Defense asks jurors to spare Jodi Arias' life in closing arguments

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 24, 2015 7:54 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Defense lawyers pleaded for the life of convicted murderer Jodi Arias on Tuesday as closing arguments began in Arizona in a penalty phase retrial to decide whether the former waitress will be put to death for killing her ex-boyfriend in 2008.

Arias, 34, was found guilty of the murder in 2013 after a trial packed with lurid details and graphic testimony that drew widespread attention. But those jurors deadlocked on whether to give her the death penalty and a new jury was seated in October.

Defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi showed photographs of Arias throughout her life and portrayed her as a remorseful person who struggles with mental illness and who suffered emotional and physical abuse while growing up.

"Starting the day of her birth, the cards were stacked against her," Nurmi told the Maricopa County Superior Court.

"If you sentence Miss Arias to death you are killing this girl," he said, showing jurors a picture from her youth. "I urge you not to do it."

Prosecutor Juan Martinez showed the jury a graphic photo of the victim, Travis Alexander, with his throat slashed.

He attacked the argument that Arias was not to blame for her actions, and said there were no mitigating factors.

"Return a verdict of death," Martinez said.

The defense will have the opportunity for a rebuttal on Wednesday, then the jurors will be instructed by Judge Sherry Stephens.

If they cannot decide on Arias' fate, the judge will sentence her to life in prison, or to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

On Monday, the California native decided not to plead her case directly to the jury, after being told the public and media would remain in court to hear her words.

Alexander's body was found in a shower at his Phoenix-area home. He had been stabbed multiple times, shot in the face, and his throat was slashed. Arias said she acted in self-defense, but prosecutors accused her of murdering her former partner in a jealous rage.

The original trial was broadcast live and drew a large audience with its gruesome crime scene photographs and sexually explicit testimony. Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand being grilled by prosecutors.

Judge Stephens subsequently turned down requests for the penalty phase retrial to be streamed live or broadcast the same day. She has ruled that the verdict itself can be shown live.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)