Legally Speaking: What happens now in State v. Arias?
The State v. Jodi Arias trial entered a new phase Wednesday — deliberations.
These will mark the conclusion of a trial which began back in December 2012. Finally, the end is near.
Regardless of the decision, Travis Alexander’s family, the Arias family, the judge, Juan Martinez and the defense team will have certainty and there will be no more speculation or guesswork. Well, unless the jury decides life, but I will get into that below.
The deliberating jury consists of eight women and four men. Earlier today, just before lunch, the two alternates were randomly chosen by the court. Juror No. 2, a female, and No. 13, a male, were told they were alternates and were escorted out of the courtroom with crestfallen looks on their faces. It was then that the 12 deliberating jurors retired to their deliberation room to start the most important part of the trial.
What exactly is their job? As the instructions explained and Kirk Nurmi reiterated to them again today, their job is to decide life or death, period. Their decision is binding. After the precursory language, the verdict form has two areas to check, either life in prison or death. (They can also indicate they cannot reach a decision.) It is that simple.
This was a retrial of the mitigation phase of the sentencing part of the trial. The instructions say: If you unanimously agree there is a mitigation sufficiently substantial to call for leniency, then you shall return a verdict of life. If you unanimously agree there is no mitigation or the mitigation is not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency, then you shall return a verdict of death.
In the guilt phase, the jury was instructed to deliberate and reach a decision regarding guilt, not punishment. They were instructed to discuss and review the evidence. This jury’s deliberations are a bit different. In this phase they are only to consider the evidence in light of the punishment. They are not to second guess the verdict of first degree premeditated murder.
As the instructions and the attorneys explained to them, they have a duty to follow the law. They are not to decide based on conjecture, passion, public feelings, sympathy and are not to be influenced by personal feelings about Arias. Their duty is to discuss the case with one another to reach a just verdict and each must decide the case for themselves. Nurmi emphasized they do not have to change their minds because another juror feels differently and they each are to make their own moral judgment.
If their judgment is for death, Arias will be sentenced immediately and be transferred to the Arizona State Prison System’s death row. If their judgment is life, then the second part of the sentence falls to Judge Stephens to decide. Martinez and Nurmi may have the opportunity to argue to Judge Stephens, likely at a later date, their respective positions regarding the possibility of parole. At that time the judge will decide if Arias will be sentenced to life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. It will not be Judge Stephens’ decision whether Arias will eventually get released on parole.
The fate of Jodi Arias is finally in the hands of eight women and four men and we are all wondering… Will they spare her life?