OTR Interviews

Exclusive Jodi Arias interview: 'Death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom'

Cable Exclusive: Jodi Arias discusses first-degree murder conviction, prospect of facing the death penalty, with KSAZ Fox anchor Troy Hayden

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 8, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: This is a "FOX News Alert." And you are just about to hear from convicted killer Jodi Arias, today an Arizona jury finding Arias guilty of first degree murder. And tonight, Arias is in a fight for her own life. She could now face execution. You will hear from Arias right here in seconds.

But first, the verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, duly empanelled and sworn in the above-entitled action upon our oath do find the defendant as to count one, first degree murder, guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So what is Jodi Arias's reaction to the guilty verdict? KSAZ Fox Phoenix Anchor Troy Hayden asked her, and Troy joins us.

Troy, first of all, how did you get this interview with Jodi Arias?

TROY HAYDEN, KSAZ ANCHOR: I worked her pretty hard, Greta, over the last four months. I met her in mid-January. We talked at length at that point and kind of made a connection, as far as a journalist and an inmate could do that.

And she said that if I did certain things her way and didn't show her on video that night -- we got some video of her -- I said I wouldn't do that. She said, If you don't do that, when the verdict comes in you, can get the interview.

I don't know if I could believe her or not, but she came through.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about her lawyers? Did they try to run interference?

HAYDEN: No, not a word about it. She didn't say a word about it and we didn't ask her. We just plowed through and got the interview. It was down -- just 20 minutes after the verdict, we were down in some holding cells down below the courthouse. It was kind of eerie because there was a lot of people down there. It was very, very quiet.

Jodi walked out. I shook her hand. I could tell she was upset. She had been weeping. And I said, Are you sure you're ready to do this? And she said yes, and we did it.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you think of her, I mean, as you were there? I mean, did any -- any sort of thought? I mean, the woman had just been convicted of first degree murder, now going into a penalty phase, maybe an execution.

HAYDEN: Right. No, the whole thing makes me sad. ... It's like you said it on your show before. It's just -- you know, Travis Alexander's life is gone. His family's turned upside down. Now Jodi Arias's family is turned upside down. And she's a waste of a life now if she gets the death penalty.

I think she's ill. I think that she can be very pleasant, as she was when I spoke with her today, but obviously, she has the ability to kill somebody in this horrible, horrible way.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Troy, well, let's -- let's begin to listen to part of your interview. Here is Troy speaking with Jodi Arias.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYDEN: Just a couple minutes ago, you heard the verdict from the jury. What are your thoughts?

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I think I just went blank. Just -- I don't know. I just feel overwhelmed. I think I just need to take it a day at a time.

HAYDEN: Was it unexpected, you think, this verdict?

ARIAS: It was unexpected for me, yes, because there was no premeditation on my part. I can see how things look that way. But I didn't expect the premeditation. I could see maybe the felony murder because of how the law is written, but I didn't -- the whole time, I was fairly confident I wouldn't get premeditation because there was no premeditation.

HAYDEN: It seemed -- and you got a lot of questions from the jury. It seemed like some of the jurors didn't believe what you were telling them, didn't believe your story. What are your thoughts on that?

ARIAS: I can understand that, I think, because of what I was -- the lies that I told in the beginning to try to cover up this, cover up that, and hide things that I didn't want to be known, made public.

HAYDEN: Are you focusing on the core or are you focusing on what could be the worst outcome for you?

ARIAS: Well, the worst outcome for me would be natural life. I would much rather die sooner than later. Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place. You know, I'm pretty healthy. I don't smoke. And I probably would live a long time, so that's not something I'm looking forward to.

I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life, and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.

HAYDEN: So you're saying you actually prefer getting the death penalty than being in prison for life.

ARIAS: Yes.

HAYDEN: The Alexander family, especially the two sisters and the younger brother -- if you could say something to them, what would you like to say to them?

ARIAS: I hope that, now that a verdict has been rendered, that they're able to find peace, some sense of peace. I don't think they'll ever find the peace that they would like, but maybe they -- maybe they'll be able to have greater peace now, or some semblance of it, and be able to move on with their lives and remember their brother the way they want to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, we're going to have much more of that interview ahead. But first, Jodi Arias says she would prefer a death sentence to life in prison. Well, will she get her wish?

