30 year old Travis Alexander was a successful employee of Pre Paid Legal and a Mormon. A murder victim's religious beliefs rarely makes headlines or into the court minutes - however, much has been made about Alexander's affiliation with the Mormon church in what has become a salacious, made-for-TV trial. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one play out on Lifetime Movie Network soon.
Back to this trial. The prosecution rested their case several weeks ago, after calling several witnesses to the stand and presenting a mountain of physical and circumstantial evidence pointing at one person and one person alone - Jodi Arias. The defense admitting Arias killed Alexander during their opening statement, but alleged she did so in self defense - claiming Jodi Arias had to make a decision to either kill or be killed. If you've been following the case, you know most of the evidence that's been presented.
The defense stunned the courtroom last week by calling defendant Jodi Arias to the stand - following an afternoon lunch break, the jurors returned to the courtroom to see Arias already on the witness stand. I'm amazed at the transformation of Jodi Arias and how she now appears on the witness stand. In stark contrast to the long platinum blond hair she sports in several photos on her MySpace page, Arias now has dark brown hair - with bangs neatly brushed to one side and wearing eye glasses. She is dressed very conservatively in loose fitting clothes and either a high necked shirt, or blouses buttoned neatly and showing little skin. She has little or no makeup on, and although she smiles at jurors at times, I haven't seen the wide toothy grins seen in the personal (pre-arrest) photos we've been shown.
Arias has had nearly 5 years to prepare herself for her day in court. Although defense attorney Jennifer Willmott wasn't the original attorney assigned to the Arias case, I can't help but think she's had a lot to do with Arias's new "courtroom look". They are making their case by painting the true victim as a womanizer, a cad, somebody who used Jodi Arias for his own sexual gratification while keeping his "virginal" Mormon facade in tact. They would have us believe Alexander was the aggressor in the relationship from the moment he walked up and introduced himself to her at the Rainforest Cafe.
Arias has had complete control of the courtroom since she took the stand last Monday. We've heard about her childhood and how her mother kept a wooden kitchen spoon in her purse, used to hit Jodi when she became too hard to handle. We've heard about every previous relationship Arias has had, and how those men wronged her. Apparently, since those men are still breathing, we are supposed to believe Travis Alexander must've done something to deserve being stabbed 27+ times, having his throat slit and being shot in the face. After all, the defense has brought forth testimony about how Arias was able to end previous relationships in a non-lethal way.
We haven't yet heard about the fatal encounter on June 4, 2008. This is what this trial is all about, not about the people who "abused" Arias in the past or how she ended those relationships. It comes down to that moment in time. All I can say is "thank God" for the recovery of those deleted photos, and thank Jodi Arias for being a media hound and for giving those jailhouse interviews! Thanks to the photos, law enforcement knew when Alexander was killed (his body was not discovered for nearly 5 days) and we had photographic evidence that Arias was there on June 4, 2008.
Thanks to her media interviews, the jury has seen Jodi Arias lie and lie and then lie some more. They have heard her story change, they've witnessed how easily the lies come to her and how her soft spoken demeanor rarely changed, except when corned during interrogations with Detective Esteban Flores. They've seen and heard it. If not for these things, the jury may have a hard time believing that the Jodi Arias we are seeing on the witness stand would have it in her to brutally kill another person in the manner in which he was killed. She may have gotten away with all together if she hadn't left the bloody palm print, and if she had simply taken the camera or the memory card with her.
Alexander's friends had no qualms that Arias had it in her to do this. A jury may have had doubts, if not for the above mentioned evidence. Next week the defense should approach the June 4, 2008 encounter. While I try to keep an open mind, I don't know if anything could convince me that Arias was in any real danger when she stabbed Travis Alexander that first time. Short of him pointing a gun at her, I don't see how it could've been necessary to stab him so many times to neutralize this perceived threat. And then there's the matter of the gun. Although the weapons were never recovered, Arias has admitted to killing Travis - will she concede that she took the "stolen" gun from her grandparents house? Will they allege that Arias was so frightened of Travis Alexander she felt she needed protection? They can't have it both ways. She either a) brought the gun for protection on her 2834 mile road trip or b) brought the gun for protection against Travis Alexander. Which brings me back to my point - if she was so scared of him, why did she stop in Mesa?
She didn't have to - she had plans to meet up with Ryan Burns in Utah on that trip. I'll bet Burns is glad he didn't have the chance to get cozy with this woman!
In any event, Arias may be drawing a little sympathy for the way she has portrayed the way Travis Alexander treated her. However, she has yet to answer any of the tough questions. Those will come when Prosecutor Juan Martinez cross examines her. I'm waiting to hear her story - she'll have to do a little better than the "he lunged at me" story. A fully dressed woman, with access to the exit doors could've easily retreated to safety without doing what she did. The fact that she had these weapons with her to begin with is highly suspect and points to some premeditation. Or did she always pack a gun and knife in her purse on road trips? So for now, Jodi Arias is having her say but how will she hold up when pressed on the difficult questions? How much weight will the jury give to the tales from a woman who they have seen lie on tape over and over again?
Even if you believe Jodi Arias was used for sex by Travis Alexander and you feel he treated her poorly - he did not deserve to die for those actions. She had the choice to stop in Mesa, or not to stop in Mesa. All we have is her word about who initiated the sexual acts between these two. Not to sound cold or uncaring, but I just don't believe Arias needed much convincing to engage in these acts. After all - she had previous experience with men, and those men described engaging in similar acts with Jodi Arias. So why were her encounters with Travis Alexander so different then those? If the defense is trying to garner sympathy for Jodi Arias and show Travis Alexander mistreated her, they may have missed their mark altogether.
After listening to her testimony last week, I'm even more convinced she killed Travis because she was angry with him. She was hurt and angry that he gave her the attention she craved when they were engaging in sexual acts, but ignored her when they were in public or with large groups of friends. He downplayed their relationship and didn't want her hanging on him in front of his Mormon friends. Is that really such a shocking thing? In any event - the demure, soft spoken, conservative Jodi Arias we see today on that witness stand is certainly not the Jodi Arias that Travis Alexander's friends saw. They were right to be leery of their friend seeing this woman. Sometimes you have to trust your gut feelings, and I believe although he was still engaging in sex with Arias, he was trying to end their relationship. She knew it was nearly over, and she killed him before he could take a trip to Cancun with Marie "Mimi" Hall, a Mormon woman he had gone on several dates with and was interested in. She was unaware that Hall was not romantically interested in him.
I think we've yet to see the real Jodi Arias in the courtroom.