The members of the jury in the trial of Jodi Arias for the murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander face a difficult task. They must examine several conflicting and confusing versions of a troubled relationship, weigh out the plausibility of these differing accounts, and finally decide whether or not the evidence in this case supports a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a heinous crime.
When the trial opened on January 2, 2013, prosecutors portrayed Alexander as a “good man.” They asserted Arias seduced him, stalked him when he broke off the relationship, and finally murdered him in a jealous fit when she discovered he was dating other women. Prosecutor Juan Martinez stated, “This is not a case of whodunit. The whodunit sits in court today.” He later asserted, “She rewarded [his] love by sticking a knife in his chest.”
Prosecutors called Alexander’s close friend Marie “Mimi” Hall as their first witness. A fellow Mormon, Hall met Alexander through the church. They went on one date but realized there was no romantic spark between them. They kept up a platonic friendship. ABCNews reports, “Alexander invited Hall on one of his work retreats to Cancun, Mexico, and she agreed to go as friends. They were supposed to leave on June 10, 2008, but when she had not heard from him in a few days, she told the court she got worried because she knew that he had a stalker – Jodi Arias.” Hall continued that Alexander had informed her that Arias had followed him on dates with other women and once wriggled through his home’s doggy door so she could sleep on his couch. Hall also said Alexander said Arias had slashed the tires on his car more than once and sent him threatening emails. However, Alexander did not report these crimes to police.
Hall testified that on June 9, 2008, she contacted Melissa Lowery and Dallin Forres, whom Hall told of Alexander’s silence before the scheduled work retreat. The three visited Alexander’s house and found his roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend there.
Hall and Lowery remained outside as the roommate and Forres ventured into Alexander’s room. Encountering a bloody mess, the roommate and Forres ran out shrieking, “He’s dead! He’s dead!” Hall then called 911.
Police officers testified to finding a camera in Alexander’s washing machine. The camera’s memory card showed pictures of Alexander and Arias having sex and photographs of Alexander taking a shower only seconds before he was killed. There were also pictures that appeared to have been taken accidentally after the camera was dropped to the floor. One of those photographs shows Alexander’s bloodied body and another Arias dragging it.
To support the contention that Alexander wanted to end to the relationship, prosecutors called Alexander’s friend Dave Hall who testified that Alexander had said, “There’s nothing about [Arias] that I see in marriage material – or wife material.”
The defense contended it was Alexander who relentlessly pursued Arias when she attempted to end their romance. According to defense attorney Jennifer Wilmot, Alexander looked upon Arias as his “dirty little secret.” He continually pushed her into sexual relations despite his church’s emphasis on reserving sexual relations for marriage. To drive home this point, Wilmot entered into evidence a T-shirt reading “Travis Alexander’s” that Arias claimed Alexander asked her to wear. Wilmot contended, “This T-shirt is the perfect example of how Travis treated her.”
Jodi Arias took the stand. Under questioning from her lead defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, she testified that Alexander had many sexual secrets he kept from family and friends. Arias testified that she once discovered Alexander masturbating to a photograph of a male child of about five or six dressed only in underpants. Under defense questioning, Arias testified, “I walked in and Travis was on the bed masturbating and I got really embarrassed. He started grabbing at something on the bed and I realized they were papers . . . one fell face up near my feet and it was a photograph – a picture of a little boy.” Shocked, Arias ran to her car and began driving home. She had to stop the car to vomit.
Alexander called her, begging to explain. Arias testified that he said he did not want to have sexual interest in children and that sex with women made him feel “more normal.” After hearing how Alexander struggled with his sexual impulses, Arias had sex with him. She testified, “He was trying to deal with it and when he had sex with a woman, he felt like a normal heterosexual man and that’s what he wanted to be.”
She testified that later, in April 2008, she handed Alexander a mental health services pamphlet. It upset him. She testified, “It led to an argument. It started off verbal and then it became physical.”
Arias testified that another argument, one occurring much earlier, in October 2007, was also violent. She testified that during it, Alexander pushed her down and kicked her in the ribs. She claimed to have blocked a second kick with her hand so that the kick broke her left hand’s ring finger. The break did not heal correctly and Arias displayed a mangled finger to the jury. She also testified that Alexander’s sexual mistreatment of her made her feel “like a prostitute.”
According to Arias, the last, fatal fight began when the two of them were in the bathroom because Alexander wanted Arias to take pictures of him in the shower. She said she accidentally dropped Alexander’s camera and that infuriated Alexander. She testified that he called her a “stupid idiot” and knocked her down to the tile floor. She ran away from him and into a walk-in closet between the bathroom and the bedroom. Knowing that Alexander kept a gun on the closet’s top shelf, she grabbed it. She testified, “I pointed it at him with both hands.” She thought the sight of the gun would cause him to freeze. Instead, she testified, he put his head down and ran at her “like a linebacker.”
She testified that the gun accidentally went off. “I didn’t mean to shoot,” she said. “It went off.”
She claimed she had no memory of stabbing him 27 times or of slitting his throat although she admitted to “a vague memory of putting a knife in the dishwasher.” She said that the next thing she remembered after the gun discharged was driving barefoot through the desert. She said she stopped the car to hurl the gun into weeds and wash blood off her hands with bottled water.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Juan Martinez led Arias to recount how she had told police and media in the aftermath of the killing that Alexander was a very nice man. Martinez led her to acknowledge that in the months before she killed him – but after she claimed he had battered her – she sent him a text message reading, “Travis, I thank you for being such an amazing friend. You are a rock, a light and an inspiration. I love you dearly.”
Martinez challenged, “This is not in line with the person you have been talking about, is it?”
Arias answered, “Yes, it is very consistent with how he was.”
The prosecutor noted, “You’ve been telling us before how he was mean.”
Arias replied, “Yes, he also was that.”
At one point, Martinez suggested she had self-serving memory lapses. She answered, “I’m not having a problem telling the truth.”
He asked, “But you are having a problem answering my questions, right?”
She indicated she was confused by the prosecutor, complaining that his questioning made her “brain scramble.”
Martinez played a video clip of an interview Arias gave 48 Hours from jail during the period in which she insisted intruders killed Alexander. On that tape, she declares, “Travis’s family deserves to know what happened.”
The prosecutor asked if they deserved the lie about intruders.
“I guess not,” Arias replied.
Arias testified to attempting suicide in jail. She nicked a wrist with a razor and stopped because it stung.
“Can you imagine how much it must have hurt Mr. Alexander when you stuck that knife into his chest?” Martinez asked.
The defense objected. The questioning changed course.
The prosecutor suggested that their sexual relations were often initiated by Arias. “When we’re talking about the level of experimentation, it looks like both of you were experimenting together sexually,” Martinez observed. “So when we hear things like, ‘I felt like a prostitute,’ that’s not exactly true, is it?”
“It was often mutual,” Arias testified. “I didn’t feel like a prostitute during, just after.” She later testified that she “felt like a prostitute” when they had sex and he immediately left.
Arizona allows jurors to ask defendants questions. Jurors write them down so the judge can ask them.
Jurors had many questions for Arias. One was, “Why were you afraid of the consequences if you killed Travis in self-defense?”
“I believed it was not OK . . . to take someone’s life even if you were defending yourself,” Arias answered.
Another question was, “Would you have decided to tell the truth if you never got arrested?”
Arias said, “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.”
That question and many others hover over this puzzling case.
Sources on following page.