Joining us, our legal panel. In San Francisco, former prosecutor Jim Hammer, and here in Washington, defense lawyers Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams. And Troy Hayden is still with us in Phoenix. And the panel can ask Troy questions, if they have them.

But let me go first to Jim. Jim, she says she would prefer death to natural life. Just a ploy, or do you think this is speaking from the heart?

JIM HAMMER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think she's speaking from the heart. And frankly, I think she gave one of the best arguments against the death penalty. I think -- and having seen people -- if you go to lifer -- life row in San Quentin or other places around the country, they live the rest of their natural lives in a small cell, 8 by 10 feet. They get a little time outside. And they die old people.

Scott Peterson will never have fans again, never have people visit him. I think it is the worst punishment possible. I sort of hope the jury doesn't give her death and makes her think for the rest of her life about what she's done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bernie?

BERNIE GRIMM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, when I first saw it, I thought she was very cunning, trying to outsmart the jury and tell the jury, you know, Put me to death, and the jury says, A-ha, we'll give you life.

But Jim -- Jim's right. I've been in the worst maximum security prisons, and if you have to spend time in there visiting your clients, you go cuckoo. I mean, she's going to be in a maximum prison. It's going to drive her crazy. She will think about this for the rest of her life. It's just going to tear her apart.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, what -- you know, prison is a terrible place. But you know, Travis Alexander, you know, suffered a pretty ugly death...

HAMMER: It should be terrible.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that he didn't ask for. Well, yes, but I'm saying is that -- you know, is, like, you know, that it was so -- you know -- you know, it was a -- it was a death that seemed to be pretty planned out. I mean, she got a gun, drove to where he was.

Ted, your thought.

TED WILLIAMS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, well, you know, I'm -- like the panel here, I'm somewhat conflicted. I -- Jodi has lied so much, even in this interview here. The question is really, does she want death or does she actually want life? I think that she is lying. I think that she really wants to live, and she's using this as a ploy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they're two different issues. One is whether someone is for the death penalty or not for the death penalty, and secondly, whether or not she fits the statutory requirement and whether she -- you know, whether she'll get it or not.

Troy, I still don't get the fact -- you know, for the life of me, is that I would have loved to have had this interview. I confess that. I don't know. But if she were my client, there's no -- I would have tackled her and there's no way she would have talked to you, not in a million years.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Where -- where were her lawyers? Did they -- I mean, did they say anything?

HAYDEN: No. Like I said, I didn't want to talk to them, to be honest with you. I didn't know if they knew about it or not...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I don't blame you.

HAYDEN: ... but Jodi's an adult -- so I just -- you know, I figured if Jodi says she wants to do it, she'll do it. Yes, I'm not going to running to her lawyers saying, You sure you want her to do that?

Hey, one thing I want to say about the death penalty quickly, though.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes.

HAYDEN: She's on suicide watch right now at the jail, so nobody else can talk to her. But they are genuinely concerned that she may try to kill herself. And somebody who knows her pretty well...

HAMMER: Hey, Greta...

(CROSSTALK)

HAYDEN: ... that if she gets life, she might try to kill herself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, Jim?

HAMMER: Greta, I want to ask Troy a question because he's been in this courtroom. Have you had an encounter with Travis Alexander's family? And do you know if they certainly want the death penalty or not? Because if I were the prosecutor in the case, my first question would be to the victim's family, What do you want? I want the jury to hear that. I think that's what ought to be the biggest factor in this case.

HAYDEN: Yes, by far, most of them do want the death penalty. I haven't had long talks with the three main people, the two sisters and the younger brother. We haven't talked about that. But the extended family, as they were leaving the courtroom today, nearly all of them said they wanted death.

WILLIAMS: Troy, can I ask you a question? I noticed that Jodi Arias's family was also in the courtroom. What was their reaction to this verdict?

