For more than four months, they listened to endless hours of testimony in the case of State of Arizona v. Jodi Arias. On Friday, the lawyers and witnesses finally stopped talking, and the case was turned over to the 12 jurors.
Now it is up to those dozen men and women — some in their 20s, others well into retirement age — to determine Arias’ level of guilt or innocence.
As to which side, defense or prosecution, did a more persuasive job, the jury may have already tipped its hand.
On days 28 and 29 of the trial, jurors submitted more than 100 questions to Arias that suggested they were skeptical of her testimony, delivered over two highly emotional weeks. Arizona is one of only three states that allow jurors to ask witnesses questions. Panel members submit their queries to the judge, who reads them to the witnesses.
In her testimony, Arias gave highly detailed descriptions of her sex life with Travis Alexander, the former boyfriend she killed. She claimed that he became increasingly demanding and abusive, and that she feared for her life. The prosecution argued that she murdered Alexander in a jealous rage.
One juror asked, “After all the lies you have told, why should we believe you now?”
Indeed, Arias changed her story several times. At first, she vehemently denied any involvement in the death of Alexander, whose body was discovered June 9, 2008, at his Mesa, Ariz., home. Alexander had been shot in the head and stabbed 27 times. His throat had been cut from ear to ear.
When DNA proved Arias had been there, she then claimed that she and Alexander had been attacked by two masked killers in a home invasion. She said she didn’t go to the police because she was still in fear of them.
It was not until years after his death that she admitted to killing Alexander in what she said was an act of self-defense.
“Lying isn’t typically something I just do,” Arias told the court. “The lies I’ve told in this case can be tied directly back to either protecting Travis’ reputation or my involvement in his death … because I was very ashamed.”
The defense team has attacked Alexander’s character in an attempt to show he was a sex-obsessed womanizer who masturbated to photos of little boys.
Although accusations of abuse and pedophilia can prove detrimental, the defense in this case has one problem: All such allegations came from one source — Arias, an admitted liar who is on trial for her life.
The prosecutors seemed to have an easier time. Although they did not have a murder weapon, they did have a motive, contending Arias was consumed with jealousy, and they had Arias’ confession to the slaying. For a first-degree murder charge to stick, however, jurors will have to conclude that she acted with premeditation.
The defense had to try to explain why someone acting in self-defense would stab her assailant multiple times, shoot him and cut his throat. That challenge was compounded by the fact that Arias claimed memory loss covering much of the day that Alexander was killed.
The prosecution, meanwhile, argued that she made attempts to clean up the crime scene and disposed of the handgun used in the shooting.
Other issues likely to come up in the jury room:
THE CUTS: There were cuts on Arias’ fingers. She said she nicked herself at work when she broke a glass. Prosecutors alleged those lacerations came while knifing Alexander. A blood-covered knife typically becomes slippery and slides through the hand of the person wielding it, often resulting in wounds.
THE FINGER: Arias had a broken and disfigured finger. She said it happened months prior to Alexander’s death and was a result of his physical abuse. Prosecutors allege she hurt herself during the killing, and that’s why the injury is not visible in photos shown to the jurors that were taken after she claimed the injury occurred.
GAS CANS: Arias took two gas cans with her and purchased a third when she went on her final road trip to visit Alexander. Arias testified the cans were a precautionary measure, so she would not run out of fuel while traveling through the desert. Prosecutors said she had them so she would not have to make fuel purchases that could tie her to the area. Arias said she returned one can to Walmart and received a cash refund without a receipt. Prosecutors said the exchange never occurred and presented a Walmart employee who testified there was no record of the transaction.
THE GUN: Prior to Alexander’s killing, a .25-caliber handgun was stolen from Arias’ grandparents’ home. Alexander was killed with a .25-caliber firearm, but Arias claimed it was Alexander’s own gun, despite the lack of evidence that he had ever owned a firearm.
What is bizarre about some of Arias’ claims is that they are irrelevant in the grand scheme. Once she admitted she had killed Alexander, why argue about some of these little things? In the case of her finger, Arias’ version of events was an attempt to show prior domestic abuse, but it might have served her better if she had played it differently. As for the gas can, what was the point in saying she’d returned one and then being contradicted by a witness?
It is all these details that Arias has woven into her story that could ultimately be her undoing.
Although the prosecution appears to be ahead, anything is possible. Prosecutors must prove their case, after all. Many trial watchers were convinced Casey Anthony would be found guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, but the jury held otherwise.
Nothing is certain until the moment the verdict is read, and in a death penalty case such as this, it could take a jury several days to weigh each factor.