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After Sentencing - What's Next for Jodi Arias?


 I'm already wondering what's next once we learn if a jury sentences Jodi Arias to life or death.  We are fairly familiar with what should happen if Arias becomes one of the few women sentenced to death:  1.  Direct appeal; 2. Post Conviction Relief and 3. Federal Habeas Corpus.

In the automatic direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court independently reviews the sentence and focuses on the facts and circumstances of the crime at issue and the character and record of the defendant.  As soon as the mandate is issued affirming a defendants conviction and sentence, the Arizona Supreme Court automatically issues a post conviction relief proceeding.  Post conviction relief hearings allow the defendant to voice claims relating to whether trial counsel provided effective representation during the trial and sentencing hearing, any "newly discovered" evidence that would have changed the verdict or sentence had it been presented at the time of trial; and whether a change in law that applies retroactively would probably change the conviction or sentence.

Federal Habeas Corpus - under 28 U S C 2254, a state prisoner may seek relief in federal district court for claims that his federal constitutional rights were violated at trial or at sentencing.  A federal constitutional claim can only be raised in federal court if it has first been raised in a procedurally appropriate manner in state court.  If the prisoner's claim was not properly presented in state court, he can still pursue the claim in federal court if he establishes "cause and prejudice" for his failure to present the claim in state court or that failure to consider the claim would result in a "fundamental miscarriage of justice"; i.e. actual innocence or ineligibility for the death penalty. 

Jodi Arias has referred to the long appellate process that comes with a death sentence many times. She has said that sentencing her to life would allow Travis' family and friends a chance to move forward while shipping her away to prison and forgetting about her.  I doubt the Alexander family will ever forget Jodi Arias.  According to the ACLU, life without the possibility of parole "is a swift, severe and certain punishment".  They further mention that no one sentenced to LWOP has ever been released on parole in any state.  One study shows the average number of years for death penalty case appeals is 17 years and increasing. The ACLU also reported that in California, which has the most people on death row than any other state in America (*more than 660 prisoners) had 4 times as many prisoners die from other causes while awaiting execution then have actually been executed.  I understand the point, and the statistics around the cost and effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime.  But while the death penalty remains an option in the state of Arizona, some crimes are so brutal, heinous and when evidence of guilt is overwhelming it should remain an option for these jurors.

If Arias ends up being the rare female sentenced to death, we can expect her to meander through the long appellate process.  A long appellate process should not be a consideration in determining her sentence for the crime she committed.  Had she not been caught red handed, I truly believe she never would have come forward with a guilty conscious and had she been able to sell the 2 masked intruder story or the self defense theories she would have stuck with whichever best served her to the bitter end.  

If the second jury is unable to reach an unanimous verdict for a second time, Judge Sherry Stephens will be tasked with sentencing Arias to natural life or life with the possibility of release after serving 25 years.  With credit for time served and with good behavior, she could potentially be out of prison by the time she's in her mid fifties if she doesn't receive a natural life sentence. That will be up to the Judge and it's hard to read Judge Stephens based on her trial rulings, which have seemed to lean towards the side of caution where the defense is concerned.  That doesn't mean she feels the crime wasn't horrible and worthy of a death or LWOP sentence! She has to remain impartial and protect the integrity of the trial record so she's probably right to be cautious. This was also her first death penalty trial.

A person sentenced to LWOP receives only one automatic appeal and is not provided any court appointed attorneys.  Once the sentence has been determined and any appeals have been exhausted, I have a feeling Jodi Arias will find herself tangled up in a whole other legal web - the possibility of a wrongful death suit by the family is still there.  The Alexander family has had to patiently await their day in court until the criminal trial has concluded.  The most important thing is to see their brother's killer put away and punished for taking his life.  And to have to sit back while Jodi Arias launched a full on smear campaign against their brother during the trial, based not on fact or evidence but only her word had to be torture.  Their time will come, but sadly the damage has been done and no punishment or financial ramifications against Travis' killer will give them what they most want, their brother.

Jodi Arias will soon be sentenced and either way she'll be leaving the familiar surroundings of the Estrella jail complex she's lived at for the last 6 years and will find herself in a much different prison setting.  There are no media interviews in prison, so the spotlight will indeed fade for Arias soon as she integrates into her new world behind bars.  Still, I can't help but think we haven't heard the last of her.  Chances are she will continue to tweet and post crap from wherever she is being held!



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