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Jodi Arias Sentencing Re Trial - Life or Death?

It's hard to believe it's been more than 7 months since the Jodi Arias murder trial ended at the sentencing phase with a mistrial.  Although the jury found her guilty of first degree murder for killing Travis Alexander, they were unable to agree on whether she should be sentenced to life or death.  The jury's non-decision was despite the fact that Arias' defense team put on virtually no mitigation case, they never called the few witnesses they had lined up to testify on her behalf.  It seems like a distant memory, the speculation on why witnesses bailed on the defense with claims of threats against them from the public and the prosecutor.  I still don't understand why Jodi Arias' family members were not on the defense witness list, but you better believe there has to be a reason they weren't.

This trial had so many twists, turns, outrageous claims and outright perjury. Remember those magazines, passed off by Arias to a friend during a jailhouse visit?  Remember the speculation around whether Matt McCartney would be a surprise witness for the state? What about the fake/falsified letters reportedly written to Arias by Travis Alexander that the defense tried to have admitted into evidence and that Sandy Arias tried to sell to the National Enquirer? I'd love to know what happened to the gun and knife used during the murder.  Although it seems the jury didn't buy Arias' claims that the gun was in fact Travis', would it make a difference if the State could prove that Arias staged the Yreka break-in and brought those weapons with her?

As 2014 nears, Jodi Arias has a court hearing scheduled for January 3rd. We have not heard a whole lot of news coming out of Maricopa County about the retrial lately, with the exception of Judge Sherry Stephens finally handing down some key rulings on long standing motions.  The biggies - the defense's change of venue motion was denied,  the defense's request to sequester the jury was denied, the defense's request to compel the jurors to disclose Twitter accounts and/or handles was denied but the request to ban live television coverage was granted.  There will be no live coverage, which I see as a huge disappointment because I wanted to witness the conclusion of this trial but I think it's a non-win issue for Jodi Arias.  It doesn't help or hurt her chances in my opinion.  In fact, I think she will miss the reporters and television crews all clamoring over her and seeking interviews. Despite her attorney's claims, she seems to bask in the limelight and her sick celebrity.  People who truly want to keep a low profile don't communicate to the public using a third party via Twitter.

It has been said that the sentencing re-trial is supposed to get under way in earnest in mid February.  Whether that means jury selection will begin in mid February or the actual trial will start has not been disclosed. One legal pundit believes the new jury will have a difficult time sentencing Jodi Arias to death.  CBS legal analyst Rikki Klieman told Crimesider "the likelihood is that a jury is not going to come to a unanimous verdict for someone like Jodi Arias, who is clearly disturbed".  Clearly disturbed?  I agree that any living and breathing person who stabs another human being 29 times before slicing their throat and shooting them in the face IS clearly disturbed.  No argument there, but I don't believe Jodi Arias is the kind of disturbed that mitigates the extreme cruelty and savage nature of her actions on June 4, 2008 and the deceptive behavior that followed the murder of Travis.  If there is one single factor that may be in Arias' favor going in to this penalty phase re-trial, it's the simple fact that she's a female.  Jury's seem to have a difficult time sentencing a woman to death - much more so than if the exact same crime were committed by a man.

That in itself is disturbing.  Gender should not play into the punishment and sentencing.  The facts surrounding this murder are so horrific.  The relentless attack on an unarmed, defenseless and naked man in his own shower by a woman who he had been intimate with only hours before - coupled with the intentional and orchestrated acts that followed in an attempt to create the perfect alibi should be enough for any jury to come to a unanimous decision. I understand that people's personal opinions on the death penalty are a variable that is impossible to predict. There are those people who could never vote for death, regardless of how bad the offense was or who the defendant is. Those people should not be death qualified jurors on any murder case. 

Back in May when the mistrial was declared, Arias' defense requested the re trial be pushed back to 2014 because of conflicts in their schedules. I really don't know why I'm so surprised that it ended up taking so long to get Arias back in the courtroom to face her punishment. When I first started writing about this case and trial, I was shocked by the violent nature of the murder of Travis and I was surprised at the person accused of committing it.  Jodi Arias doesn't look like a murderer, let's face it.  But when the facts began to come to light and the story unfolded, I was shocked by another factor altogether.  I was struck by the lengths Jodi Arias was willing to go to in an attempt to minimize her responsibility and the testimony she gave in open court while under oath. After watching her testify for 18+ days straight, it seemed clear to me that Arias was lying through her teeth to those jurors.  Her stories of physical abuse at the hands of Travis were simply not believable. If Travis was a violent guy with a temper as she described, surely there would be at least one other person on the face of this Earth that would corroborate these claims.  But when she crossed the line into Travis being interested in little boys, and that photograph she "caught him" with - it was outright laughable. With that one lie, she lost any credibility she may have had because it was just so outrageous - her own relatives were shown looking uncomfortable when the court cameras panned to them.

