Jury deliberations have begun in lengthy murder trial that has garnered international attention.
On its face, the Jodi Arias murder trial would appear to be a run-of-the-mill domestic murder case, involving a couple whose romance went sour and ended with Arias, 32, admittedly shooting ex-lover Travis Alexander, 30, to death. Neither Arias nor Alexander is a celebrity or multimillionaire.
Prosecutors say the killing was cold-blooded murder and Arias should be sentenced to death. Arias and her lawyers contend it was the culmination of a relationship in which she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by Alexander. After the nearly five-month trial, 12 members of the jury began deliberations Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
In case you’ve missed one of the most unusual, lengthy and salacious court proceedings in recent memory, here are five things to bring you up to speed:
1. National and international intrigue. Alexander’s decomposing body was found in the shower of his Mesa, Ariz., home in June 2008 with nearly 30 stab wounds, a gunshot wound to the head and a slit throat. The dueling theories of the events that led to the murder have drawn the attention of the nation and even the world. Some devotees sat in the courtroom every day since the trial started Jan. 2, and the Maricopa County courthouse has become the scene of a media circus that attracts gawkers and tourists. Thousands followed the trial on TV and via live computer feeds.
According to court testimony, Alexander told his friends that Arias was a stalker, among other less-kind names, but he still invited her to his house for sex and asked her to accompany him on vacations. At one point early in the trial, jurors heard an hour-long audio tape in which Arias and Alexander talked about their travels, their many trysts and then indulged in loud and lurid phone sex. Alexander said he wanted to zip-tie her to a tree and commit a deviant sex act on her. Later in the hearing, Arias said she was searching for a suitable spot in the forest near her grandparents’ northern California home to act out that fantasy, and she said that Alexander wanted her to dress as Little Red Riding Hood.
2. Arias spends nearly three weeks on the witness stand. Legal experts say the 19 days Arias spent on the witness stand is unprecedented, especially considering that defendants usually do not testify at all. Arizona is one of a handful of states in which jurors in criminal trials are allowed to ask questions of trial witnesses. By the time Arias stepped down from the stand on Feb. 4, she had answered more than 200 questions from the jury read to her by Judge Sherry Stephens.
3. Arias has demonstrated selective memory. Arias has confessed to fatally shooting Alexander, but she has repeatedly said she doesn’t remember much after that. On the day of the murder in June 2008, Arias has said that Alexander slammed her to the floor after she dropped his camera, that she shot him by accident with his own gun, that she next found herself driving barefoot through the desert, with the sun in her eyes, before she stopped to throw the gun into the weeds and wash the blood off her hands with bottled water from the trunk of her rental car. But she had no recall of the 27 times Alexander was stabbed and his throat slit other than “a vague memory of putting a knife in the dishwasher.” She didn’t remember dragging Alexander’s body into the shower, as prosecutors allege, where he was found five days later.
4. Case wrought with odd occurrences. Arias has exhibited odd behavior from her taped interrogation by police during which she stood on her head when left alone to her cold, matter-of-fact telling of the abuse she said she endured at the hands of Alexander. During court proceedings in late March, someone’s cellphone sounded with the hee-haw of a braying jackass as its ring tone. That same day, a spectator in the gallery vomited loudly and copiously in front of her seat and again as she ran toward the hallway. Three jurors were dismissed during the trial; the first for making prejudicial comments in front of other jurors, the other two for undisclosed reasons. In mid-March it was revealed that Alexander’s younger brother, Dennis, had been arrested, jailed, charged and convicted of battery and shoplifting in 2002 in California while posing as Travis Alexander. In April, it was discovered that Arias had begun selling drawings from jail on a website operated by a third party to help pay for family expenses while attending the trial.
5. Jury can consider several options. There is no real question of whether Arias killed Alexander.The issue is whether Arias is guilty of second-degree murder, crime of passion, for which she would face a sentence of 10 to 22 years in prison, or first-degree murder, in which case the jury would have to choose between life and death. Two less likely options are acquittal, meaning the jury believed Arias’ claims of self defense, or a mistrial, indicating a majority jurors could not agree on any of the other charges.
Contributing: The Arizona Republic