In an Phoenix courtroom the aggravation phase began today to decide whether Travis Alexander's murder was conducted in an unusually cruel, heinous and depraved manner. After a 5-day delay in proceedings, prosecutor Juan Martinez began his opening statement after Judge Sherry Stephens instructed the jury in matters of the law.
Juan Martinez's opening statement was brief - but within a minute of beginning, Kirk Nurmi fired off a series of objections and there were several sidebars! Martinez went on to describe the mental anguish and physical pain Travis Alexander suffered as he was attacked in the shower stall of his home. Seated and without much room to move, he described the pain he likely suffered as Arias drove the knife deep into his heart. Martinez reminded jurors of Arias' alleged suicide attempt while she was being held in a California jail - Nurmi objected.
Martinez continued and described how Arias aborted her suicide attempt with the razor taken from a disposable razor blade because it "stung" too badly. He made comparisons to what Arias described as too painful to what Travis Alexander likely felt after the first knife blow was delivered. I counted 5 objections during Martinez's 5-10 minute opening statement, leading to several sidebars. Attorneys will normally allow one another to deliver their opening and closing statements with limited interruptions, but none of the normal court decorum seems to be followed in this trial!
Juan Martinez described the terror Travis felt, and argued it was Travis who would have went into fight or flight mode - not Jodi Arias as her defense team and "experts" argued at trial. Travis managed to escape the initial knife attack, his hands severely and deeply cut - and his chest bleeding internally and externally as he staggered out of the shower to the sink area. At the point where Travis is holding on to the sink, he was bleeding heavily into the sink - Juan Martinez described the anguish and terror he would have experienced as he watched his chest and hands bleeding as he looked into the mirror. He would have also seen the reflection of Jodi Arias standing behind him, and he may have witnessed her raising the knife to continue the attack where the cluster of wounds to his back were inflicted.
Martinez described Travis Alexander's desperate attempt to get away from his attacker - how he left the bathroom, his body pressed up against the hallway wall as he slid town and fell to the floor. This scenario is evidenced by the crime scene photos the jury has seen. When Travis could no longer walk or stand, he fell to the floor. Arias is following and there is no way for Travis to escape at this point. Travis was gravely wounded but still alive when he fell to the bedroom floor, and then Arias took the knife and cut his throat with such force it severed his windpipe. Martinez's last statement was to say "only death relieved his pain and suffering.
Kirk Nurmi opened by telling the jury "the question before you is not cruelty - the law recognizes 1st degree murders are cruel". He argued the question was if the state proved the death was especially cruel. Was the pain unusually great or significant is the question before you, he stated. His opening was brief, but he claimed that the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt the killing was done in an especially cruel manner. He made some vague references to Dr. Samuels and Dr. DeMartes testimony before he concluded his opening statement.
Medical examiner Dr. Kevin Horn was the state's only witness. Martinez and Dr. Horn discussed each of the injuries inflicted on Travis Alexander. Dr. Horn explained how severing nerve endings causes pain. The first injury to Travis Alexander is believed to be the deep stab wound to his chest. Dr. Horn described this would have been very painful, and the victim may have felt symptoms similar to a heart attack, he would have had trouble breathing because the same nerve endings are effected. They talked about the deep wound to the torso and the nerve endings involved. The stab wounds to his back impacted his ribs and spine - described as shallow, but painful.
The stab wounds to the back of Travis' head were so deep they impacted his skull and caused "divots" marks in the skull. Dr. Horn described the wounds to each of Travis' hands, calling them defensive wounds - some of them were very deep and would have been painful. Martinez asked Dr. Horn if he believed Travis Alexander was alive through the entire attack, until the point of having his throat slashed. "Yes", Dr. Horn answered. Dr. Horn described that it takes a good deal of force to sever a person's windpipe, and the knife wound to his neck severed his windpipe, his jugular and carotid artery. The medical examiner testified after his throat had been slashed, he would've died fairly rapidly after that mortal wound was inflicted. Travis likely was dead when he was shot in the head.