If a woman is willing to tell that kind of a lie, is there truly anything she wouldn't say? It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. All I can say is that I hope the jury reaches a decision this time. This was a brutal horrible murder.  And while the defense rattles off their mitigating factors about Jodi's age at the time of the crime, her artistic promise and her troubled upbringing, I hope the jury will remember Travis' age at the time of his death, the difference he made in the lives of countless people and how he made something of himself in spite of HIS troubled upbringing.  He was only 30 years old.  He will never get the chance to realize his full potential in life.  By the way, I'm not so sure Jodi's upbringing looked as troubled as her defense would like us to believe.  Their description of Jodi not having the support of her parents didn't really jive with all of those smiling family photos Jodi was showing on the projector during her presentation to the jury!  Remember all of those family vacation photos, holidays and birthdays?  I think the only thing "troubled" about Jodi Arias' upbringing was that her parents didn't approve of her behavior as an adolescent and teenager. It seems to me they were cracking down on her, which is much different than abuse!

Let's just hope the jury remembers that Travis Alexander was a young man with his whole life ahead of him - a life that was ended because of the jealousy and rage of Jodi Arias. Travis was a guy who seemingly beat the odds, he was driven and determined and he was succeeding in his life. But the defense made sure that the world knew that Travis Alexander wasn't perfect and that he engaged in pre-marital sex. They trashed him every chance they got, painting him as violent and a sexual predator.  I find it very telling that Jodi was the only person who saw this side of him.  

If anybody out there knows what the January 3, 2014 hearing is all about, please let me know!  The last "minute entry" associated with this case was on December 5, 2013:

The Court has considered the Motion to Reconsider Change of Venue and Request for Individualized Voir Dire filed December 1, 2013. Defendant requests the Court reconsider its ruling on two motions because the defendant’s former cellmate granted media interviews in 
which she spoke poorly of the defendant, claiming the defendant was dangerous to others even though she is behind bars. In addition, the cellmate stated the defendant wanted revenge against the prosecutor, the investigating detective and a victim family member. Defendant argues that 

this recent pretrial publicity will prevent her from receiving a fair trial in Maricopa County.

The Court finds this new information does not change its rulings on the defendant’s motion for change of venue or motion for individual voir dire. See court minute entries dated November 13, 2013 and November 14, 2013. Defendant will be given an opportunity to fully question potential jurors to determine if they were exposed to any media coverage about the defendant or this case and whether they can put aside such information and determine the case solely on the evidence presented at trial. This Court will permit an attorney to conduct individual voir dire upon request if that attorney can establish the need to speak with a specific juror outside the presence of other jurors. Each prospective juror will complete a comprehensive juror questionnaire before meeting with the court and counsel to answer additional questions.

The Court will include specific questions on the juror questionnaire directed at obtaining information about exposure to media coverage of this case. As previously noted in its rulings, this Court has no basis for finding the defendant has met the very heavy burden of establishing the media coverage has been so prejudicial, extensive or outrageous that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had. See Rule 10.3(a), Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure and State v. Payne, 674 Ariz Adv.Rep.5 at 7 (2013). Defendant may re-urge her motion if it becomes evident during jury selection that a fair and impartial jury cannot be seated in Maricopa County.

IT IS ORDERED denying the Motion to Reconsider Change of Venue and Request for Individualized Voir Dire filed December 1, 2013.

There you have it. We will all have to wait and see what a jury of Jodi Arias' peers set her punishment at.  The best she can hope for is life with chance of release after serving 25 years.  The worst she can receive is death.  Whatever sentence she receives, she has to live with the knowledge that she killed Travis and shattered the lives of his family, her family and friends on both sides of the fence.  Regardless of how many pieces of artwork she sells, how many people follow her on Twitter or how many media interviews she gives - she will always be a convicted murderer.


 

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