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Posted on: March 5, 2015

Penalty Phase Retrial in State v. Arias Results in Hung Jury

PHOENIX– A Maricopa County jury is unable to reach a decision on whether Jodi Ann Arias (D.O.B. 7/9/1980) should be sentenced to death for the 2008 murder of Travis Alexander. This is the second jury to reach an impasse in the penalty phase of the trial. In accordance with Arizona law, Judge Sherry Stephens will now determine which of two possible life sentences to impose. A sentencing hearing has been set for April 13, 2015. A trial jury convicted Arias of first degree murder on May 9, 2013.

“The jury’s inability to render a decision to impose either the death penalty or life in prison will now result in a sentencing decision of natural life or life with the possibility of release after 25 years. The State’s sentencing recommendation will be set forth in pleadings filed with the Court and in argument before the Court,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Rendering decisions this jury was asked to make are among the most difficult that are made in our criminal justice system. While receiving a jury verdict is, of course, the preferred resolution, Arizona law establishes finality for the sentencing phase of the Defendant’s case and the Court will now impose her punishment,” he added.

On June 9, 2008 at 10:27 p.m., Mesa police were called to 11428 E. Queensborough Avenue in Mesa. Responding officers found the decomposing body of Travis V. Alexander, age 30, lying naked on the shower floor. He had been dead for five days. Large amounts of blood were discovered throughout the master bathroom floors, walls and sink. The scene gave the appearance of an attempt to clean up evidence of a possible homicide. Investigators found a digital camera in the washing machine along with several articles of clothing. They also discovered a bloody fingerprint in the hallway near the entrance to the bathroom. There were marks indicating that the body had been dragged down the hallway into the bathroom. During their investigation, police learned that Travis’ former girlfriend, Jodi Arias, had stalked him since their breakup the previous year.

The autopsy revealed that Travis had been shot once in the head with a .25 caliber bullet, had suffered at least 25 puncture wounds, and had his throat cut. A .25 caliber casing was recovered at the scene but no weapon was found. The Mesa crime lab was able to retrieve deleted photos from the memory card in the digital camera which showed Jodi Arias naked in several poses as well as Travis Alexander naked in several poses and in the shower. The time stamp indicated the naked photos were taken around 1:40 p.m. on June 4, 2008. The bloody fingerprint was later matched to the left palm of Jodi Arias. DNA typing of a bloody palm print showed a mixture of DNA was found to be from Alexander and Arias.

On July 9, 2008, the Grand Jurors of Maricopa County indicted Jodi Arias on one count of premeditated first degree murder, or in the alternative, felony first degree murder. Arias was arrested at her grandparent’s home in Northern California on July 15 and extradited to Arizona. The State filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty on October 31, alleging as an aggravating factor the defendant’s commission of the offense in an especially cruel manner.

Jodi Arias initially told police she had nothing to do with Alexander’s death. Later, she claimed that masked intruders were responsible for the killing. Two years following her arrest, Arias admitted to killing Alexander but claimed it was in self-defense.

Trial began with jury selection on December 10, 2012. Jodi Arias testified in her own defense and spent 18 days on the witness stand. Jurors submitted more than 200 questions for her. The State presented evidence showing that Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander met in September, 2006 at a work-related convention in Las Vegas, and began dating almost immediately, making it “official” the following February. In June, 2007 Arias and Alexander split up but maintained a sexual relationship after she moved to Arizona from California. Arias became jealous as Alexander began dating other women and retaliated at one point by slashing his tires and hacking into his bank account and social media accounts.

In April of 2008, Jodi returned to California and moved in with her grandparents in Yreka. While there, she received text messages from Alexander in which he indicated an intense dislike for her, writing in one message: “I want you to understand how evil I think you are.” Two days later, on May 28, 2008 Jodi’s grandparents reported that a .25-caliber gun had been stolen from their home. On June 2, 2008 Arias rented a car and embarked on a road trip to Mesa, stopping for the night in Monterey, CA, where she borrowed two 5-gallon gas cans from a former boyfriend whom she lived with for a period before she met Travis. Early on the morning of June 3rd, she travelled to Salinas, CA, where she purchased a third 5-gallon gas can. Later the same day, she filled up all three gas cans at a service station in Pasadena, CA.

After driving all night, Arias arrived unannounced at Alexander’s home in Mesa early in the morning of June 4, 2008. She later testified that the license plate of the rented vehicle was removed by skateboarders during her stop in Pasadena. The two slept until the early afternoon the next day and then took a series of nude photographs of each other. Evidence recovered from the digital camera indicates the murder occurred at around 5:30 p.m. The State alleged Arias took a photo of Alexander while he was in the shower and then began stabbing him repeatedly, following him as he attempted to escape. After he fell to the floor in an adjacent hallway, she slit his throat and then fired a bullet into his head. She made efforts to stage the crime scene by deleting the photographs, moving Alexander’s body and attempting to clean up the bathroom.

Arias then drove from Mesa to Salt Lake City, where she visited a love interest. She sent Travis a text message, a voicemail and e-mail expressing regret that she was unable to come by and visit him. She later claimed to have learned of Travis’ murder on June 9, 2008 from a mutual friend. She sent flowers to Travis Alexander’s family at a memorial service held for him.

On May 8, 2013, after 64 days of trial testimony and less than three days of deliberations, the jury convicted Arias of premeditated first degree murder. During the subsequent aggravation phase, the State alleged the murder was committed in an especially cruel manner. After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury unanimously agreed that the aggravating factor was proven.

On May 23, 2013, Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the case after jurors announced they were unable to reach a verdict. A retrial of the penalty phase began on October 21, 2014.

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