(AZ CENTRAL) -- After a short morning of testimony and argument, it took
little more than an hour Wednesday for a Maricopa County Superior Court
jury to move Jodi Arias one step closer to the death penalty.
The jurors unanimously determined that Arias had killed
her lover, Travis Alexander, in an especially cruel manner, completing
the second, or aggravation, phase of the trial, and confirming that
Arias is eligible for the death penalty.
On Thursday, the jurors will hear from Alexander's friends
and family as they make "victim impact statements," and then, in what
is referred to as the mitigation phase, Arias' defense team will present
evidence and testimony that they hope will convince the jury to spare
Arias will address the jury on Monday, and the life-or-death decision could be in the jury's hands by the end of the day Monday.
So far, the jurors have been swift and decisive. On
Wednesday, when the judge polled them to determine if the aggravation
verdict was their true decision, to a person they answered loudly and
Arias, 32, has been on trial since January 2 for the June
2008 murder. Alexander, 30, was found dead in the shower of his Mesa
home, stabbed multiple times, shot in the head, with his throat slit. On
May 8, after less than three days of deliberation, the jury found her
guilty of premeditated murder. The jury was sent home without
explanation on May 9, and the trial did not reconvene until Wednesday.
Under Arizona law, there must be at least one "aggravating factor" from a statutory list, in this case, the determination
that the murder was "especially cruel." What that means is that the
victim, Alexander, suffered pain and/or mental anguish, and that Arias
was aware that her actions could cause that pain or anguish.
Generally, the cruelty aggravator is coupled with language
saying the murder was committed in a heinous or depraved manner, but
those components were precluded by the first judge who handled the case.
Arias' defense attorneys have challenged the aggravator because the
earlier judge's determination of probable cause for cruelty was based on
a different theory of how the murder took place.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez originally theorized that Arias
first shot Alexander, then stabbed him and slit his throat. Late last
year, just days before the jury was selected, Martinez told the court
that Arias had stabbed Alexander first, then slit his throat and
shooting him while he was dead or dying.
The current judge, Sherry Stephens, allowed the allegation
of cruelty to remain despite the changed facts of the case. And
although Arias' attorneys have petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court, the
justices have not even held a conference to determine whether to
consdier the matter.
Because the jurors determined that the murder was
especially cruel, the trial will move on to the mitigation stage, where
the defense will present evidence about Arias' background and family
that they hope will outweigh the aggravation.
Before lunch Wednesday, Martinez showed grisly autopsy
photos to remind the jurors of the nearly 30 stab wounds Alexander
suffered, the slit throat, the bullet wound to his forehead.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy testified
for the fourth time to talk about pain and suffering. He was the day's
And though an exact sequence of wounds was never
determined - and Arias claims not to remember - Martinez created an
elaborate and emotionally powerful narrative, postulating that Alexander
was seated in the shower reaching up to fend off a knife attack and
then staggered to the sink to look at himself in the mirror.
"He's still in pain," Martinez said as he showed a
photograph of the blood-spattered sink and mirror. "He feels the
shortness of breath ... he sees himself in the mirror. He sees the
"To see his face in the mirror: Was it contorted in pain? Did he scream?"
Then, Martinez said, Alexander must have tried to escape down a hallway, only to fall.
"The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was
the defendant with that blade to his throat," Martinez said. And he
averred that Alexander would have suffered grave mental anguish at the
Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott argued that the attack
was relatively brief, and that the adrenaline surge of a fight or flight
response would have numbed the pain.
Martinez countered by asking the courtroom to stay still
for two minutes, noting how long it seemed, especially if one were being