Today the final phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial began, the sentencing phase where the jury will decide whether Jodi Arias is sentenced to death or life. Today's proceedings began with Judge Stephens discussing matters of the law around the sentencing process. Kirk Nurmi's opening statement included the mention of 8 mitigating factors the jury should consider and weigh against the aggravating factors. He told the jury they would hear from two of Jodi Arias' friends (Darryl Brewer and Patty Womack) as well as Jodi Arias herself. Does this mean her family members are not testifying? That in itself seems shocking to me.
Kirk Nurmi wants the jury to know who Arias was prior to meeting Travis Alexander in 2006, and he will attempt to convince the jurors to spare her life by discussing these 8 mitigating factors. He reminded the jury that they had all stated during jury selection they could consider a life sentence if Arias was found guilty, even with aggravating factors - he stated this twice. He talked about "fairness and mercy".
Here are the 8 mitigating factors he referenced (in summary):
1) Jodi Arias was 27 at the time of the crime (she was born 7/9/1980, so she was MUCH closer to 28 than 27, but whatever!)
2) Jodi Arias has no prior criminal record
3) Jodi Arias was a "good friend" (just not to TRAVIS)
4) Jodi Arias had a lack of family support as a child and adult
5) Jodi Arias suffered from neglect and abuse as a child and adult
6) Jodi Arias tried to make the best out of her life
7) Jodi Arias tried to improve herself
8) Jodi Arias has artistic talents (can Martinez talk about the sale of this artwork for profit during the trial??)
Juan Martinez began his opening statement by telling jurors that Arias' age and the other "mitigating circumstances" were flawed. "There is no connection between her being 27 years old and the fact that she stuck a knife in Travis Alexander's chest", Martinez said. He talked about fairness, as Kirk Nurmi did during his opening statement. Martinez said fairness goes both ways, to Jodi Arias but also to the victim, Travis Alexander - the person who is no longer here.
This is just a quick update during the court lunch break, so my apologies if this feels thrown together. What I really wanted to talk about are the victim impact statements that we heard from Travis' younger brother Steven and younger sister Samantha. They were so full of emotion, so heartfelt - each of them struggled through the words, tears streaming down their faces. It becomes so clear this family has been profoundly effected by the loss of their brother.
Steven went first. I've noticed that Steven has appeared angry through most of the trial. He looks like he hates Jodi Arias, and I can't say I blame him. You can sense the toll this ordeal has taken on him - but to hear him talk about some of what this family has been through really drives home how large of a loss this will always be for each and every one of them. His voice was cracking, he held back tears as he described being asleep, after a 12 hour graveyard shift and he was awakened by his crying wife. She handed him the phone, it was Samantha. Samantha told him "Steven, Travis is dead". Steven told the jury how much he looked up to Travis. "I thought my brother was bulletproof", he said as he described Travis surviving through two motorcycle accidents as well as rolling a snowmobile. He thought he was unbreakable.
He went on to discuss the impact Travis' murder has had on him, particularly the nature of his murder. He has nightmares about somebody coming after him and his family with a knife, he has dreams about Travis curled up in that shower. He admitted that he is now afraid of the dark. In one of the most emotional moments, he said "I don't want to see my brother's murderer any more. I want this to be over". "I don't want to hear his name being dragged through the mud", he stated. Steven went on to tell the jury about the toll this has had on his personal and family life. The stress and anguish caused him to seek professional help, and he admitted to having to try various anti-depressants and anxiety medications. The stress and anxiety caused he and his wife to separate briefly.
For the first time, we've heard about all of the positive attributes Travis Alexander had. He had a big heart, he was funny - he wrote his life out on flashcards. Steven told jurors on the last flash card Travis wrote before he was killed, he wrote "call Steven". He never got that phone call. Steven then read that last entry from Travis' blog, his "Affirmation for 2008", where Travis wrote about his goals for 2008 and beyond. Sadly, 2008 was the last year of his life.
Samantha Alexander was next. She, too was very emotional, and fought through tears to deliver her family's message to the court and the jury. She said they were tortured over the loss of Travis. Travis was that person in their family who people went to when they needed to talk, if they needed inspiration - he seemingly was the glue that held the family together. Samantha talked about the disbelief she felt when she received the voicemail from her grandmother on June 10, 2008 - telling her to call immediately. She knew from the tone in her grandmother's voice that somebody had died. She never considered it could be Travis.
Their father passed away on Travis' 28th birthday, and shortly thereafter their mother passed away. Samantha said Travis got the family through these losses. She talked about the ill-effects Travis' death had on their grandmother, who was so extremely close to Travis and raised him. Her health went downhill after Travis was killed, and sadly she passed away before jury selection began in this case. "Travis was our strength, our beacon of hope, our motivation and our lives will never be the same", she said. Travis worked hard for everything he had, he took nothing for granted. His greatest attribute, Samantha said was his ability to make other people feel good about themselves.
Samantha last saw Travis in late May of 2008, when he visited her in Southern California and shared with her the introduction to the book he was writing called "Raising You". Juan Martinez displayed a photo of Travis and Samantha on the large courtroom screen that was taken during that trip. Samantha said she didn't want to take the photo because she was still in her pajamas. "I'm so glad I let him talk me into taking the picture", she sobbed. Samantha is a police officer in Riverside California. She told the jury that her brother's crime scene photos are among the worst she has seen in her 11 years in law enforcement. That's saying a lot. "Our minds are stained with the image of Travis' throat, slit from ear to ear", "our minds are stained with the image of Travis' body in that shower", Samantha said.
The Alexander family is large, there were 8 siblings - 4 boys and 4 girls. They haven't all been together as a family since Travis' murder. "It's too hard to see that empty chair where Travis should be". As Samantha told the jury how their family has been forever changed by their brother's murder, it was so clear their pain has not subsided with the passage of time. It's just as painful today for them. As Samantha finished and walked back to her seat in the gallery, she looked directly at Jodi Arias as she walked by the defense table. HLN's Jean Casarez reported that Samantha looked at Arias "with daggers in her eyes". She reportedly gave Jodi's mother Sandy Arias the same look before taking her seat with her family.
It was very emotional and powerful testimony. The jury is not supposed to allow emotion to effect their decision in sentencing, but I don't see how it can't. The Alexander kids all shared a difficult upbringing, yet that doesn't seem to have effected them in a negative way. They appear to be a very bonded and close family. Thank God they have each other and their faith to get them through this. I hope with the conclusion of this trial, they can find some peace and take comfort in knowing they will see Travis again when the time comes.
Who will the defense call to the stand first? How will they try to counter those emotion filled victim impact statements? I'm so glad the jury got to hear about the wonderful qualities Travis Alexander possessed after hearing 5 months of trashy sex talk.