Dueling photos take center stage as Arias case nears end
PHOENIX (AP) — The long-running effort by prosecutors to punish Jodi Arias for killing her lover nearly seven years ago is drawing to a close.
The jury deciding whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death row is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday after closing arguments after a lawyer for Arias makes a final plea to the jury.
The start of closing arguments Tuesday featured dueling images from the defense and prosecution that portrayed the case in much different lights. The defense showed happy photos of Arias from her childhood and time with victim Travis Alexander. The prosecutor showed gruesome crime-scene photos of the victim’s slit throat.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez called Arias dishonest, questioned her claim that she’s remorseful for having killed her boyfriend, and tried to minimize the role her psychological problems played in the case.
“It doesn’t provide an excuse,” said Martinez, who later asked jurors to sentence Arias to death.
Arias was convicted in 2013 of murdering Alexander, but her first jury deadlocked on her punishment. The jury that has been hearing testimony since mid-October will decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or death.
Prosecutors said Arias attacked Alexander in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias has acknowledged killing Alexander but said it was self-defense after he attacked her.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi told jurors that Arias should get life in prison, saying she deserves a second chance because she was the victim of verbal and physical abuse throughout her life.
Nurmi began closing arguments by showing photos from happy moments in her life, such as an image of Arias resting her chin on Alexander’s shoulder amid a forested background.
Nurmi said Arias’ problems stem from a personality disorder in which she tries to mold herself to the wishes of the men she dates.
He asked jurors not to judge Arias entirely on her actions on the day of the killing, saying she is remorseful.
“If you sentence Ms. Arias to death, you are killing this girl,” Nurmi said, displaying a childhood photo of Arias and her brother.
Nurmi portrayed Alexander as a man divided between his Mormon faith and sexual desires that led him to have relationships with several women. The defense attorney said Alexander used Arias to quench his sexual urges, called her demeaning names and told her she was soulless.
Martinez said Arias falsely attacked Alexander’s character to draw attention away from her own actions.
“It averts your eyes,” Martinez said, adding the evidence shows the sexual relationship between Arias and Alexander wasn’t abusive.
Arias often looked at the jury as her attorney pleaded for the more lenient sentence. When the prosecutor made his arguments, she occasionally cast her eyes on the jury but mostly looked elsewhere.
Her sentencing retrial has dragged on amid a series of expert witnesses and the surprising October decision by Judge Sherry Stephens to remove reporters and spectators from the courtroom so Arias could testify in private.
A higher court halted the testimony on its second day amid complaints from news organizations.
The sentencing retrial revealed few new details about the crime and was more subdued than Arias’ first trial, which turned into a media circus. At the retrial, the judge barred the broadcast of footage from the proceedings until after a verdict is reached. She did, however, agree to allow live broadcast coverage of the sentencing verdict.
Arias passed up a chance Monday to address the jury, saying she wanted to make such comments but insisting the courtroom be cleared. She said she wouldn’t make any remarks if she could be seen and heard from a remote viewing room.
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