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Verdict Watch - The Jodi Arias Murder Trial

Closing arguments concluded yesterday in the 5 month murder trial of Jodi Ann Arias. The attorneys on both sides can do nothing else at this point but wait...with the rest of the country and the world that has been following this tragic story and the sensational trial that followed.  The court room was packed for closing arguments, yet other than an awkward moment where somebody in the gallery's cellphone rang - you could hear a pin drop as the closing arguments were delivered.

Murder defendant Jodi Arias appeared a little different yesterday, as her attorney Kirk Nurmi delivered his closing arguments to the jury. Her hair was slightly different and she appeared to have a little makeup on. Both Arias and Willmott removed their glasses for much of Nurmi's summation. The Alexander and Arias families were both present, and well known legal pundits such as Jane Valez Mitchell, Jean Casarez and Nancy Grace were seen in the gallery.  These were emotional moments, the finality of it all seemed to sink in as Travis' sisters were visible shaken and crying.

The alternate jurors were then chosen at random by a court staffer near the Judge's seat. Jurors #10, #15 and #17 were drawn as the alternates. They will be returning on Monday when the deliberating jurors continue, but they will be segregated in a separate room and watched by the bailiffs sworn in after the proceedings to guard the integrity of the jury deliberations. 

It's hard to gauge what Jodi Arias was thinking when it was over. It had to be tough to hear Juan Martinez describe why he believes she should be found guilty of first degree premeditated murder AND first degree felony murder. It fits. Kirk Nurmi, on the other hand - in his final statement told the jury "if Jodi Arias is guilty of anything - it's manslaughter, by heat of the moment passion". I've never seen a trial where self defense is argued throughout, yet in closing the defense attorney is allowed to push for heat of the moment manslaughter: the "she snapped" defense. This would have sat better with me if that's what the claimed all along, but Arias was going for broke - a justifiable homicide. That may be her ultimate undoing.

So how long can we expect the jury to deliberate Arias' fate? There's no way to tell. But I did some research on the last woman to face Juan Martinez in a death penalty case. The trial against Wendi Andriano lasted four months, yet it took them only 15 minutes to decide she was guilty of first degree murder. Like Jodi Arias, Wendi Andriano took the stand and testified for 9 days. Jurors who were later interviewed said they just didn't believe her testimony.

Deciding life or death took much longer. The Andriano case was similar to this case in that Andriano claimed self-defense, but the evidence that her terminally ill husband would have lacked the strength to harm her - coupled with a suspicious life insurance policy and previous poisoning attempts were too much for Andriano to overcome. After the guilt phase of that trial, the jury heard a week of testimony on the aggravating factors and why Andriano should be executed. It took them four hours to decide that the killing was especially cruel and eligible for the death penalty. They heard six days around the mitigating factors, and why her life should be spared. It took them four days to come back with their decision. As you know, Andriano sits on Arizona's death row.

Since Arizona juries have the benefit of being allowed to ask questions throughout the trial, their deliberations may go faster than if they were not allowed to. This may eliminate some of the back and forth questions to the Judge that is seen during deliberations. What do you think? The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that first degree murder is the only charge that fits - did Juan Martinez meet that burden? I think he did. If you don't believe she planned to kill him when she got in that rental car and drove to Mesa, under the law she had time to reflect in between the mortal wounds she inflicted on Travis Alexander. I don't see any other verdict being suitable for this. I wonder how close the sentencing phase will end up being to the 5-year anniversary of the tragic murder. I know this isn't an anniversary in the sense of the celebratory kind. 

So now the verdict watch begins. Juries can be unpredictable, but let's pray they get this one right!

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