Nearly five years after she admittedly killed her lover Travis Alexander, Jodi Arias was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder.
Arias showed little emotion when the verdict was read by the clerk. She licked her lips and appeared glum. As jurors were polled, each affirming the guilty verdict, she seemed to grow increasing upset, fighting back tears.
Outside the Arizona courtroom, the gathered crowd cheered. Alexander’s family hugged each other after the verdict was read.
The trial will now enter a penalty phase, with additional testimony and arguments, to determine whether Arias should get life in prison or the death penalty.
Since it started Jan. 2, the Phoenix-based trial has become the country s most closely watched criminal proceeding.
The case pit a beautiful photographer who changed her story twice, eventually claiming self-defense, against a bulldog prosecutor determined to prove Arias, 32, was a spiteful ex-girlfriend who planned the vicious murder out of jealousy, stole her grandfather’s gun, and sloppily tried to cover her tracks.
“Throughout the whole thing, she has lied,” prosecutor Juan Martinez told the jury May 3 in closing arguments.
Sex, then Violence
According to testimony, Arias arrived at Alexander s Mesa, Ariz., home the morning of June 4, 2008. They had sex, slept, and took photos of each other before she killed him and drove off into the desert, going on a date the following day with a man in Utah.
After Alexander’s body was discovered five days later, his friends urged detectives to look at Arias, saying she stalked him after the relationship unraveled. Arias called detectives to say she hadn t seen Alexander in several weeks, and offered to help solve the case.
When confronted later with evidence that she was with Alexander before the murder – including photos that turned up in a camera in Alexander s washing machine – Arias claimed two masked intruders killed Alexander and almost killed her.
While in custody, Arias spoke at length with detectives and reporters about her relationship with Alexander and about their final encounter, even granting a jailhouse press conference and TV interviews in which she vowed “no jury will convict me, because I’m innocent.”
Three years later, Arias changed her story once again, this time claiming that Alexander, a motivational speaker and businessman, was also abusive towards her, and when he charged at her for dropping his new camera, she killed him in self defense.
No Memory of Stabbing
“The simple answer is that he attacked me and I defended myself,” Arias told the jury during her 18 days on the stand.
She testified she recalls shooting him with a gun he kept in his closet, but from there her memory is foggy, and she cannot recall stabbing him.
“I remember I was in the bathroom, I remember dropping the knife and it clinked to the tile, and it made a big noise. And I just remember screaming,” Arias testified. “I don t remember anything after that.” Defense experts testified it is not unusual for a battered woman with PTSD to repress very traumatic memories.
Since the moment the case went to the eight men and four women of the jury the afternoon of May 3, court watchers have anxiously awaited the verdict.
HLN, which televised much of the proceedings, has been airing clips of interviews and testimony with a stopwatch counting every second of deliberations.
Relatives and friends of Alexander’s gathered on May 5 by Alexander’s grave in his hometown of Riverside, Calif., to pray for a conviction. Spectators from across the country gathered outside the courthouse in anticipation of the verdict.