Jodi Arias Jury Begins Death Penalty Deliberations

Defense argues against death penalty, says Arias' life "still has value."

ByABC News
May 21, 2013, 1:35 PM

May 21, 2013 — -- "Two wrongs do not make a right," Jodi Arias' defense attorney said today as she asked the jury to spare Arias the death penalty for killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander.

"While what she did was absolutely horrible, you have convicted her of that," attorney Jennifer Willmott said. "Jodi took Travis away. She took him away from his family and from this world. But two wrongs do not make a right. Jodi can still contribute to this world. Her life still has value and you have a choice."

The jury began deliberating this evening whether Arias should be sentenced to death after Willmott made the closing statement for Arias in the death penalty phase of her murder trial.

Earlier this month, Arias, 32, was convicted of murdering Alexander in June 2008.

During the penalty phase, the burden was on the defense to prove mitigating factors, or aspects of Arias' life that proved she should be sentenced with leniency.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez has argued that the murder was especially cruel and warranted the death penalty, noting that Arias stabbed Alexander, slashed his throat and shot him in the head.

Today, Willmott asked the jury to keep in mind that Arias had no prior criminal record, was only 27 when she killed Alexander and, in all other areas of her life, was a good person.

She had stable relationship with ex-boyfriends with whom she remained friends after break-ups, she was a good friend, a talented artist and had every intention to spend her life behind bars trying to contribute to society if she were given the chance, Willmott said.

"People are far better than their worst deed, and Jodi Arias is a far better person than her very worst deed," Willmott said. "There is so much mitigation in this case. There are so many reasons that you can find to be merciful, that you on your own can find to call for life in prison instead of execution."

Martinez, in his closing argument, dismissed Willmott's claims about Arias's alleged mitigating factors. He said that the facts mentioned by the defense -- that Arias had artistic talent, was young and had a clean criminal background -- were not enough to mitigate the way she killed Alexander in 2008.

"Being an artist is a mitigating factor? What does that have to do with the crime?" he asked incredulously. "It shows [the defense's arguments] are not worth considering when you look at the horrific nature of the crime. Nothing they have presented is a mitigating circumstance. Are any of them sufficiently substantial to call for leniency when you take a look at what this individual did?"

"The only thing you can do, based on the mitigating circumstances, is to return a verdict of death," Martinez said.

In her rebuttal, Willmott again went through her arguments and told the jury that it must decide the answer to a single question.

"The simple question before you is: Do you kill her? That's the question," Willmott said. "She has done something very bad. She has. You have convicted her of that. You have told her she is guilty of first degree murder for that. But the question is now: Do you kill her?"

Before closing arguments began, Arias was given her last opportunity to speak directly to the jury.

Arias clicked through a photo slideshow, quoted Dickens and used props as she begged them to spare her life for her family's sake.

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Dressed in all black and wearing glasses, Arias told the jury that, though she previously told reporters and others that she would prefer the death penalty, she no longer felt that way.

"I have made statements that I would prefer death, but I lacked perspective," Arias told the jurors.

"To me, life in prison was the most unappealing outcome I could think of," she said. "I thought I'd rather die.

"But as I stand here now, I can't ask you to sentence me to death because of them," she added, pointing in the direction of her family.

"Either way, I'm going to spend rest of my life in prison," she said. "It will either be shortened or not. If it is shortened, the people that will be hurt the most will be my family. Please don't do that to them. I've already hurt them so much, and I want everyone's pain to stop."

Arias used most of her allocution statement to try and show the jury details of her life before the murder, clicking through a slideshow of photos from her childhood, family life and relationships with ex-boyfriends.

"When I was little, my mom took a lot of pictures of me. I was the first child," she said.

"Here I am with Bobby, in our dirty little house," she added. "We didn't have power or heat. In the winter we could see our breath. My parents didn't support this relationship. I'm reminded of that Charles Dickens quote, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'"

Arias attempted to convince the jury to send her to prison so she would have an opportunity to contribute to society. She said that since she has been under arrest, she has come up with ways to be useful in jail, such as donating her hair to Locks of Love and coming up with a plan for recycling at the local jail.

"If I'm allowed to live in prison, I will continue to donate for the rest of my life," Arias said, noting that she has donated her hair three times to the charity.

"If I get permission, I could start a recycling program for the huge loads of waste taken to the landfill," she added. "It could create new jobs and have a far-reaching impact on the planet."

Arias showed the jury her artwork, including paintings of Elvis and her niece, as part of her slideshow, and held up a t-shirt with the word "survivor" on it that she designed and is selling, noting that profits of the sale of the t-shirt are going to domestic violence victims.