The Jodi Arias case skidded to a halt on May 8 as the court declared a tearful Arias guilty of first-degree murder.
The verdict follows months of courtroom deliberation over whether Arias murdered her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in June 2008. Alexander, a resident of Mesa, Arizona, was found propped up in his shower by friends days after the incident. He suffered 27 stab wounds, a throat slit ear to ear and a bullet to the head.
Alexander was a Mormon motivational speaker and businessman. At the beginning of their courtship, Arias demonstrated her commitment to Alexander by being baptized into the Mormon faith. Though short, their time together was intensely personal. Arias has reported sexually-explicit relationship details over the course of the trial, with the defense claiming that her self-defense was carried out after male-provoked acts of aggressive sexual contact.
According to Arias, Alexander was physically hostile on the day of the attack, later losing his temper when she accidentally dropped his camera. She allegedly did what she believed was necessary in order to defend herself in the threatening situation. The prosecution suggested that her attempts to cover up the incident render her self-defense claim moot.
Arias’s trip from her home in Northern California to Mesa, Ariz., was a critical component to the prosecution’s case. Following post-break up correspondence with Alexander, Arias picked up a rental car in Redding, Calif. Driving to Alexander’s home first, she claimed that her final destination — Utah — was where she planned to meet up with her then-love interest. She packed gas cans to hide any trace of her Arizona destination along with a .25-caliber pistol that she had stolen from her grandparents.
Witnesses close to the couple have suggested that Arias is a jealous stalker who threatened Alexander repeatedly. As such, the prosecution relied heavily on the premeditated nature of Arias’s attack and her allegedly jealous behavior prior to the murder. The defense maintained that Arias was active on a Mormon dating site and thus not as interested in Alexander as the prosecution would make it seem. Therefore, they claimed, it must have been the boyfriend’s actions that compelled the woman to act with lethal force.
Arias claims self-defense, but prosecutors argue that she committed the act with exceptional cruelty. In Arizona, it is necessary that the prosecution prove exceptionally cruel intent in order to determine whether criminals should be served the death penalty. Given the gruesome nature of the crime and her own confession to the murder, self-defense was not a strong enough alibi to protect Arias from being declared guilty. The only chance of verdict reversal would be a re-trial.
It is the responsibility of the jury to decide whether or not Arias’ actions were intentionally cruel in order to proceed with the case. She is permitted to speak on her own behalf and the defense will come alongside her in attempting to sway the jury’s decision in her favor. Given the guilty verdict, it is unclear whether these pleas will prove successful.