HAYDEN: You know, I was watching Jodi, first of all, and then I turned to her mother, Sandra, when the verdict was read. Sandra had that same look on her face that she's had all the way through. Jodi immediately turned around, looked at her mom, almost in a way, you know, that a teenager would look at her mom, like, Mom, you know, help me, or whatever.

And Jodi's mom was just stoic. Her grandmother was there. Her grandmother was shaking her head slowly back and forth that she didn't agree with the verdict. None of them spoke afterwards, but again, that same look on her mom's face.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we have more of Troy's interview with Jodi Arias.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYDEN: You had some clashes with Juan Martinez. You kind of went after him on Twitter a little bit. What are your thoughts on Juan?

ARIAS: Well, prior to trial, I respected Juan as a very capable attorney, even though he's done some very shady things in my case as far as hiding evidence and failing to disclose certain things, hoping it would just go away. But in the end, what does it matter? It didn't help my case.

HAYDEN: So if you had to do this all over again, you're in the desert, you notice that you've got blood on your hands, how do you handle it?

ARIAS: I would turn around and drive to the Mesa police department.

HAYDEN: And what do you think would have happened to you then?

ARIAS: I don't know, but it would have been the right thing.

HAYDEN: Do you have a sense of where the public feeling is about you, whether you're liked or not liked? I mean...

ARIAS: I get the sense that there is great division on both sides, but I believe the majority is against me.

HAYDEN: What are your thoughts on that?

ARIAS: A psychologist once explained to me that society has this need to persecute people. They get some sort of gratification from it. So there might be something going on there.

HAYDEN: Do you have any knowledge of, you know, the interest in your case? Do you have an idea how many people are interested?

ARIAS: I hear things, but I have no access to the news, the Internet, that sort of thing, no direct access.

HAYDEN: What kind of things do you hear?

ARIAS: I do get the newspaper, so that's been one portal where I've learned things. A lot of inmates have come into the jail cell since then and they tell me. They want to come up and shake my hand, want to give me a hug. They want my autograph. And I'm not going to sign anything.

HAYDEN: Let's go forward. Say you do get a long sentence, how are you going to spend your life?

ARIAS: I haven't decided yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: We're back with our panel. Bernie, does that -- I mean, think of this crime. I mean, whoever -- I mean, she committed this crime in which there are 27 stab wounds, slit the throat of her boyfriend ear to ear, shot him, apparently, in the head with a gun. And then you have this -- can you imagine this one doing that? Or is this -- is this the biggest -- is this the best act -- is this a great actress or a sympathetic character?

GRIMM: I don't know. I mean, Ted's the best actor. We're on every night.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIMM: But the woman is so remorseful. She's contrite...

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think she's really remorseful?

GRIMM: Right there? Right there...

HAMMER: No.

GRIMM: ... it appears so. But why do we not think not remorseful? Because she took the stand and because she lied nonstop over 17 days of cross-examination. That's why you should keep your client off the stand.

HAMMER: No.

GRIMM: If she -- if she stayed off the stand, she could have got on in the penalty phase and said, Listen, I'm guilty, you know, save my life, or whatever wants...

VAN SUSTEREN: She does not sell me on remorse. I mean, this is a terrible thing.

HAMMER: No.

WILLIAMS: No.

HAMMER: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: I feel it's awful that someone's dead and I feel terrible that a young person has ruined her life...

HAMMER: Greta...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... as she has. But...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMM: I know, but Jim, what...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMM: ... do, Jim, kill her?

HAMMER: Well, you know, I'd say they should do whatever is worse for her. What I saw when I listened to her -- and Bernie, I admire your humanity and your skill as a defense attorney and you're a great man. What I see here is a cunning, cunning woman. And with her breath right now, Greta, she can express regret, compassion for the victim, not his family.

Instead what does she do? She fires off at her lawyer. And you can see that seething anger in her when you listen to her. Well, he hid evidence, he did unethical things, but it didn't do any good.

What I see is this cunning person with anger right below the surface who'd go out and kill again, if she had the chance. I just -- I get a chill when I listen to her talk right now.

WILLIAMS: Well, Jim -- Jim, think about the manipulation here...

HAMMER: Yes.

