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Monday, 29 September 2014

Jodi Arias Sentencing Retrial Begins


On June 4, 2008, the troubled and obsessive love affair between an aspiring photographer named Jodi Arias and a salesman and motivational speaker named Travis Alexander ended in murder.


Arias, then 28, shot Alexander, 30, in the head, stabbed him nearly 30 times and slit his throat. Arias was convicted of the murder in May 2013 in a TV trial that gripped the nation. In the end, the jury could not agree whether Arias should be sentenced to death or to life in prison.

Her retrial starts Monday and is expected to last until mid-December. At least 300 potential jurors will descend on the Maricopa County Superior Court Complex in Phoenix and fill out questionnaires as to whether they have the time and the mettle to make that life-or-death decision.

If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option and a judge will sentence Arias to spend her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.

Arias' five-month trial began in January 2013 and was broadcast live, providing endless cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and a defendant who described her life story in intimate detail over 18 days on the witness stand.

5 things to expect in the sentencing retrial

1. Jury selection begins Monday. Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens has asked for a first-day pool of 300 prospective jurors, who will fill out questionnaires about their beliefs and availability. The lawyers will cull those questionnaires to decide who comes back for in-person questioning, known as voir dire, starting Oct. 6. Jury selection is expected to last about three weeks.

2. The only thing the jury will decide is whether Arias deserves the death penalty or life in prison. She has already been found guilty of first-degree murder by the first jury, which also determined that the murder was committed in an excessively cruel manner. Under state statute, the cruelty manner of the murder is an aggravating factor that qualifies Arias for death.

3. Jodi Arias is not representing herself in her second trial, although she considered it in an attempt to get Kirk Nurmi, the lead defense attorney, off the case.

4. Some of the expert witnesses from the first trial have refused to return. Other potential witnesses for Arias have decided it is not worth the threat to their psyche and livelihood.

5. There will be no live streaming of this trial and no video coverage at all until the trial is over, ostensibly to avoid the reality-TV circus atmosphere of the first trial. Stephens allowed TV cameras, but only to record the proceedings. No video or audio can be aired until the trial is over.

5 key moments of the first trial

1. Arias claimed Alexander abused her physically and emotionally. Right before the murder, she was photographing him in the shower. She said that Alexander slammed her to the floor after she dropped his expensive new camera and that she shot him in the head when he charged her a second time. She claimed she didn't remember stabbing him or cutting his throat.

2. Arias spent 19 days on the witness stand testifying, detailing her sex life with Alexander in graphic detail. At one point, her defense attorneys played an X-rated recorded phone call.

3. The trial became a circus, both online and in real time. Alexander's family acquired an entourage that packed the seats around them. Other trial junkies stood in line every morning to vie for the limited seats. Because the trial was streamed live online and broadcast over some TV networks, people from as far away as Europe began to weigh in on websites, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites.

4. Prosecutor Juan Martinez became a cult figure. The defense alleged misconduct against him because, among other reasons, he was seen signing autographs outside the courthouse. Defense attorneys Jennifer Willmott and Nurmi were mostly villainized and even received death threats. Some witnesses refused to testify out of fear.

5. The trial was marked by constant objections from both sides. Stephens had difficulty containing the scrappy attorneys, the media, the crowded courtroom and the outspoken witnesses, Arias included.
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