Crime, She Writes

Breaking down the evidence, one crime at a time

A Woman Scorned or Cold-Blooded Murder?

Accused killer Jodi Arias testifies in an effort to save her own life.

Police photo of defendant
Jodi Arias mug shot
The Jodi Arias death-penalty case taking place in a Phoenix, Arizona courtroom this week is heavy into its second inning as Arias takes the stand in her own defense. It's compelling testimony. But will it be enough?

Prosecutors allege that 32-year-old Jodi Arias stabbed and slashed on-and-off again boyfriend, Travis Alexander, nearly 30 times, slit his throat and then shot him in the face after he tried to end their relationship.

Before she took the stand, the evidence against Arias, which was presented by the prosecution the week before, seemed insurmountable. It includes Arias' bloody palm print and hair discovered at the scene.

But as the defense has its turn in presenting its case by having Arias testify, she appears to come across as a victim, at least at face value. Having Arias testify is a strategy to get jurors to relate to Arias as a victim of a controlling man instead of as a cold-blooded killer and a woman scorned.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

After first denying she was even at the scene of the crime and ultimately admitting to killing Alexander, her team of lawyers took a self-defense tack.

A problem, however, for that particular defense is that Arias had initially lied to detectives in voluntary statements when she called a detective as well as during two days of interviews at the police station with investigators. Her story changed several times until she ultimately admitted killing Alexander when she realized, the prosecution says, the evidence against her was strong.

Jurors will have to weigh whether Arias is telling the truth or lying on the stand as she did to investigators. Her demeanor in court has been soft and demure as she's described relationships with ex-boyfriends and her encounters with 30-year-old Alexander.

As soon as Jodi Arias was sworn in, defense attorney Kirk Nurmi cut to the chase. He asked Arias, "Did you kill Travis Alexander?"

"Yes," she replied. But she added a disclaimer: "The simple answer is that (Travis) attacked me and I defended myself."

Arias described on the stand that she and Alexander had met each other during a convention in Las Vegas and began dating. After five months, they split up as boyfriend and girlfriend but continued seeing each other for sex.

During their last sexual encounter, Arias took photos, using Alexander's camera, in the hours prior to his death. Then she killed him because, the defense says, she was afraid of him. Five days later, on June 9, 2008, Alexander's naked body was found in his shower.

A plus for the prosecution are death photos Arias was unaware of, until police informed her, that were taken following the murder when the camera continued snapping photos.

The camera used the day of the killing was discovered by investigators in Alexander's washing machine, along with his clothing. And while the camera was ruined during the wash cycle, the memory card inside the camera was undamaged and a police lab was able to recover the photos. The photos, time stamped on the day of the murder, were shown to jurors by prosecutor Juan Martinez.

A self-defense argument in a first-degree murder case isn't easy to win, especially since there's photo evidence, and even more difficult when the victim was stabbed multiple times during what the prosecution has called a "jealous rage." Also a part of the mounting evidence is testimony from friends of Alexander who told the court that Alexander confided that Arias was stalking him.

Another fact is that Alexander was about to go on vacation with another woman. Arias, the prosecution says, wasn't happy about that. In fact, she was so anxious that she drove from her home in Northern California to Arizona, where Alexander lived, to try and talk him out of it.

But after they spent the day together in Alexander's bedroom, the prosecution says, Arias realized that Alexander was still planning to vacation out of town with the other woman. The prosecution contends that Arias caught Alexander off guard in a vulnerable position in the shower and took his life.

It's a risky move when a defendant who faces the death penalty takes the stand on her own behalf. It's also risky because the descriptions Arias has presented in court about her relationship with Alexander have been graphic and ex-rated, which may not play well to a jury. It could go either way for the defendant. As the case develops in the courtroom, time will tell if the strategy worked and the jury believed her when they render their verdict.

Cathy Scott is a true crime author, journalist and blogger based in Las Vegas and San Diego.

more...

Subscribe to Crime, She Writes

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?