Jodi Arias is guilty of first degree murder in the killing of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, an Arizona jury found Wednesday. The sentencing phase of her trial is next.
Five of the 12 jurors voted to convict Arias, 32, of first-degree premeditated murder, while seven jurors felt she was guilty of both premeditated and first-degree felony murder, according to the verdict form that was read aloud in court. That means all 12 jurors found Arias guilty of first-degree murder.
Now that Arias has been found guilty, jurors will next consider whether she deserves the death penalty, reports the Associated Press.
The Sentencing Phase
In states that allow the death penalty, and in federal cases as well, a capital trial is generally separated into two parts:
- The guilt phase, in which jurors determine whether the defendant is guilty of a capital murder charge; and
- The sentencing phase, in which jurors choose whether to sentence a defendant to life in prison or the death penalty based on mitigating and aggravating factors.
The jury -- not a judge -- must make the determination whether to apply the death penalty, based on the evidence of mitigation and aggravation presented to them.
Character Evidence Allowed
Just like in the guilt phase of a criminal trial, both the prosecutor and defense attorney take turns presenting evidence during the sentencing phase. But in this part of the capital case, evidence of Arias' character and morals may be presented.
Arizona courts have allowed evidence of a perpetrator's good moral character, but even in the case of a defendant alleged to have saved lives, it may not be sufficient to mitigate imposing the death penalty.
Aggravating Factors in Arias' Case
In Arizona, the sentencing phase is technically broken up into an "aggravation" phase and a "penalty" phase, according to the AP.
Arizona has several recognized statutory and non-statutory aggravating factors that can help a jury find that the death penalty is appropriate. Here are some that Arias' jurors are most likely to consider:
- The murder was especially heinous, cruel, or depraved. Relishing in the murder, needless mutilation, or causing extreme pain or anguish to the victim are examples of this.
- The murder was committed in a cold, calculated manner. This is commonly found when the killer had a plan or design before the murder as well as a calm period of reflection.
If jurors fail to find any aggravating factors once the prosecution has rested, then the death penalty is taken off the table and the judge will impose a prison sentence.
In addition to evidence of good character, the Arias jury may be called to consider other mitigating factors to sway them against imposing the death penalty. These may potentially include:
- Mental impairment. Arias may be found to have not appreciated the wrongfulness of her actions and was therefore impaired.
- Lack of criminal history. The fact that Arias has no criminal record is likely to be adequate mitigation.
- Family history. Arias' alleged abuse by her parents and by Travis Alexander will likely be raised.
Ultimately, the jury will decide if these factors outweigh the aggravating ones in deciding whether Jodi Arias deserves the death penalty. The sentencing phase of her trial is set to begin Thursday afternoon, the AP reports.
- Arizona jury finds Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder (Reuters)
- Jodi Arias: Jury Instructions Key to Her Fate (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Jodi Arias Trial: 3rd Juror Excused (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Jodi Arias Trial: 5 Facts About Closing Arguments (FindLaw's Blotter)