Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder
PHOENIX - Jurors found Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder today, after deliberating about 15 hours over four days in the case of the 2008 fatal stabbing and shooting of her one-time boyfriend.
Arias, 32, was convicted in the death of Travis Alexander, a motivational speaker and salesman, at his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities said she planned the attack in a jealous rage after being rejected by the victim while he pursued other women.
Arias initially denied involvement and later blamed the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed Alexander in self-defense.
Jurors got the case Friday afternoon.
A crowd of spectators gathered outside the courthouse to hear the verdict, while TV crews, media trucks and reporters lined nearby streets. Family and friends of Alexander wore blue ribbons and wristbands with the words "Justice For Travis."
Margaret Fernandez, a 68-year-old retiree from Phoenix, had been following the case from home but decided to go to the courthouse Wednesday to get a glimpse of the lawyers involved, including the prosecutor she admires.
"I just want to make sure the justice system works," said Fernandez, who wants Arias to get life in prison. "I'm a mother. I have a son. I don't know what I would do in that situation."
The verdict will not necessarily bring an end to the trial. If the jury convicts Arias of first- or second-degree murder or manslaughter, a second phase of the trial will begin with the same panel deciding whether the killing was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner. The outcome of their decision on aggravating factors will affect how harsh Arias' sentence could be. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts.
Testimony began in early January, with Arias later spending 18 days on the witness stand. The trial quickly snowballed into a made-for-the-tabloids drama, garnering daily coverage from cable news networks, and spawning a virtual cottage industry for talk shows, legal experts and even Arias, who used her notoriety to sell artwork she made in jail.
Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the forehead and had his throat slit before Arias dragged his body into his shower. He was found by friends about five days later.
Arias said she recalled Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said Alexander came at her "like a linebacker," body-slamming her to the tile floor. She managed to wriggle free and ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf. She said she fired in self-defense but had no memory of stabbing him.
Arias acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi to avoid suspicion. She said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth at the time, but insisted at her trial she wasn't lying to jurors.
As deliberations dragged on, dozens of people gathered daily on the courthouse steps waiting for a verdict.
If Arias is convicted of first-degree murder, and the jury finds it involved the aggravating factors, she faces either life in prison or a death sentence. However, if jurors cannot reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge will sentence Arias to either the rest of her life in prison, or life with the possibility of release after 25 years.
Jurors also have the option of convicting Arias of second-degree murder if they believe she didn't premeditate the killing but still intentionally caused Alexander's death. If convicted of that charge, she could be sentenced to 10 to 22 years in prison.
Manslaughter is an option if the panel believes Arias didn't plan the killing in advance and the attack occurred in the heat of passion after "adequate" provocation from Alexander. A conviction on this charge carries a sentence of seven to 21 years in prison.
If they believe she killed Alexander in self-defense, Arias would be acquitted and would walk out jail after being incarcerated for more than four years.