PHOENIX — Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday in the gruesome killing of her one-time boyfriend in Arizona after a four-month trial that captured headlines with lurid tales of sex, lies, religion and a salacious relationship that ended in a blood bath.
Arias fought back tears, and family members of the victim wept and hugged each other as the verdict was announced in the hushed, packed courtroom.
Outside, a huge crowd that had gathered on the courthouse steps screamed, whistled and cheered the news in a case that attracted people from across the country to travel to Phoenix to be close to the proceedings. Some chanted, “USA, USA, USA!”
The jury of eight men and four women took about 15 hours to reach its verdict after four months of testimony, including 18 days on the witness stand by the 32-year-old Arias. The jury will return to the courtroom Thursday to begin the next phase of the trial that could set the stage for her being sentenced to death.
Arias was charged with first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities said she planned the attack in a jealous rage after being rejected by the victim while he pursued other women. Arias initially denied involvement then later blamed the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.
Testimony began in early January, with Arias eventually spending 18 days on the witness stand. The trial quickly snowballed into a made-for-the-tabloids drama, garnering daily coverage from cable news networks and spawning a virtual cottage industry for talk shows, legal experts and even Arias, who used her notoriety to sell artwork she made in jail.
Jurors got the case Friday afternoon. They deliberated for two full days this week before reaching a decision late Wednesday morning. The verdict was announced at about 2 p.m. local time.
The trial will move into the “aggravation” phase during which prosecutors will argue the killing was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. If the jury determines the killing was cruel, heinous and depraved, another phase will begin to determine whether Arias should get the death penalty.
A mob of spectators gathered outside the courthouse to learn the verdict, while TV crews, media trucks and reporters lined nearby streets. Family and friends of Alexander wore blue ribbons and wristbands with the words “Justice For Travis.”
Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the forehead and had his throat slit before Arias dragged his body into his shower. He was found by friends about five days later.
Authorities said Alexander fought for his life as Arias attacked him in a blitz, but he soon grew too weak to defend himself.
“Mr. Alexander did not die calmly,” prosecutor Juan Martinez told jurors in opening statements.
Arias said she recalled Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. She said Alexander came at her “like a linebacker,” body-slamming her to the tile floor. She managed to wriggle free and ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf. She said she fired in self-defense but had no memory of stabbing him.
She acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi to avoid suspicion, saying was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth. However, none of Arias’ allegations that Alexander had physically abused her in the months before his death, that he owned a gun and had sexual desires for young boys, was corroborated by witnesses or evidence during the trial. She acknowledged lying repeatedly before and after her arrest but insisted she was telling the truth in court.