The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

May 2, 2013

Closing arguments underway in Jodi Arias trial

PHOENIX —  A prosecutor on Thursday portrayed Jodi Arias as a manipulative liar who stalked her ex-boyfriend and killed him in grisly fashion before courting the media spotlight in her sensational murder case.

The closing arguments by Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez were punctuated by several theatrical moments as he pounded his hand on the table to emphasize his point as he ripped into the 32-year-old Arias, who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 stabbing and shooting death of Travis Alexander.

"This is an individual who is manipulative. This is an individual who will stop at nothing, and who will continue to be manipulative and will lie at every turn," Martinez said.

Martinez delivered his arguments to a packed courtroom, including people who lined up at 2 a.m. to get a seat in the gallery for the highly anticipated event. The defense is scheduled to deliver its arguments Friday.

Arias showed no emotion during the closing arguments, scribbling notes with a pencil most of the time. Alexander's sisters and other family members cried at various points, repeatedly dabbing their tears with tissues.

The judge earlier provided instructions to jurors that allowed them to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, along with first-degree and second-degree murder. That means the jury will essentially have four choices: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal.

First-degree can lead to a death sentence and requires the jury to believe it was a premeditated act. The basic standard for second-degree murder is that the defendant intentionally caused the death of another person. Manslaughter has a much lower standard and potential sentence.

Authorities say Arias planned the attack on Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their relationship and prepared for a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias initially denied any involvement in the killing then later blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed him in self-defense.

Martinez worked to build his first-degree murder case by providing examples in which he says Arias planned out her attack weeks in advance. He said she stole the .25 -caliber gun used in the attack from her grandparents' home where she was staying in Yreka, Calif., two days after a heated text-message exchange between Arias and Alexander. In that exchange, Alexander described her as a "sociopath" and "evil."

"How absolutely prophetic," Martinez said.

Arias' lies and peculiar behavior, meticulously creating an alibi to avoid suspicion within hours of Alexander's death, have been at the heart of the prosecution's case. Arias said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth at the time and didn't want to sully Alexander's name by revealing their raunchy sex and his violent episodes. Alexander was a Mormon and portrayed himself to friends and family as a virgin and devout follower of the faith who was saving himself for marriage.

Arias says Alexander had grown physically abusive in the months before she killed him, once even choking her into unconsciousness, but she kept seeing him because she was in love.

However, there has been no evidence or testimony during the trial to corroborate her stories that Alexander was violent or owned a gun — the very gun she used to shoot him.

The defense has portrayed Alexander as a cheating womanizer who used Arias for sex and abused her physically and emotionally.

Prosecutors have depicted Arias as an obsessed ex-girlfriend who couldn't come to grips with the ending relationship and Alexander's desire to see other women.

Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the forehead, and had his throat slit. Arias' palm print was found in blood at the scene, along with nude photos of her and the victim from the day of the killing.

She said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said she ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf and fired in self-defense but has no memory of stabbing him.

Arias' grandparents reported the .25-caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California home about a week before the killing — the same caliber used to shoot Alexander — but Arias said she didn't take it. Authorities believe she brought the gun with her to kill the victim. It has never been found.

Arias has acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi, even attending a memorial service for Alexander before her arrest in July 2008.

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