The trial of Jodi Arias has reached a dramatic ending in the Maricopa County Superior Court, with a jury ruling that the petite 32-year-old waitress is guilty of first-degree murder. In a case which grabbed the public’s attention from the outset, Arias was convicted of the brutal slaying of one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander, whose body was found decomposing in a shower five days after his death. Alexander had been shot in the forehead, stabbed and slashed almost 30 times, and nearly decapitated.
As details of the bloody murder and allegations of sexual deviancy were recounted, millions of spectators stayed riveted to live, online streaming and daily updates on cable TV and news channels. The trial made a celebrity of Arias, and as will become the case in more and more high-profile cases, social media created a jury of the masses. But the twelve members of the only jury that really mattered have decided that Arias must pay for her moments of apparent madness, and in a few weeks they will need to say whether she will spend the rest of her life in prison, or if she will be executed by the State of Arizona.
The woman at the centre of the drama has told Fox TV in Phoenix that she prefers to be sentenced to death for her crime. “Longevity runs in my family, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place,” Arias told KSAZ. “I believe death is the ultimate freedom and I’d rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it.” Arias is currently under constant suicide watch.
Since it began on January 2, the trial has contained all the ingredients of a spicy prime-time show. The court heard how Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias met at a conference in Las Vegas in September 2006, and began dating a few months later after he persuaded her to convert to Mormonism. Alexander, a 30-year-old businessman and motivational speaker, ended the relationship in late June 2007, but the couple maintained a physical relationship. Prosecutors said that Arias began stalking Alexander; she claimed that he was a sexual deviant who frequently abused her.
In May 2008, a .25 caliber handgun was reported stolen from Arias’ grandparents’ home, and a week later Alexander was shot with a weapon of the same caliber. Arias’ handprint was found in blood at the scene, along with photos taken with the victim on the day of the murder.
Arias originally claimed that Alexander had been killed by intruders, but she recanted that story almost two years later and attempted to provide evidence that the murder had been the actions of a frightened woman acting in self-defense. Alexander, she said, had come at her after she accidentally dropped his camera. However, the jury refused to believe her stories of Alexander’s increasingly violent tendencies, or his sexual desires for young boys. The fact that she had lied so consistently before the trial could not have helped her cause.
All of this was played out before cameras which streamed live pictures and audio to millions of armchair judges. Prosecutor Martinez also gained celebrity-status for his fiery and unapologetic courtroom antics, and one senses that in future high-profile trials, the performance of those involved may become as important as the truth.
The trial phase has ended with a verdict of guilty, and as they return in a few days to discuss what happens next, the jury members must decide if the actions which made Jodi Arias a star should also make her worthy of a premature and cold-blooded death. It will not be an easy decision; jurors in capital cases often report lingering nightmares about their onerous responsibility. If Arias is condemned to death, she will join only three other women on death row in a state that hasn’t executed a female prisoner since 1930. Statistically speaking, it is far more likely that she will spend the rest of her life in prison for a crime which shocked and enthralled a nation.