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Jodi Arias Penalty Phase: Non-Unanimous

Updated on November 6, 2016
Jodi demanded not to be filmed from the waist down due to her shackled ankles.
Jodi demanded not to be filmed from the waist down due to her shackled ankles. | Source

After nearly 14 hours of deliberation, the jury came to a decision in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial on May 23rd (2013). Eight jurors elected for the death penalty and 4 jurors elected for life in prison, so the verdict was no unanimous agreement—a hung jury.

As would be expected, death isn’t an easy choice for any individual to make, let alone 12 jurors. Had Jodi’s family testified on her behalf, maybe the 8 jurors who elected for death might have considered life in prison; however, none of Jodi’s family members came to her defense. On Monday, May 20th, Jodi’s friend Patricia (Patti) Womack was set to testify on Jodi’s behalf as a character witness, but withdrew on the claim that she received death threats and feared for her life. There was speculation that Patti’s fear stemmed from possible incriminating evidence against herself that she didn’t want made public. Jodi’s ex-boyfriend, Darryl Brewer, was going to be another key witness and he was prepared to testify as he waited for the phone call at his hotel, which he never received. After a couple of sidebars and meetings in the judge’s chambers, Judge Sherry Stephens said that court would adjourn the following day when Jodi would give her allocution.

Jodi reads from her notes
Jodi reads from her notes | Source

Jodi Addresses the Jury

During Jodi’s 19-minute allocution she shows zero emotion. Jodi’s voice was monotone and she acts stoic, but more importantly, she reads her allocution and she does so hastily like it’s a speech for class president. Obviously, she wrote the allocution and it’s blatantly rehearsed. One can almost picture her in her black and white stripes, rehearsing the speech in her cell while making notes of when to look at her family and point, or gesture to the Alexander family.

In the course of her speech, Jodi states, “I got on T.V. and I lied; I lied about what I did and I lied about the nature of my relationship with Travis.” Many defense lawyers suggested that this strategy might work, but they also said Jodi should follow-up a statement, such as “I lied,” with a sincere apology and then specify reasons why she’s sorry. We didn’t hear an apology of any kind from Jodi Arias because she isn’t sorry and she isn’t remorseful. On the other hand, we hear an admission of guilt in the form of a Freudian slip, “This is the worst mistake of my life; it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. It’s the worst thing I could’ve ever seen myself doing; in fact, I couldn’t have seen myself doing it.”

The first thing that stands out here is that she’s inadvertently confessing to her premeditation to murder Travis; she saw herself doing it and she acted upon her thoughts with impulse. This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance. Jodi’s opinion of herself is that she “wouldn’t even want to hurt a spider,” as she points out in her allocution “I’d gather them up in a cups and put them outside.” Yet she’s conflicted about the fact that she planned Travis’ murder, as substantiated by her Freudian slip, “it’s the worst thing I could’ve ever seen myself doing.” Then, Jodi immediately corrects herself by negating her previous comment, “In fact, I couldn’t have seen myself doing it.” Here she’s struggling to rebalance her sense of equilibrium as it applies to her opinion or reality she holds of herself as a harmless victim.

The second thing that sticks out in her statement is that murdering Travis is “the worst thing” she’s “ever done.” I agree, but I also think that if she had been acquitted and given another chance to do harm, it might not be the worst thing she could do. Luckily, Judge Stephens denied the defense team’s motion for a mistrial or to have the death penalty taken off the table, as there could’ve been a chance for Jodi to walk free again.

Will she or won't she?

If given life in prison, will Jodi Arias stick to her goals?

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Reasons to Spare Jodi's Life

Jodi defined her goals “to affect positive change and contribute in a meaningful way” within prison, as follows:

  • Starting a recycling program, if given permission
  • Implementing a book club
  • Teaching “illiterate” prisoners how to read
  • Teaching American Sign Language and Spanish to fellow inmates
  • Continuing to donate her hair to Locks of Love

She presented photos of herself as an innocent toddler; she showed pictures of her drawings (tracings, it would seem) of magazine ads that she replicated. Perhaps the most infamous part of her allocution was her “Survivor” t-shirt that she claimed was to raise money for victims of domestic abuse. Jodi boasts, “100 percent of the proceeds” will go to domestic abuse survivors as she holds a prototype up to the jury in a mock-advertisement posture.

Jodi contradicts herself and her actions with her words

The library within the Arizona State Prison Complex-Douglas, AZ
The library within the Arizona State Prison Complex-Douglas, AZ | Source

The facts: many jails and prisons in the US already have a recycling program and book clubs. Furthermore, adults in prison have the opportunity to receive training and education, such as getting their GED. Moreover, they have access to books and computers in the libraries provided by these jails and prisons. An inmate can study a trade like auto mechanics and upon release can be rehabilitated back into society via programs that work with companies who agree to hire them. So: one more book club or recycling program isn’t going to make a difference, aside from spending more taxpayers’ money. Jodi should’ve already been involved in the aforementioned programs and demonstrated—with evidence—the good that she’s done while incarcerated, thus far. This may have helped propel a unanimous decision for life in prison—who knows, maybe even with the possibility of parole.

The new jury selection for the retrial of the penalty phase could be a lengthy process since it might be hard to find people who haven't heard anything about the trials. If, by chance, there were a change of venue, which the defendant is motioning for, the trial’s location would have to remain in the state of Arizona—perhaps to the closest neighboring county superior courthouse in Pinal County (Florence, AZ). The idea is to move a high-profile case to a location where a fair and impartial jury is most likely to be selected. There have been several settlement conferences and court dates set to discuss the potential retrial and argue motions for things like sequestering the new jury. Jodi has even written a 12-page letter to Judge Sherry Stephens, requesting that her lead defense attorney Kirk Nurmi, be removed from her case. No deal was reached at the latest settlement conference that took place on October 24th, 2013, and the retrial of the penalty phase is tentatively scheduled for the following year (perhaps October of 2014).

Meanwhile, the surviving family of Travis Alexander has decided to have Travis' book, "Raising You: Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones, The Roadmap to a Better You," published posthumously. Proceeds from the sale of each book will go to the Travis Victor Alexander Charity for the Survivors of Violent Crime, an organization they helped establish to assist survivors and their families with the costs of attending trial away from home. You can purchase the e-book for your Kindle on Amazon, it's only $4.99, and read a little about the philosophy behind Travis' book in one of his last blog posts on Travis Alexander's Being Better Blog: Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks.

© 2013 Kimberly Liby


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