In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the testimony was when Juan Martinez had the courtroom sit in silence for a full 2 minutes - to demonstrate how long 2 minutes can feel like if a person is under constant attack. The silence in that courtroom was eerie.
Jennifer Willmott cross examined Dr. Horn - she talked to him about the effects adrenaline has on the pain a person feels. She tried to argue that the adrenaline running through Travis Alexander's body would have effected his ability to feel the pain being inflicted on him. The defense also fell back on the old which came first theory - as they reminded the jury that Detective Flores originally testified that Travis Alexander was shot first, and if the jury believed that was a possible scenario, any pain inflicted after that would have been minimal.
The jury only had two questions for Dr. Horn (I'm paraphrasing):
Question: Did you testify previously that Travis had 3 rapidly fatal wounds?
Answer: Yes, the stab wound to the heart, the throat wound and the gunshot wound.
Question: Which was more likely of the throat wound, "scalloping" or multiple wounds to the neck?
Answer: I really could not tell due to the decomposition.
During Juan Martinez's closing argument, he told the jury "the defendant made sure that Travis Alexander did not go peacefully into the night". And she made sure he went nude". He argued that Arias killed him with a knife, in his own home - a place he was supposed to be safe. She got him in a vulnerable seated position, with water running down his face and he was completely unaware of what was about to happen. He further argued that she stabbed him in the chest, knowing the area contained his heart. "We don't know if he saw it coming, but we know he felt it by the defensive wounds to his hands", Martinez told the jury this in itself caused extreme emotional anguish, with or without the effects of adrenaline - it was painful.
Martinez pondered what Travis Alexander was thinking about, having been stabbed and having seen himself bleeding in that mirror. "Was he thinking about his family, his grandmother - who received 20 irises from the defendant", Martinez asked. This prompted another objection from Kirk Nurmi. At one point, Nurmi was objecting to nearly each sentence out of Juan Martinez's mouth. The defense clearly does not want the jury to think about what Travis was thinking as he tried to understand what was happening to him, as he realized she was going to kill him.
Martinez used the words terror, agony, anguish and pain to describe the feelings and emotions Travis likely felt as he was being attacked by the person he had just been intimate with hours earlier. Throughout Martinez's closing argument, members of the Alexander family struggled to contain their emotions as Arias bowed her head and held a tissue, her nose turned red but I didn't see any real tears on her face. Martinez described the last thing Travis saw before he lost consciousness and died - Jodi Arias, coming towards his throat with that knife. He referred the jury to their instructions and told them that adrenaline or no adrenaline - Travis endured enough suffering to last 2 lifetimes.
Kirk Nurmi began his closing by instructing the jury that they cannot let their emotions impact their decision. "Has the state given you proof beyond a reasonable doubt", he asked. "You must be firmly convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, and Jodi Arias must be given the benefit of the doubt if you are unsure". He argued the state has now changed their theory about the timeline around Travis' death, arguing now the attack lasted for 2 minutes while arguing 62 seconds at trial. He also referred back to the conflicting initial sequence of wounds by Detective Flores, based on his conversation with Dr. Horn in the days following the murder.
Kirk Nurmi tried to further convince the jury that adrenaline stops the body from feeling pain! They don't have much to work with, granted - but when he began to recall the testimony and diagnosis from Dr. Janeen DeMarte and Jodi's borderline personality disorder as something that prevented her from realizing the effects of her actions, that went to show how desperate this defense team has become. It's exceedingly difficult to argue that Travis Alexander's death was not especially cruel, heinous and depraved - given the number of wounds inflicted on him and the forensic evidence that proves he was alive through most of the attack on him that night. We can only pray that Travis did not feel the gunshot to his face.
Judge Stephens gave the jury some final instructions and they went back to the jury room to begin their deliberations. The entire proceeding went much faster than I was anticipating, despite a flurry of defense objections and sidebars. The Judge sent the jury out of the room twice following such objections, once for 10 minutes and once for 2 minutes.
This is in the hands of the jury once again folks. We are once again on verdict watch. How long do you think it will take for them to decide on the aggravating circumstance? I don't think it will take very long at all. Update to follow! Have a great day -