Covering Jodi

Arias holding out hope jury will spare her life

She says she felt 'betrayed' by guilty verdict

Michael Kiefer | The Arizona Republic

May 22, 2013

On the evening after Jodi Arias' fate went to the jury, she seemed to hold out hope her life would be spared.

In a joint jailhouse interview Tuesday with The Arizona Republic, 12 News and NBC's "Today" show, Arias said she doesn't know if the jury will come back with life or death.

"Whatever they come back with, I will have to deal with it," she said. "I have no other choice.

"I don't know about the ultimate decision, but my attorneys think it will be quick."

So quick that she had already had her belongings moved out of her cell at the Estrella Jail late Tuesday. And a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said that Arias will likely be transported to the Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville immediately after the verdict, whether it is for life or for death.

After nearly five months, the circus at Maricopa County Superior Court came to an end.

Arias, 32, was convicted May 8 of first-degree murder for the brutal 2008 slaying of Travis Alexander.

"It felt like a huge sense of unreality," Arias said about hearing the guilty verdict. "I felt betrayed, actually, by the jury. I was hoping they would see things for what they are. I felt really awful for my family and what they were thinking."

Last week, the jury quickly found that the murder was committed in an especially cruel manner, opening Arias to a possible death sentence.

And then, when a mitigation witness failed to testify, claiming intimidation, and the judge denied a mistrial, Arias' attorneys pulled the plug on the phase of the trial during which mitigating evidence is presented to try to convince the jury to spare the defendant's life.

The lawyers apparently want to take their chances in appeals court.

Arias addressed the jurors Tuesday morning.

She told them that after the conviction, she wanted to die, but had since changed her mind.

"I can't, in good conscience, ask you to sentence me to death because of them," she said, pointing to her family.

She told them that she wanted to teach Spanish and literacy skills from behind bars, market T-shirts to benefit abuse survivors and to donate her hair to charities for cancer survivors.

She showed her artwork to the jury.

Then her attorney asked jurors to sentence her to life in prison. The prosecutor asked them to sentence her to death.

The jury left the courtroom and stayed until about 4 p.m. Jurors are supposed to be back today to resume deliberation, and the feeling around the courthouse is that they will not take long to reach a decision.

Arias, who has always liked media attention, agreed to meet with several media outlets after court, in what may turn out to be the last night she can do so before being whisked away to prison.

Ironically, she has not seen the media storm her case has created. Some of the new women on the jail pod tell her about it, but she has no access to the Internet, no TV other than the Weather Channel, and her only news comes from The Republic.

She would have no way of knowing that just a simple tweet that The Republic was going to conduct an interview with her would unleash literally hundreds of angry responses of why anyone would talk to the woman who some characterize as the most hated person in America.

The public claims she never apologized for the murder; for shooting Alexander, her lover, in the head; for stabbing him nearly 30 times, for slitting his throat and then leaving him dead in the shower of his home.

"I certainly did," Arias said, on the witness stand and in her Tuesday allocution. "I don't know if I could ever adequately apologize. It's just a word. I caused a really huge loss and it caused a lot of pain and I have to live with that. I wish I could take all of that pain."

When she turned 30, she said, she thought about how Alexander was 30 when she killed him. During court Tuesday, prosecutor Juan Martinez reminded the jury of that.

"He's still, today, 30 years old, because of her," Martinez said.

When asked Tuesday night if she ever dreamed of Alexander, she said that shortly after her arrest, while she was still in jail in California, she dreamed that he was there with her, lounging in "the tank." When she asked him what he was doing there, he said, "We all have to do time for what we've done."

She doesn't understand why she didn't remove herself from her relationship with Alexander.

"I want to reach back in time and shake myself," she said. "I feel like there was this hook and I couldn't unhook myself."

She was mortified when the nude photos of her were displayed in court, maybe even more mortified when the prosecution played the videotapes of her police interrogations.

She can't imagine ever being in another relationship.

"I feel gross," she said. "I feel dirty. I don't want a relationship with anyone. I want therapy."

And if she were dead?

"I've completely effed up my life and I think I would be doing everyone a favor," she said.

But if the jury comes back with a death penalty, she said, "I would feel shell-shocked again."

Then she would pursue appeals, she said.

And she had an answer for those who think that the only justice for Travis Alexander would be for Jodi Arias to be put to death.

"That's not justice," she said. "That's revenge."


May 9, 2013

On June 9, 2008, a young woman named Mimi Hall became concerned that she hadn't heard from her friend, Travis Alexander. Alexander, 30, was wooing Hall, though she claimed she was not that interested in him. Nonetheless, they were supposed to go together to Cancun, Mexico, on a trip that Alexander had won through his work at a company that sold prepaid legal insurance.

Hall went to Alexander's Mesa home and rang the bell. Inside, Alexander's small dog barked wildly, but no one came to the door. She called friends and returned to the house with them, and one of them obtained the security code for Alexander's garage door. His car and bicycle were both there.

