravation phase”
of the trial and move on to the penalty portion.
Alexander’s family members sobbed in the front row as prosecutor Juan
Martinez took the jury through the killing one more time earlier in the
day. He described how blood gushed from Alexander’s chest, hands and
neck as the 30-year-old motivational speaker and businessman stood at
the sink in his master bathroom and looked into the mirror with Arias
behind him, a knife in her hand.
“The last thing he saw before he lapsed into unconsciousness … was
that blade coming to his throat,” Martinez said. “And the last thing he
felt before he left this earth was pain.”
Wednesday’s proceedings played out quickly, with only one prosecution
witness and none for the defense. The most dramatic moments occurred
when Martinez displayed photos of Alexander’s corpse and the bloody
crime scene for the jury, then paused in silence for two minutes to
describe how long he said it took for Alexander to die at Arias’ hands.
Arias, wearing a silky, cream-colored blouse, appeared to fight back
tears most of the morning, but didn’t seem fazed by the verdict.
Afterward she chatted with her attorneys. Arias spent the weekend on
suicide watch before being transferred back to an all-female jail where
she will remain until sentencing.
Arias’ attorneys didn’t put on much of a case during the aggravation
phase, offering no witnesses and giving brief opening statements and
closing arguments. They said Alexander would have had so much adrenaline
rushing through his body that he might not have felt much pain.
The only witness was the medical examiner who performed the autopsy
and explained to jurors how Alexander did not die calmly and fought for
his life as evidenced by the numerous defensive wounds on his body.
Minutes after her first-degree murder conviction last Wednesday,
Arias granted an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ, only adding to the
circus-like environment surrounding the trial that has become a cable TV
sensation with its graphic tales of sex, lies and violence.
“Longevity runs in my family, and I don’t want to spend the rest of
my natural life in one place,” a tearful Arias said. “I believe death is
the ultimate freedom, and I’d rather have my freedom as soon as I can
However, Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It’s up to the jury to recommend a sentence.