PHOENIX – The Jodi Arias legal saga has dragged on for nearly seven years and had no shortage of eye-catching moments. It started with a gruesome killing, continued with a series of bizarre post-arrest interviews by Arias, and became a full-blown sensation during a more than four-month trial.
The most recent phase of the case — a trial to determine whether Arias gets life in prison or death — has played out more quietly. The judge barred live coverage of the proceedings, and the case shifted to primarily expert-driven testimony about Arias' mental state and upbringing.
As the jury decides Arias' fate, here are some key facts in the case:
WHO IS JODI ARIAS?
Arias bounced around a series of waitress jobs on the West Coast and dabbled in photography through her teenage years and early 20s before she met Travis Alexander at a conference in Las Vegas in 2006. They quickly developed a connection and began dating. Arias later moved to Arizona to be closer to Alexander.
Arias and Alexander had a stormy relationship in the nearly two years they knew each other. Arias moved to Arizona to be closer to Alexander and even became a member of the Mormon church. Alexander was Mormon.
She also became increasingly jealous as Alexander wanted to see other people. The testimony at Arias' murder trial included examples of how she snooped on Alexander's email and even sneaked through the doggie door of his home to spy on him.
Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, slit his throat so deeply that she nearly decapitated him, and shot him in the forehead. She left his body in his shower at his suburban Phoenix home where friends found him about five days later.
She initially denied having anything to do with the killing. She later admitted that she killed Alexander but claimed it was self-defense after he attacked her. Prosecutors said it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage after he wanted to end their affair and planned a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Her murder trial began in January 2013 and lasted about five months, featuring 18 days of testimony in which Arias described for jurors an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a twisted sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he was physically abusive. Her first trial drew a global following and inspired spectators to wait in line in the middle of the night to get a coveted seat in the courtroom. This time around, the judge has ruled that cameras can record the proceedings, but nothing can be broadcast until after the verdict.
The day she was convicted of murder, Arias gave a jailhouse interview with a local Fox reporter in which she said she'd rather have the death penalty. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom," she said. The same jury that convicted her then had to decide whether Arias should get life in prison or death. They deadlocked, creating the need for a second penalty trial.
Four-hundred people were called as prospective jurors last year to decide punishment for Arias. Many were cut after they said they either made up their minds about the case or knew too much to be impartial. Some jurors cited their objection to the death penalty.
A jury was seated in October, but the retrial received less attention after Judge Sherry Stephens banned news organizations from carrying live broadcasts of the case. The judge in October also took the rare step of booting the public and media from the courtroom so a secret witness could testify in private. Media organizations went to court and halted the testimony as it was underway. The witness was later revealed to be Arias, who suddenly felt uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Much of the case focused on an effort by the defense to portray Arias as a victim of abuse by her family as a child and Alexander as an adult. Their goal was to win sympathy from the jury and get a life sentence instead of death. Prosecutors cast her as manipulative, deceitful and lacking remorse for the crime.
The jury of four men and eight women has two choices: life or death. If they decide life, the judge will decide whether Arias is eligible for release after 25 years. If another deadlock occurs, the death penalty would automatically be removed as an option. Arias would become one of only three women on death row in Arizona if the jury chooses death.