When they opened the door into the laundry room, they were hit with the smell of death, though none of them recognized it. They crept through the house and up the stairs toward the bedrooms and heard music coming from one of them. When they knocked at the door, one of Alexander's roommates opened it. He had a key to Alexander's locked bedroom.

The room inside was a horror: A semicircle of blood had soaked the carpet where the bedroom opened onto a hall toward the master bathroom. The floor and walls and sink were spattered with blood, and Alexander lay curled on the floor of the shower stall, his throat slit, a bullet in his head, and with nearly 30 stab wounds in his torso, his back, his hands and feet. He had been dead for five days already, and his body was streaked with the blacks and blues and greens of decomposition.

The friends told police that Alexander had a stalker named Jodi Arias.

Then police found Alexander's camera in the washing machine of the townhouse and were able to recover photographs: Alexander and Arias in various sexual poses.

Arias was arrested a month later at her grandparents' home in Northern California and charged with first-degree murder.

Over four months of trial in Maricopa County Superior Court in downtown Phoenix, her case dominated headlines and TV tabloids across the country, a tale of sex and violence viewed more as reality TV than reality.

The general public took it as a morality play, canonizing Alexander, and villainizing Arias as an evil seductress.

But the reality was more sordid: a mutually obsessive and jealous sexual relationship that played out in text messages and e-mails. The whole world viewed the grisly crime-scene photographs and the pornographic snapshots the lovers took of each other in the hours before the murder. And they listened to them talk dirty in a recorded telephone conversation that crescendoed with real or imagined orgasms.

Yet despite the battling, those same text messages, the journals, even the phone-sex recording, showed a deep affection between the lovers, which makes the sudden explosion on June 4, 2008, the day Alexander was killed, even more unfathomable.

Arias and Alexander had officially been girlfriend and boyfriend, first meeting at a conference in 2006, and Alexander brought Arias into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, baptizing her himself; that same day, he took her to bed and sodomized her for the first time, Arias said. They'd had angry splits and sexy reconciliations. They would tell people they had split, but would still meet for late-night trysts and take vacations together.

Nonetheless, Alexander told his friends that Arias was a stalker. But then again, he also led his friends and family to believe that he was still a virgin, though, over the course of the trial, it was revealed that he was juggling more than one girlfriend. In fact, in the days after his body was found, a woman called police to say she thought that her husband might have killed Alexander out of jealousy; that woman has since committed suicide, and her husband was sent to prison on unrelated matters.

About a month after the murder, Mesa police contacted Arias at her grandparents' home in Yreka, Calif., near the Oregon border.

At first she denied involvement and expressed shock.

Then, when police confronted her with the naked photos Alexander had taken of her the day he was killed, she made up a story about armed intruders who burst in on them, killed Alexander and threatened to kill her, too. She even repeated that for TV interviews, and boasted, "No jury will convict me: Mark my words."

Police also knew that shortly before the murder, someone stole a .25-caliber handgun from the home of Arias' grandparents. Alexander was shot with a .25 caliber bullet. The gun has never been found.

And then, Arias confessed.

Prosecutor pulls a surprise

Over the next 4 1/2 years, Arias went through several lawyers and for a brief period last year tried to represent herself. Two lawyers assigned to the case resigned, and her final team became two former public defenders on contract with the county: Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott. During the pretrial period, they battled with Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez over what evidence came in and what stayed out. As late as November, they were still fighting over access to Alexander's computer.

Also during that time, the prosecution's story was that Arias first shot Alexander in the head, then stabbed him with a knife as he fought her off. Lastly, she slit his throat.

But in December, just days before they were to pick a jury, Martinez suddenly announced that Arias had in fact stabbed Alexander first, then slit his throat, and as he lay on the floor, dead or dying, shot him in the head to finish him off. Never mind that the probable cause to pursue the death penalty was based on the original theory.

"She killed him three times over," Martinez said. One of the stab wounds would have been fatal, the medical examiner opined, and possibly the gunshot wound as well. The slit throat would bring immediate unconsciousness and death within minutes, the examiner said.

Opening statements were Jan 2.

There were photos of the blood and gore, the spatter and stains, Alexander's lips curled away from his teeth in a macabre death grin, his head cut halfway off.

There, too, were the photographs of Arias posing nude on a bed with her newly dyed brown hair in pigtails; some of the photos of her private parts were as graphic as medical textbooks. In other photos, Alexander lounged naked on his bed.

The last three photos: a close-up of Alexander's face as he sat in the shower (that photo would later be blown up to show a vague silhouette of Arias holding a camera, but no gun or knife); a blurred photo of the ceiling as if the camera fired as it was dropped; and an accidental photograph showing Alexander bleeding on the floor of the hallway, his head and one arm slightly lifted, and Arias' leg and stockinged foot next to his head.

The three photographs had been taken within a span of one minute and 45 seconds.

Martinez rested his case in less than three weeks.

Arias took the stand during the first week of February — and stayed there until the middle of March, giving an unprecedented 18 days of testimony that raised the bar on the term "too much information."

She claimed that on several occasions, Alexander had struck her. She detailed their sex life, describing the role play and sodomy she claimed that she and Alexander would engage in, the sex toys they would use, the lubricants, the sex acts they would perform with candy. Some of those preferences were corroborated when the defense played the torrid phone-sex recording.