WILLIAMS: ... from the onset. This is a woman who said that, No jury will convict me.

HAMMER: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: She got that one wrong.

WILLIAMS: And I think she...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: ... got that one wrong. And now I think she's trying to...

HAMMER: She's angry.

WILLIAMS: ... find a way to manipulate the penalty phase. The big question with me is whether she's going to take the stand. I believe, in light of the fact that she took the stand in the actual case in chief, that she will take the stand in the penalty phase.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait. But the problem is, is that -- I mean, she's got almost -- I guess she could keep her consistent story at the death penalty phase. It's not the time where you take the stand and you say you didn't do it, and all of a sudden, you take it -- you take the stand during the penalty phase saying, I did it, but I'm sorry. You know, so that's inconsistent, so I guess...

GRIMM: Well, she gets on the stand in the penalty phase, the jury's going to look at her and she's going to say, All right, now that plan A went down the tubes, let's try plan B. I mean, what is she going to say, it wasn't self-defense, I premeditated it? All this time you've spend here, asking me thousands of questions was an utter waste of everyone's time.

WILLIAMS: And that is the problem with this case, is that in the actual case itself, you -- technically, have already done the penalty phase. I mean, she's been on the stand and the psychiatrist has been on the stand. But this is going to happen. When they put on Travis's family, that's going to be maybe the difference.

VAN SUSTEREN: Troy, what were the lawyers like after the verdict, the defense lawyers?

HAYDEN: They didn't say a word at all. But Jodi was not happy with them. You know, one thing I'll talk about (INAUDIBLE) lawyer was just talking about a second ago -- I kept waiting for Jodi to say, Oh, my God, I'm so sorry for what I did. I can't believe I did that.

HAMMER: Exactly.

HAYDEN: I feel so terrible.

HAMMER: Exactly.

HAYDEN: I gave her several different opportunities to do that, and she never did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, maybe she's not. I mean, you know, other than that, you know...

GRIMM: It's a possibility.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... she finds herself in this fix. I mean, really. I mean, it's, like -- you know, there are some people who...

HAMMER: She's sorry she got caught, she's sorry she got convicted, not that she did what she did.

WILLIAMS: I still say there's something...

HAYDEN: She stuck by her story. I will say that.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: I still say there's something mentally wrong with her. I really believe that.

HAYDEN: I agree. I agree. I agree. I think there are two Jodis, as I mentioned earlier. And you know, she has stuck by her story. I asked her about the gas cans, I asked about the gun.

She said that there are pictures of her and her sister out in the desert somewhere or out in the wilderness on the day there was that break- in at her grandparents' house where the gun was stolen. But that was never brought into evidence. And pictures of her with bruising on a hard drive that was never brought into evidence. She said there was evidence her attorneys never brought in. She talked more about that than about being sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN: Troy, she -- one of the things -- one of the things she was charged with was felony murder. And typically, it means that a murder happened in the course of a particular felony. What was the underlying felony that was charged here that would -- would -- would be a felony murder?

HAYDEN: Yes, it's pretty weird, actually. Juan Martinez said was it was her stealing Travis's gun, which he at first denied ever existed. So remember, you know, during that whole -- the killing, she said she ran up into his closet, grabbed his gun and pointed it at him. Well, Martinez said that was the felony, the stealing of his gun, in his closing argument.

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I think the fact that even any of the jurors bought that as a felony murder is -- to me, it says -- sort of an indication she's got troubles because I -- frankly, I don't see that as a felony murder.

GRIMM: No, I mean...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it's a premeditated murder, but not a felony...

GRIMM: ... right there, you have jurors have looking hang your hat on something. Stealing a gun, and the foreseeable consequences of that -- not to get hyper-technical, that's a fet. That's not a felony.

WILLIAMS: I'm disagreeing with you all. I believe that she has a good possibility of avoiding the death penalty with this jury in light of the fact that all jurors came back with premeditation. But several of these jurors found...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's bad! That's not good for her!

WILLIAMS: ... for -- but wait a minute.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, that's rotten!

WILLIAMS: Well, wait a minute. Seven of them found premeditation and felony...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's worse!

