Jodi Arias Trial Pushed Back; Judge Says Court Not Ready to Start; What Constitutes `Especially Cruel?’ (Video)
By Staff Writer | August 27, 2013 03:04 PM EDT
Jodi Arias trial update: The judge overseeing the sentencing phase in the Jodi Arias trial pushed the start date back again saying the court was not ready to set a start date.
In May, a jury found Jodi Arias, 32, found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder for the June 2008 brutal slaying of Travis Alexander, her former boyfriend. Arias, a waitress and budding photographer, maintained that she was acting in self-defense when she killed Alexander. Arias claimed Alexander had a secret history of violent outbursts, that he was sadistic and had a "nearly predatory sex drive." Arias maintained that she was forced to fight for her life when she triggered one of his violent outburst during a nude photo shoot at his Arizona home. The first phase of the Jodi Arias trial took five months and ended in a hung jury.
Today, Jodi Arias smiled at spectators in the court gallery as she entered. Her hair was tied up in a bun. The hearing only took minutes after Jodi Arias Trial Judge Sherry Stephens Stephens said the court was not yet ready to set a start date for the new sentencing phase. Jodi Arias Judge Sherry Stephens scheduled another pre-trial hearing for Sept. 16. She will hear arguments on pending motions at that date. The Jodi Arias’ lawyers filed motions to ban cameras from broadcasting the sentencing phase live. They also requested that Jodi Arias trial lawyers be allowed to monitor jurors’ Twitter accounts.
The new sentencing phase in the Jodi Arias trial will take weeks. Prosecutors and Jodi Aria’s defense attorneys must choose a new set of 12 to 18 jurors. They then have to bring them up to date regarding evidence from murder trial. The new Jodi Arias jury will see shortened versions of the cases that went to original jury.
The new jury will only rule on whether or not Arias will be put to death. If they cannot reach a decision, a second hung jury will be declared and Judge Stephens will sentence Jodi Arias to either life in prison with parole or life in prison without parole.
Jodi Arias was convicted of brutally murdering her boyfriend, the 30-year-old Travis Alexander, in June 2008. Medical examiners said Jodi Arias stabbed Travis Alexander almost 30 times, shot him in the face and slit his throat so violently that she almost took his head off. The 32 year old waitress and budding photographer was found to have done all this in under two minutes. Arias initially denied committing such violent acts and cited an intruder, but later admitted that she acted in self-defense.
The jurors were not convinced. They rejected the self-defense claims and said Jodi Arias was guilty, but they were not able to agree on a punishment. Anyone who committed such an act must surely have undergone extreme trauma at some point in their life. The jury couldn’t bring themselves to impose the death penalty on the attractive killer.
Jodi Arias alleged that Alexander had a history of domestic abuse and was particularly sadistic with her. The jury rejected her allegations but couldn’t decide whether the she should get the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. Arias made public statements that she preferred death to life in a cage, but balked when she realized what that would do to her family. Her guilty verdict still stands as the defense and prosecution prepare for the new phase in the trial that will determine whether prosecutors will still go after the death penalty for Arias.
Jodi Arias' lawyers asked judge Sherry Stephens to vacate the jury's ruling that the murder was "especially cruel." This is the classification that allowed the prosecution to argue for the death penalty. Jodi Arias’ lawyers argued that "especially cruel" is too broad of a term for jurors who aren’t legal experts to fairly judge what makes one killing more cruel than another. Arizona law defines "cruel manner" in terms of the victim’s pain and suffering. It didn’t take into the mitigating factors of the crime, like Arias’ age or the "unusual and substantial duress" she was suffering. The filing challenged a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled defendants have the right for jurors to determine the aggravating factors that qualify them for the death penalty.
Jodi Arias was convicted in May of the grisly 2007 murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. Alexander was stabbed 29 times, his throat was slashed and he was shot in the head. Arias originally claimed that an intruder killed Alexander, and then changed her story to self-defense. The Jodi Arias trial hypnotized the nation as it played out amidst steamy sex tapes and testimony. A hung jury could not decide whether to sentence Arias to death.
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