PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors who will decide the fate of Jodi Arias will be allowed to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The judge is providing instructions to the jury in a packed courtroom, including some people who lined up at 2 a.m. Thursday to get a spot in the gallery. The prosecutor will later present closing arguments.
The jury will essentially have four choices: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal.
First-degree can lead to a death sentence and requires the jury to believe that it was a premeditated act. The basic standard for second-degree murder is that the defendant intentionally caused the death of another person. Manslaughter has a much lower standard.
Arias acknowledges she killed Travis Alexander but says it was self-defense.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
The prosecutor in Jodi Arias' murder trial was set to present closing arguments Thursday in a case that has captured headlines worldwide with lurid tales of sex, lies and a bloody killing.
Arias faces a potential death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of her one-time boyfriend in his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities say she planned the attack on Travis Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their tawdry affair. Arias initially denied any involvement in the killing then later blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed him in self-defense.
Her lies and peculiar behavior, meticulously creating an alibi to avoid suspicion within hours of Alexander's death, have been at the heart of the prosecution's case. Arias said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth at the time and didn't want to sully Alexander's name by revealing their raunchy sex and his violent episodes. Alexander was a Mormon, and portrayed himself to friends and family as a virgin and devout follower of the faith who was saving himself for marriage.
Arias says Alexander had grown physically abusive in the months before she killed him, once even choking her into unconsciousness, but she kept seeing him because she was in love.
However, there has been no evidence or testimony during the trial to corroborate her stories that Alexander was violent or owned a gun — the very gun she used to shoot him.
The defense has portrayed Alexander as a cheating womanizer who used Arias for sex and abused her physically and emotionally.
Prosecutors have depicted Arias as an obsessed ex-girlfriend who couldn't come to grips with the ending relationship and Alexander's desire to see other women.
"This is not a case of who done it," Prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors during opening statements in January. "The person who done it, the person who committed this killing sits in court today, the defendant, Jodi Ann Arias."
Martinez went on to describe the couple's steamy relationship and how Arias was clearly more into Alexander than he was into her, and said she had described him as one of the greatest blessings in her life.
"And this love, well, she rewarded that love for Travis Alexander by sticking a knife in his chest. And . he's a good man . And with regard to being a good man, well, she slit his throat as a reward for being a good man," Martinez told the jury.
"And in terms of these blessings," he continued, "well, she knocked the blessings out of him by putting a bullet in his head."
Martinez then described in detail the stabbing, Alexander's fight for his life, the slitting of his throat and the gunshot to his head.
"Mr. Alexander did not die calmly," Martinez told jurors in January.
Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the forehead and had his throat slit. Arias' palm print was found in blood at the scene, along with nude photos of her and the victim from the day of the killing.
She said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said she ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf and fired in self-defense but has no memory of stabbing him.
Arias' grandparents reported a .25-caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California home about a week before the killing — the same caliber used to shoot Alexander — but Arias said she didn't take it. Authorities believe she brought it with her to kill the victim.
Arias has acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi, even attending a memorial service for Alexander before her arrest in July 2008.
Brian Skoloff can be followed at https://twitter.com/bskoloff
- Crime & Justice
- Society & Culture