Who is Jodi Arias?
Jodi Arias was born in 1980 in Salinas, California, Jodi Arias made headlines when she was charged with murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008. Alexander’s body was found in the shower of his Mesa, Arizona, apartment by friends on June 9, 2008, five days after he was brutally murdered—he had been shot in the head and stabbed 27 times, and his throat had been slit from ear to ear. Testimony in Arias’s trial began in January 2013. Four months later, after spending 18 days on the witness stand, Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder.
Convicted killer Jodi Ann Arias was born on July 9, 1980, in Salinas, California. In the summer of 2008, Arias made national headlines when she was charged with murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, a 30-year-old insurance salesman and Riverside native. Arias and Alexander had met at a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2006, while he was living in Arizona and she was a resident of Palm Desert, California. By the following year, they were in a commited relationship. After only five months as a couple, however, the two went their separate ways in late June 2007.
On June 9, 2008, Travis Alexander’s body was found in a pool of blood in the shower of his Mesa, Arizona, apartment by friends who had become increasingly worried about his whereabouts after not being able to contact him for several days. Almost immediately after entering the residence, the young men began taking in the heinous crime scene. In the bathroom, Alexander’s corpse displayed a number of inflictions: a gunshot wound to the head, 27 stab wounds, and a deeply and widely slit throat. Investigators later determined that the murder had occurred five days before his body was found, on June 4, 2008.
Arias quickly became the focus of the sensational case. She was charged with Alexander’s murder on July 9, 2008, and was arrested soon after. Initially, Arias denied any involvement in his death. Then, after investigators found her DNA mixed with Alexander’s blood at the crime scene, she changed her story: She claimed that she and her ex had been attacked by two masked intruders. After killing Alexander, the criminals decided to let her live, she told police, adding that she chose not to alert police at the time because she feared the intruders might seek revenge. At trial, she would revise her story for the third time.
Testimony in Arias’s trial began in early January 2013. The following month, the alleged killer took the witness stand, where she would remain for 18 consecutive days. Already infamously known for her different accounts of Alexander’s murder over the past several years, Arias testified that she had killed her ex in an impassioned act of self-defense. She stated that Alexander had frequently abused her, and that she killed him after he came at her in a fit of rage when she dropped his camera. She also claimed to have suffered memory loss as the result of emotional trauma she had experienced during the incident.
“Lying isn’t typically something I just do,” Arias stated during the trial. “The lies I’ve told in this case can be tied directly back to either protecting Travis’ reputation or my involvement in his death … because I was very ashamed.”
Whether she truly had difficulty remembering details of that day in 2008 or was simply having trouble keeping her story straight—or it was something else altogether—Arias’s testimony was wrought with inconsistency and confusion, piecemeal, and ultimately botched.
Jurors reached a unanimous decision in the case on May 8, 2013: Jodi Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder. Five jurors found her guilty of premeditated murder, zero found her guilty of felony murder, and seven found her guilty of both premeditated and felony murder. The verdict sparked elation among Travis Alexander’s family members as well as the general public. Arias now awaits sentencing, which could mean the death penalty. Should she receive capital punishment for her murder conviction, Arias would become only the third female death-row inmate in Arizona history.
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Judge Sherry Stephens instructed jurors they could consider a handful of factors when deciding what sentence to impose, including Arias’ lack of a prior criminal record and assertions that she was a good friend, had an abusive childhood and is a talented artist.
In opening statements, prosecutor Juan Martinez told the panel none of those factors should cause the jury to even consider a sentence other than death, given the brutal nature of the killing.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi explained to jurors that Arias herself would testify this week.
“When you understand who Ms. Arias is, you will understand that life is the appropriate sentence,” Nurmi said.
Arias, 32, acknowledged killing Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home on June 4, 2008. She initially denied any involvement and later blamed the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, Arias said she killed Alexander in self-defense.
The victim suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit from ear to ear and was shot in the forehead. Prosecutors say the attack was fueled by jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end his affair with Arias and prepared to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Jurors convicted Arias on May 8 of first-degree murder, with all 12 unanimously agreeing it was premeditated, after about 15 hours of deliberations over four days.
The panel later took less than three hours to determine the killing was especially cruel, meaning the death penalty would be a consideration for sentencing.
The ongoing penalty proceedings will be the final phase of the trial. Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Arias’ ultimate fate this week.
Defense attorneys plan to call to testify an ex-boyfriend of Arias and the defendant herself, among others, as they work to convince the jury Arias’ life should be spared.
The proceedings will play out like a mini-trial as the prosecutor will be allowed to cross-examine each witness, and both sides will offer closing arguments before the jury begins deliberations.
Under Arizona law, if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on sentencing, the panel will be dismissed and jury selection will begin anew. Another panel would then be seated to hear arguments in only the penalty phase to determine a sentence. If the second panel cannot reach a unanimous agreement, the judge will then sentence Arias to either her entire life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.
The most anticipated part of the penalty phase will be when Arias takes the witness stand, though exactly what she will say remains a mystery. Within minutes of her murder conviction, Arias complicated efforts for her defense when she gave an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ, saying she preferred death over life in prison.
It wasn’t clear whether the prosecutor would use those words against her in court, given some experts say it might not work in his favor aimed at securing a death sentence.
“Jodi Arias has proven herself to be a conniving manipulator so she may be saying something like this to get a reaction from the jury,” said San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Michael Cardoza. “She may be hoping the jury says, ‘We won’t give her what she wants, and if she wants death, we’re giving her life.'”
Cardoza noted that in Arias’ case, with so much evidence against her, the defense can still claim some level of satisfaction if they can just keep her off death row.
Arizona defense attorney Thomas Gorman, who has handled dozens of death penalty cases, said Martinez may not need to mention Arias’ comments in the television interview to jurors given they haven’t been sequestered throughout the trial.
“They just can’t avoid it,” Gorman said. “If they’re at a bar or a restaurant, they’re going to see and hear things.”
Arias also cannot choose the death penalty. It’s up to the jury to determine a sentence. And while death penalty appeals are automatic in Arizona, she could choose not to pursue additional appeals if she indeed wanted to die for her crime.
Earlier this week, after Arias’ was interviewed post-conviction, her attorneys asked to be allowed to step down from the case, but a judge denied the request. Legal experts say the decision was not a surprising one because the attorneys have a conflict of interest with their own efforts to try and save her life while Arias has said she’d rather die.
The motion to withdraw will have no impact on the penalty phase of the trial given jurors are not privy to the filing.
For Arias to be sentenced to death, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. In the case of a deadlock, a new jury would be chosen for this phase only.
If Arias is given a sentence of death, she would be the fourth woman on death row in the state.
On May 21, 2013, Arias offered an allocution, during which she pleaded for a life sentence. Arias acknowledged that her plea for life was a reversal of remarks she made to a TV reporter shortly after her conviction, when she said she preferred the death penalty. “Each time I said that, I meant it, but I lacked perspective,” the former waitress said. “Until very recently, I could not imagine standing before you and asking you to give me life.” She changed her mind to avoid bringing more pain to members of her family, who were in the courtroom. At one point, she held up a white T-shirt with the word “survivor” written across it, telling the jurors that she would sell the clothing and donate all proceeds to victims of domestic abuse. She also said she would sell her hair to Locks of Love while in prison, and had already done so three times while in jail. Later she gave a series of interviews, explaining how she addressed the issue of life imprisonment. 
On May 23, 2013, there was a hung jury regarding whether Arias should get life in prison or the death penalty. Therefore, a mistrial was declared for just the sentencing phase. A retrial was scheduled to begin on July 18, 2013.