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What's Next For Jodi Arias - Aggravation & Sentencing Phases

Convicted murderer Jodi Arias has been returned to the Estrella jail and taken off suicide watch yesterday after doctors deemed she was no longer a threat to herself or others.  She is reportedly being housed in a cell alone; I'm not sure if she has been in a single-cell situation prior to her stint in the jail's Buckeye psych ward. Out of an abundance of caution following her post-conviction interview with Fox reporter Troy Hayden in which Arias claimed that "death is the ultimate freedom", jail officials placed Arias under suicide protocols.

More of Arias' 45 minute interview with Troy Hayden has been released. She told Hayden there was evidence crucial to her defense that was not admitted. She described a photo she had of murder victim Travis Alexander "chasing a naked 4 year old boy" around the room - while holding a Bible. Arias explained that her attorneys felt the photo was irrelevant and therefore it was not submitted into evidence. In addition to the photo, she claimed several family members were never called to testify about visible bruises Arias had at various times during her relationship with Travis Alexander.  I find it highly unusual that no family members were called during the guilt phase of this trial!  Could it be that the defense did not want to risk more of Arias' lies, exaggerations or untruths be uncovered?  Had Sandy Arias been called to the stand, she would have been subject to a fierce cross examination from prosecutor Juan Martinez. Would Sandy Arias substantiate her daughter's claims that she was beaten with a wooden spoon? What about Jodi's father? Would his testimony have done more harm than good for his daughter's defense?

Despite what Arias claims, there has to be a very good reason or reasons that none of her immediate family members took the stand on her behalf. Maybe some members of the Arias family takes perjury more seriously than others? After a 5-day delay, the aggravation and sentencing phases are set to move forward tomorrow at 10:00AM PST. I found a good source on the aggravation factors in Arizona death penalty cases and am posting the link in case you have any interest in seeing the list in it's entirety:

As you are aware, the state is seeking the Death Penalty under the following aggravator:  "the defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner"

The state will present evidence and as in the guilt phase, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Per the resource listed above:

"At the aggravating phase of the sentencing proceeding that is held pursuant to section 13-703.01, the admissibility of information relevant to any of the aggravating circumstances set forth in subsection of this section shall be governed by the rules of evidence applicable to criminal trials.  The burden of establishing the existence of any of the aggravating circumstances set forth in subsection F of this section is on the prosecution.  The prosecution must prove the existence of the aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt."

"At the penalty phase of the sentencing proceeding that is held pursuant to section 13-701.01, the prosecution or defendant may present any information that is relevant to any of the mitigating circumstances included in subsection G of this section, regardless of its admissibility under the rules governing admission of evidence at criminal trials.  The burden of establishing mitigating circumstances included in subsection G of this section is on the defendant.  The defendant must prove the existence of mitigating circumstances by a preponderance of the evidence.  If the trier of the fact is a jury, the jurors do not have to agree unanimously that a mitigating circumstance has been proven to exist.  Each juror may consider any mitigating circumstance found by that juror in determining the appropriate penalty."

"Evidence that is admitted at the trial and that relates to any aggravating or mitigating circumstances shall be deemed admitted as evidence at a sentencing proceeding if the trier of fact considering that evidence is the same trier of fact that determined the defendant's guilt.  The prosecution and defendant shall be permitted to rebut any information received at the aggravation or penalty phase of the sentencing proceeding and shall be given fair opportunity to present argument as to whether the information is sufficient to establish the existence of any of the circumstances included in subsections F or G of this section".

"In determining whether to impose a sentence of death or life imprisonment, the trier of fact shall take into account the aggravating or mitigating circumstances that have been proven.  The trier of fact shall impose a sentence of death if the trier of fact finds one or more of the aggravating circumstances enumerated in subsection F of this section and then determines there are no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency."

I find the Arizona judicial system to be very effective and efficient in that not only are jurors able to ask questions of witnesses, but they have such a key role in deciding sentencing in death penalty cases. Only if the jury does not agree that an aggravating circumstance was proven by the state and the death penalty is rejected as a potential sentence would Judge Stephens decide on Arias' fate or either natural life or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years is served.

Naturally there are numerous appeals that will follow any death sentence imposed on Jodi Arias. Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott have been creating their own paper trail in the form of mistrial motions in anticipation of future appeals. The appeal process could stretch out for years.  What can we expect to hear during the next phase of this trial? Will Jodi Arias' family break their silence and beg for their daughter's life? Will Arias take the stand and accept any responsibility for her crime and finally show a little humility and respect for the many people she has harmed over the last 5 years? Or will she continue the mud-slinging we have seen throughout the trial?

The Alexander siblings have hired attorneys to bring forth a wrongful death suit against Jodi Arias - having secured a guilty verdict against Arias will be greatly helpful in their quest to put an end to Arias' shameless profiteering at the expense of their brother Travis.  I was happy to hear they were moving forward with the legal action. They have shown great restraint, faith and they have patiently and silently sat in the courtroom while the rights of Jodi Arias have been closely guarded and their brother's rights seemingly disappeared in the fog of Arias' field of lies. How will Arias play the cards she has been dealt now are anybody's guess. Will she double down, and play the role of the wrongly convicted and misunderstood martyr or will she try to muster up some genuine regret, remorse and sorrow for the life she ended?

What are your thoughts? Will Arias remain defiant - and will her attorneys continue down the path of painting Travis Alexander as the monster? Will they ignore the jury's obvious disbelief in Arias' stories of being abused, battered and treated like a prostitute?  Self-defense has always been a poor choice for Arias' defense in this case.  One look at the injuries Travis Alexander sustained tells you that he was likely ambushed and this killing was pure-rage. Classic overkill and not self defense.  Again, Arias seemingly went for all-or-nothing and pinned her hopes on being able to con the jury with nothing but her words to corroborate her allegations against the man she murdered. She greatly overestimated her acting abilities, her charm and her intelligence. More importantly, she greatly underestimated the common sense of these 12 reasonable citizens who spent more than 4 months of their life hearing the evidence and rendering a verdict.

While our system of justice isn't perfect, I am thankful that in this case it worked.  Far too often, criminals are able to wiggle out of horrific crimes through trial errors, errors made in the collection of evidence, questionable lab procedures etc. etc. etc.  I still cringe when I think of OJ Simpson walking out of that California courtroom a free man.  While he may never be held accountable for his crimes in this lifetime, I truly believe Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman will receive justice when Simpson meets his maker. Until then, we'll have to settle on a little Vegas-style karma!  Simpson made headlines again this week when he appeared in court to appeal his 2008 conviction.

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