Jodi Arias sentencing: Arias back in court as jury ponders death option

PHOENIX - Jurors on Wednesday afternoon came to the conclusion that the state has proven an aggravating factor in the Jodi Arias murder trial.

The 32-year-old is now eligible to be sentenced to the death penalty.

Prosecutors focused on convincing jurors that Travis Alexander suffered tremendous pain as he fought for his life while Arias stabbed and slashed him nearly 30 times.

After about two hours of arguments and testimony, the same jurors who convicted Arias a week ago began deliberations to decide whether Alexander died an especially cruel, depraved and heinous death.

The penalty portion of the trial will begin Thursday to decide whether Arias should get a life sentence or death.

Alexander's family sobbed in the front row as prosecutor Juan Martinez took the jury through the killing one more time. He described how blood gushed from Alexander's chest, hands and throat as he stood at the sink in his master bathroom and looked into the mirror with Arias behind him.

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"The last thing he saw before he lapsed into unconsciousness ... was that blade coming to his throat," Martinez said. "And the last thing he felt before he left this earth was pain."

The "aggravation phase" of the trial played out in quick fashion, with only one prosecution witness and none for the defense. The most dramatic moments occurred when Martinez displayed photos of the bloody crime scene for the jury and paused in silence for two minutes to describe how long he said it took for Alexander to die at Arias' hands on June 4, 2008.

Arias, wearing a silky, cream-colored blouse, appeared to fight back tears most of the morning. She spent the weekend on suicide watch before being transferred back to an all-female jail where she will remain until sentencing.

"She made sure she killed him by stabbing him over and over and over again," Martinez said.

The defense didn't have much of a case given how many times Alexander was stabbed, the defensive wounds on his hands, the length of the attack, and the sheer amount of blood found at the scene. Defense lawyers said Alexander would have had so much adrenaline rushing through his body that he might not have felt much pain.

The only witness was the medical examiner who performed the autopsy and explained to jurors how Alexander did not die calmly and fought for his life as evidenced by the numerous defensive wounds on his body.

Minutes after her first-degree murder conviction last Wednesday, Arias granted an interview to KSAZ, only adding to the circus-like environment surrounding the trial that has become a cable TV sensation with its graphic tales of sex, lies and violence.

"Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place," a tearful Arias said. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

However, Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It's up to the jury to recommend a sentence.

Now in the final phase of the trial, prosecutors will call witnesses, including members of Alexander's family, aimed at convincing the panel she should face the ultimate punishment. Arias' attorneys will also call witnesses, likely members of her family, in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors so they give her life in prison.

Arias acknowledged killing Alexander at his Mesa home. She initially denied any involvement then later blamed masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense when the victim attacked her after a day of sex.

She stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, shot him in the forehead and slit his throat from ear to ear, leaving the motivational speaker and businessman nearly decapitated before she dragged his mutilated body into his shower where friends found him about five days later.

Prosecutors said Arias planned the killing in a jealous rage, as Alexander wanted to end their affair and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Testimony in her trial began in early January. The jury reached its verdict after about 15 hours of deliberations over four days. All 12 jurors, eight men and four women, unanimously agreed the killing was premeditated.

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