PHOENIX (AP) – A jury of eight men and four women has found Jodi Arias guilty of first degree-murder. Jurors had several options as they considered four months of testimony and evidence in the case: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter or acquittal.
For first degree murder, jurors had to believe that Travis Alexander’s June 2008 killing at his suburban Phoenix home was a premeditated act. This charge carries a possible death sentence or life in prison.
Prosecutors say Arias began plotting a murder several days in advance and made a road trip to Alexander’s house intending to kill him. They say she stole a gun from her grandparents’ home, removed her license plate to avoid detection and turned off her cellphone while she was in Arizona so law enforcement couldn’t track her. The defense said the killing was self-defense and noted there’s no direct proof she ever brought a gun to Alexander’s home.
Now that she’s been convicted, the trial will continue as the same panel decides whether Arias should get the death penalty.
This “aggravation” phase of the trial will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. If the panel doesn’t find the presence of aggravating factors, the judge dismisses them and sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. If jurors find there were aggravating factors, the case moves into a penalty phase. The jury decides whether Arias should be executed or get life in prison. Additional witnesses could be called by both sides. If jurors don’t reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.
Jurors also had the option of second-degree murder. If jurors thought Arias didn’t premeditate the killing but still intentionally caused the death of Alexander, they could have found her guilty of second-degree murder. The sentencing range for this charge is 10 to 22 years in prison. The 32-year-old Arias already has spent nearly five years in jail.
A conviction on this count would have been a victory for the defense, since it would spare Arias’ life and get her out of prison before she’s 50 years old in a worst-case scenario. Prosecutors say there’s no doubt she committed second-degree murder, but they pushed for first-degree.
If the jury found Arias guilty of either first-degree murder or second-degree murder, but had reasonable doubt as to which one, they could have convicted her of second-degree murder.
If jurors thought Arias didn’t plan the killing in advance, but instead believe the attack occurred upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion after “adequate” provocation from Alexander, they could have convicted Arias of manslaughter. A conviction on this charge would have carried a sentence of seven to 21 years in prison.
If the jury believed Arias killed Alexander in self-defense, it could have found her not guilty of all charges.
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