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Jodi Arias Murder Trial - A Look At The Arizona Prison System

The Jodi Arias murder trial began on January 2, 2013 and has captured a national audience - many are struck by the daily trial headlines and shocking allegations made by the woman at the center of this trial, and others are watching and waiting for justice to be served on behalf of the 30 year old man who was viciously and savagely murdered in the bathroom of his own home. It has been nearly five years since concerned friends discovered Travis Alexander's lifeless body in the shower of his home, and the five month trial of the woman who claims she killed her ex boyfriend in self defense is coming to an end.

32 year old Jodi Arias was arrested in Yreka, California on July 15, 2008. She was extradited to Phoenix in September of 2008 and has been in custody at the Estrella jail complex, unable to raise the $1,000,000 bond that would have freed her pending trial. In the months that followed her arrest, Arias famously gave media interviews where she boldly stated that no jury would ever convict her, at trial Arias would attempt to defuse that statement by telling the jury she planned on killing herself and that was why she was so confident "no jury would ever convict". 

After those initial interviews, Arias remained relatively quiet as the State and her defense attorneys took years to prepare for her trial. I never forgot about this case after hearing about the sheer brutality of this murder back in 2008. With closing arguments around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to see what Arias' life might be like if she is found guilty of first degree murder. Of course there are many unknown variables at this time. If Arias were to be convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death or life ("natural" or 25 years to life) she would likely serve her time at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville, near Goodyear Arizona.

Many legal experts are predicting Arias will be convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life.  I don't like predictions, I'm superstitious about these things! If Arias were to end up on Death Row, she would serve her time at the Lumley Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex - this is where all female death row prisoners are housed. Death row prisoners are housed in single cells with a sink, toilet, bed and mattress. The cells are 86.4 square feet. All meals are delivered to the inmates on Death Row and they have no contact with other inmates. They are allowed outdoor exercise for 2 hours per day, 3 times a week in a secured area, and they get 3 showers per week. Personal property for death row inmates is limited to hygiene items, two appliances (not sure what this includes?), two books and writing materials which can be purchased through commissary. Visitation for female death row inmates is limited to non-contact visits on Mondays from 7AM-3PM, by appointment only.  They are allowed to make two 10 minute phone calls per week.

If Arias were to receive a life sentence, she would most likely end up at the same prison complex. Her accommodations would depend on her classification. When new inmates are brought to prison, they are classified in order to ensure they are housed in the most appropriate area. The classifications are:

  • Maximum custody
  • Close custody
  • Medium custody
  • Minimum custody
Visitation for (non-death row) prisoners can vary widely, anywhere from 4-four hour blocks on Saturday or Sunday to one four hour block on Saturday or Sunday. During a new inmate's initial classification, some of the things they take into consideration are:

  • Most serious current offense
  • Most serious prior or other offenses
  • Escape history
  • History of institutional violence
  • Gang affiliation
  • Current age
All inmates who have been sentenced to death are considered maximum custody. Inmates who are serving a life sentence ("natural" or 25 years to life) are classified:

  • Life sentence with 0-2 years served     Maximum custody
  • Life sentence with 2-5 years served     No less than Close custody
  • Life sentence with 5+ years served      No less than Medium custody
I think it's safe to say that Jodi Arias' life is going to change after her trial has concluded. You never know what's in the mind of the jury, but I don't think Arias will go unpunished for this crime. The severity of punishment is the big question. If the defense is successful in getting manslaughter as an option for the jury, she could receive a sentence of as little as 7 years - and she's already served close to 5 years.  I don't want to go out on the ledge and make any type of prediction. I know what I believe to be a just verdict and sentence, but I'm not sitting on the Arias jury.

Will this jury spare the life of Jodi Arias, finding it too difficult to sentence her to death after seeing her in the court room for more than 4 months? I certainly hope that IF they believe Arias lied about what happened and they believe it was premeditated, they will remember Travis Alexander - he didn't get a trial, he didn't get a jury, he was shown no mercy by this defendant. I realize that nothing will bring Travis Alexander back, but I do believe he deserves justice for having his life taken from him in such a horrific way. I'm neither for or against the death penalty. But I do believe there are some cases where nothing less than death seems suitable for the crime. Is this one of those crimes?

What will happen on Wednesday with the surrebuttal witness? Is he taking the stand to try to help buddy Alyce LaViolette, who's reputation took a header after her testimony in this case? Will LaViolette and Geffner co-author a book on this case? And I'm still wondering if Judge Stephens hair will ever move.  Have a great weekend!

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