PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors on Wednesday tried to convince jurors that Jodi Arias should be eligible for the death penalty, saying Travis Alexander suffered tremendous pain as he fought for his life while Arias stabbed and slashed him nearly 30 times.
Alexander's family sobbed in the front row as prosecutor Juan Martinez took the jury through the killing one more time. He described how blood gushed from Alexander's chest, hands and throat as he stood at the sink in his master bathroom and looked into the mirror with Arias behind him.
"She made sure she killed him by stabbing him over and over and over again," Martinez said.
Jurors are considering whether the death penalty should be an option after convicting Arias last week of murdering her former boyfriend. It is a mini-trial of sorts, including opening statements by attorneys.
If the jury decides Alexander died in a cruel, heinous and depraved manner, the next phase will begin to determine whether Arias, 32, gets the death penalty or a life sentence.
Arias, wearing a silky, cream-colored blouse, held her hand on her face and appeared to fight back tears during opening statements. She spent the weekend on suicide watch before being transferred back to an all-female jail where she will remain until sentencing.
Arias' lawyer Kirk Nurmi gave a brief opening statement that said the state cannot prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense called no witnesses at the hearing.
Minutes after her first-degree murder conviction last Wednesday, Arias granted an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ, only adding to the circus-like environment surrounding the trial that has become a cable TV sensation with its graphic tales of sex, lies and violence.
"Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place," a tearful Arias said. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it."
However, Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It's up to the jury to recommend a sentence.
The first witness will be the medical examiner who performed the autopsy to explain to jurors how Alexander did not die calmly and fought for his life as evidenced by the numerous defensive wounds on his body. The lead detective on the case also will likely testify about the crime scene in an effort to show jurors just how much blood was spread around Alexander's bathroom and bedroom as he struggled to fend off the attack.
If jurors find Arias' crime deserves consideration of the death penalty, the trial will move into yet another — and final — phase. Prosecutors will call witnesses, including members of Alexander's family, aimed at convincing the panel she should face the ultimate punishment. Arias' attorneys will also call witnesses, likely members of her family, in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors so they give her life in prison.
If the panel finds no aggravating factors exist, jurors will be dismissed and the judge will determine whether Arias should spend the rest of her life in prison or be sentenced to 25 years with the possibility of release.
Arias acknowledged killing Alexander on June 4, 2008, at his suburban Phoenix home. She initially denied any involvement then later blamed masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense when the victim attacked her after a day of sex.
She stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, shot him in the forehead and slit his throat from ear to ear, leaving the motivational speaker and businessman nearly decapitated before she dragged his mutilated body into his shower where friends found him about five days later.
Prosecutors said Arias planned the killing in a jealous rage, as Alexander wanted to end their affair and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Testimony began in early January. The jury reached its verdict after about 15 hours of deliberations over four days. All 12 jurors, eight men and four women, unanimously agreed the killing was premeditated.
"This case is not over. There's a lot left and without question, victory still awaits the defense if they can save her life and keep her off death row," Phoenix defense lawyer Julio Laboy said. "It was such a difficult set of facts and circumstances for her defense to overcome, from her multiple lies to the crime scene to the physical evidence. ... If despite all of those things, they can save her life, they've still won."
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