In February, the defense dropped a bomb when Arias claimed she had caught Alexander masturbating to a picture of a young boy. Martinez fought hard to discredit the allegation.

Arias also claimed she had intended to drive directly from California to Salt Lake City in June 2008 to see a man with whom she was considering a relationship, but that Alexander had persuaded her to detour to Mesa instead.

Martinez at one point prefaced a question with "When you drove down from Yreka to kill Mr. Alexander ..." Arias refused to answer it.

And when it came time to talk about the murder, Arias said that Alexander had tied her to the bed for sex, had bent her over the desk in anger and sodomized her. And then, while she was photographing him in the shower, she claimed Alexander became enraged when she dropped his camera and slammed her to the bathroom floor. She got out from under him, she said, ran to his walk-in closet to grab the gun she said he kept there. Then, when he charged at her, she said, the gun went off accidentally.

"I didn't mean to shoot," Arias said. "It went off."

The next thing she claimed to remember was driving near Hoover Dam with blood on her hands and throwing the gun into the desert before continuing to Salt Lake City where she pretended to act normal.

When it was Martinez's turn to cross-examine Arias, the two sparred for days, exchanging barbs. Martinez discounted everything in her story, including her inability to remember.

"Give me the factors," he shouted during one heated exchange. "I want to know about a specific circumstance. What factors influence you when you're having a memory problem?"

"Um, usually, when men like you are screaming at me or grilling me or someone like Travis is doing the same," Arias shot back.

But eventually, she broke down under Martinez's attacks.

While walking her through the crime-scene photos, Martinez asked her to put her finger on a spot where Alexander's body lay bloodied. She sobbed out loud.

"Ma'am, were you crying when you were shooting him?" he asked.

"I don't remember," Arias said, still crying.

"Were you crying when you were stabbing him?"

"I don't remember."

"How about when you cut his throat?"

"I don't know."

Jurors get their chance

The jury had more than 200 questions for Arias, many of which mirrored the prosecution's disbelief.

Willmott then called a psychologist to the stand to aver that Arias had post-traumatic stress disorder and that it was common for people in fight-or-flight situations to experience amnesia. She called an expert on domestic abuse to testify that Arias had been abused by Alexander. Martinez ridiculed them on the stand.

And so did the general public.

Because the trial played out in 24-hour coverage on cable TV, because it was streamed live and followed on social media, because it had to do with a handsome young couple, and because it concerned sex and lies and videotape and a dozen other media that hadn't yet been invented when that cliché was coined, it exploded onto the world.

People thousands of miles away became obsessed, siding overwhelmingly against Jodi Arias.

People traveled from across the country to stand in line early in the morning, hoping for one of a few dozen available seats in the courtroom.

They called up court officials, law enforcement and media reporters with theories and revelations they gleaned from the Internet or made up on their own.

They published the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of Arias' family.

They also went after the witnesses and the defense attorneys, phoning and e-mailing threats against their careers and even their lives.

Alyce LaViolette, an expert on domestic abuse, testified on Arias' behalf. Afterward, trial watchers posted her personal information on the Internet and through Twitter and Facebook.

More than a thousand angry people posted negative reviews of her best-selling books on and called organizations with which she had scheduled speaking engagements, urging that she be fired.

Willmott received death threats, including one in which a caller said, "You don't have to return my call, but I'm just telling you: If Jodi, if you get her off of the death penalty, we will find you, we know where you're at, we will kill you. I told Alyce the same thing, and we're tired, and we're sick and tired of you defending this person, and we will get you."

Juan Martinez emerged with an international following, even signing autographs for admirers who came from all over the country to watch him in action.

Among the Facebook posts are Photoshopped pictures of Martinez with angel wings or posed so that it looks as if he is standing next to Travis Alexander with an arm around his shoulder.

On the other hand, Nurmi's face was Photoshopped onto a whale, onto the body of a shirtless executioner standing next to Arias, who is laid out on an execution table, and even onto a crime-scene photo of Alexander lying dead in the shower.

Martinez's autograph-signing was just one of the reasons Nurmi cited in motions for mistrial. He also cited the change in the facts of the case, and an alleged attempt by a prosecution witness to contact a defense witness, and difficulties in getting Martinez to turn over evidence.

Three jurors were dismissed in the last weeks of the trial, one for talking out of turn, one for a lingering illness, and one for being charged with DUI and then telling police he was on the jury. It was hard not to imagine that each dismissal was strategic for one side or the other.

And Judge Sherry Stephens responded by holding countless hearings in chambers and sidebars at the bench, drowned out by a white-noise machine and sealed in the record to hide what was going on.

It seemed it would never end.

The last of the witnesses took the stand on May 1, in a hearing that began at 9 in the morning and didn't finish until 8:30 that evening, and the attorneys made their final closing arguments on May 3, four months and a day after the trial began.

On Wednesday, after fewer than three days of deliberation, the 12 jurors convicted Arias of first-degree murder.