Thursday, May 16, 2013

Phoenix jury begins weighing life or death for Jodi Arias

The jury took only three hours Wednesday to decide that Jodi Arias was guilty of premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances. Her legal team is now fighting to prove she doesn't deserve the death penalty. NBC's Diana Alvear reports.

By M. Alex Johnson, NBC News

The Phoenix jury that convicted Jodi Arias of first-degree murder last week begins work Thursday on deciding whether she should live or die for gruesome killing of her onetime boyfriend.

WATCH LIVE: Arguments over death penalty for Jodi Arias

Jurors declared Wednesday that Arias' actions were was so extreme that they could merit the death penalty, finding that she had been "especially cruel" in killing Travis Alexander in 2008. That's an aggravating factor that Arizona law says can justify execution.

Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times and slashed his throat, and after he was already dead, she shot him.

"The last thing that Mr. Alexander felt as he lay there and as he was looking up was this knife and this woman and this blade coming towards him," Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez, the prosecutor, told jurors Wednesday.
"And it was only death that relieved that pain, and it was only death that relieved that anguish," he said. "And that is especially cruel."

Arias' lawyer said Alexander died quickly and that an adrenaline rush brought on by the attack would have dulled his pain.

Arias' lead attorney, Kirk Nurmi, argued Wednesday that her conduct wasn't "a matter of cruelty" on its own. Instead, he said, jurors had to be convinced that Arias went "beyond (the) normal cruelty that's inherent in any first-degree murder."

Beginning Thursday, Arias' lawyers will present mitigating factors that they hope will save her from a death sentence. Arias can choose to waive that process, but legal experts said that was highly unlikely.

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