WILLIAMS: ... so there's some split -- I know, but there's some split...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, no! But...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: They all said premeditation!

WILLIAMS: Yes, but there's some split and disagreement with that jury. She's got a shot.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Boy, I tell you, if that's the best she's got going for her, she's in trouble. What, Jim?

HAMMER: Yes, because some people like Greta go, That's kind of a wacky charge, but she premeditated the murder. What ticks people off is not some felony murder, it's premeditation, that she stalked him, that she killed him three days to Sunday and she lied about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can we...

HAMMER: Her real problem is she has looked this jury in the eye, the one person who gave him sympathy, and she's lied repeatedly to their face, and they know it. All they're waiting for now...

VAN SUSTEREN: I -- I would...

HAMMER: ... is to hear Alexander's family say, What do you want us to do with this woman?

VAN SUSTEREN: I would love to talk to the defense lawyers and find out what -- you know, if she insisted that they did this strategy, where she's sort of the abused woman, because for the life of me, I don't understand why they didn't take the -- all these horrible wounds, all these knife wounds and gunshots and say that...

HAMMER: Yes!

VAN SUSTEREN: ... this woman was in a jealous rage...

HAMMER: Yes!

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and bring it down to a murder in the first degree, premeditated, to one where she had this incredible rage. She was willing, apparently, to plead to murder in the second degree, and that seems like such an easier way to try -- such a better strategy so she wouldn't be tonight sitting and wondering whether she's going to get executed.

WILLIAMS: That would have been more convincing to a jury, I believe.

GRIMM: Yes, no, I mean, maybe they -- maybe -- I mean, Greta knows, after your client's found guilty, you get to the cellblock because all the oxygen has been sucked out of them. But maybe if they were with their client, Troy could have run into them and maybe asked them that question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, why weren't the -- why weren't they in the cellblock there, Troy? See, Troy, that's another thing, is when your client gets convicted, the thing that you usually do is you go back to the cellblock and you try and tell them it's really not as bad as it is. I mean, it's horrible, but at least you have a conversation because you're the only bond they have at that point, is attorney-client.

Why weren't they in the cellblock with her? Do they really hate her those nine out of ten days, and it was one of the nine days?

(LAUGHTER)

HAYDEN: She said she believes that. She said that Kirk Nurmi -- yes, she says nine out of ten days is about right. They didn't get along very well. She wasn't very happy with her defense. I mean, why weren't they with her? I don't know. Maybe they're not that great of attorneys. You guys tell me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, see, that begins to -- that begins to sort of set the stage, though, I mean, if she had such a bad relationship with them, of ineffective assistance of counsel.

(CROSSTALK)

HAMMER: She's not washing on that, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not saying -- I'm not saying...

WILLIAMS: No, she's not walking, but she's going to try it.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... walking on it. Of course she's not going to walk on it, but she's at least...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, her next lawyer's going to try everything. This is now a death penalty case. You have to try everything, right? Bernie's shaking his head, so I'll...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMM: Oh, yes, no. No, everything. I mean, everything...

(CROSSTALK)

HAMMER: Some fancy appellate lawyer...

GRIMM: The problem is, she's already taken the stand, and what is she going to do, get on the stand and tell the jurors, Listen, it was still self-defense. Give me another shot here.

WILLIAMS: But one of the things she said in this interview is that Juan Martinez withheld evidence, and if she can -- and some lawyer can show that on appeal, it may be something that...

(CROSSTALK)

HAMMER: Ted, Ted, this is a convicted killer! You're going to listen to her about the incompetence of her own lawyer?

WILLIAMS: Hey...

(CROSSTALK)

HAMMER: This is what cold-blooded killers do!

GRIMM: I know, but...

HAMMER: They lie about it.

(CROSSTALK)

HAMMER: They lie about it again, and then they blame somebody else.

GRIMM: You said the same thing with Scott Peterson, and we will be back there after the appeal.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Troy, thank you...

HAMMER: That's the better case for Scott Peterson, unfortunately. Sorry, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Troy, thank you very much. You had the interview we'd all love to have. That was fascinating. Thank you, Troy. And panel, if you'll stay with us.