Jodi Arias Jury Mulls 1st Degree Murder, Which Could Carry Death Sentence
Arias' attorneys argued for manslaughter, which would save her life.
May 6, 2013— -- Arizona jurors who begin their first full day of deliberations in the Jodi Arias murder trial today will consider that the most serious charge facing Arias could carry the death penalty.
The jurors also have the option of convicting Arias of second degree murder, manslaughter or acquitting her.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez repeatedly asked the jury during his closing statements Thursday and Friday to convict Arias of first degree murder, arguing that the killing was premeditated.
"The state is asking that you return a verdict of guilty, a verdict of first degree murder, not just premeditated murder, but also felony murder, for no other reason than it's your duty, and the facts and the law support it," Martinez said at the end of his statement Friday.
Arias had admitted to killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in June 2008, but claims it was in self-defense after Alexander flew into a violent rage during an argument. The defense has argued that Alexander had become increasingly abusive sexually, physically and emotionally.
Her attorney, Kirk Nurmi, argued last week that Arias may have "snapped," when she was fighting off Alexander, resulting in the gruesome killing that included a gunshot wound to the head, 27 stab wounds, and a slit throat.
He asked the jury to consider manslaughter instead of the murder charges if they were inclined to find Arias guilty of anything.
"It may be that Jodi Arias didn't know when to stop," Nurmi said Friday. "Couldn't it also be that after everything that she simply snapped? She may not know it, but she may very well have snapped. Out of control. Sudden heat of passion. We have been through so much and look what happened now, this instance of violence went too far."
If Arias is convicted of second degree murder, she will face up to 25 years in prison, and if convicted for manslaughter, seven to 21 yeras. She will be sentenced by Judge Sherry Stephens in 30 to 60 days.
But if the jury agrees with Martinez and rules that Arias is guilty of first-degree murder, the four month trial will continue in the Maricopa County courthouse, as the prosecution and defense begin arguing over aggravating and mitigating factors that could lead to a death sentence.
In that hearing, Martinez will need to prove an aggravating factor - that the killing was cruel, heinous, or depraved - in order to reach the death penalty phase of the case.
The same 12 jurors who are deciding Arias' guilty this week will then rule on whether an aggravating factor exists. If it does, the death penalty hearing will begin in front of the same jury.
During the death penalty phase, the defense and prosecution will both give opening statements, and then the jury will hear victim impact statements, typically given by the family members of the individual killed.
Alexander's siblings have been seated in the front row of court each day of the trial since it began.
Both sides can then present witnesses, and then Arias will have an opportunity to speak directly to the jury and give her allocution statement. After closing arguments, the same 12 jurors will deliberate about whether to give Arias the death penalty.
If the jury sentences Arias to death, she will be the third woman on Arizona's death row.