How Jodi Arias Was Charged with the Murder of Travis Alexander and Avoided the Death Penalty

The obsession over true crime stories has made perpetrators of violent, heinous crimes household names. One notable example over the years is Jodi Arias, a California girl who was eventually convicted of brutally murdering her former partner, Travis Alexander. Jodi Arias’s trial was live streamed due to the magnitude of the case. She was a simple, beautiful, seductive girl who lived in California. Travis Alexander was a salesman who lived in Mesa, Arizona and enjoyed time with his friends. He was thinking about a future with a family he planned so neatly in his mind. 

You’re probably wondering how these two met? Well, they met at a work convention in 2006, hitting it off instantly. Travis was taken aback by Jodi’s beauty. Less than a week later, Arias broke it off with her long term boyfriend. She took her admiration for Travis to a friend’s home in California. From there, they instantly became intimate and set the tone for their erotic, sexual relationship. Arias’s obsession with Travis quickly brewed. She took it upon herself to attend a Mormon church service the morning after their intimate encounter. Later on, Travis began to tell Jodi about the Book of Mormon and Mormon rules against consuming drugs, caffeine, and alcohol. Shortly after their religious discussion, Jodi claims, Travis told her he wanted another sexual encounter.

A Body is Discovered

Alexander’s body was found on June 9, 2008. His throat was slashed and he had multiple stab wounds, in addition to a gunshot wound in his head. Jodi had stabbed Alexander nearly 30 times. After a long court battle, she was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison in 2015. The crime “was especially cruel,” the judge said. “It involved substantial planning and preparation…The defendant destroyed evidence…and went to great lengths to conceal her involvement.” 

What drove Arias to this point? Some may ask how Alexander never saw this coming. Alexander’s friends quickly thought Arias was to blame and pointed her out as a likely suspect. Arias tried to hide evidence by throwing her digital camera in a washing machine as an attempt to destroy evidence. When the camera was found, photos were pulled from the camera showing racy, naked photos they photographed of one another. Furthermore, one photo even showed Alexander’s body covered in blood lying on his shower floor. 

Jodi Arias’s defense team tried to portray Alexander as a sex-obsessed and abusive boyfriend. Jodi had testified about a couple of flings she had prior to Alexander. She attempted to follow her flings’ religious practices, which included witchcraft, Buddhism, and Hinduism, all before converting to Mormonism. Arias said her curiosity for these religions sprung up around the age of 18 through 22 and began dating men of these religious beliefs.  

Years in the Courts

Nearly seven years passed between Alexander’s murder and Arias’s conviction. What all happened during that time? To give you some context, Arias was indicted on murder charges on July 9, 2008, exactly one month after Alexander’s body was found in his bathtub; she was arrested six days later. Opening arguments were made in the case on Jan. 2, 2013, and a verdict was reached only five months later. 

In September 2008, Arias was arraigned and entered a plea of not-guilty. She was also assigned a public defender that month. On Halloween day 2008, prosecutor Juan Martinez filed a notice in the Maricopa County Superior Court that he intended to seek the death penalty for Arias. Nearly three years later, in August 2011, Arias informed the judge of her desire to represent herself; her public defenders eventually stayed on in an informal role. 

Jury selection didn’t begin until December 2012, concluding a lengthy pre trial. In that span, many motions were made by the prosecution and defense to allow or disallow certain materials as evidence in the case. Arias also underwent psychological testing and a took a competency test during that time. 

Arias appealed her conviction and the process was pulled down by transcript errors and omissions. Additional complications broke out in October 2017, when Arias alleged in a civil suit that the head of her legal team broke attorney-client privilege by confessing information that was told to Nurmi strictly for the benefit of her case. 

Furthermore, after several attorneys defended Arias, she met Laurence Nurmi. He was a dedicated attorney who did not believe in the death penalty and found himself defending people facing the death penalty. Nurmi took his own version of his story with Jodi and wrote a tell-all book without the consent of Jodi. Laurence Nurmi has since been disbarred while Jodi Arias faces natural life in prison. Fortunately for Arias, the judge declared a mistrial in the sentencing phase of the case when five members of the jury couldn’t come to the conclusion that felony murder had been committed. 

The Murder Weapons

At Jodi’s trial, a medical examiner testified that Alexander died due to excessive blood loss stemming from his stab wounds and slashed throat. Although he was discovered to have ballistic trauma to his forehead (tell-tale sign of a gunshot wound), the knife Arias used was referred to as the murder weapon. The medical examiner also testified that Alexander had marks on his hands that were indicative of defensive wounds. 

Suppose Alexander had somehow survived the attack. What charges would Arias have likely faced? Well, for one, knives are nearly universally considered deadly weapons, so assault with a deadly weapon would likely be on the table for Arias. However, with more than two dozen stab wounds inflicted, the prosecution would have a strong case for attempted murder. 

Alexander’s slashed throat would have been more insurance that Arias took an act that constituted a substantial step toward committing the act (of murder). Therefore, it’s highly likely that Arias would have been charged with attempted murder if her attack on Alexander had not proved lethal. If tried and convicted of attempted murder, Arias would have still faced decades in prison, if not life (which she was eventually sentenced to for first-degree murder). For information on what Illinois considers assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, check out our next blog when it is published later this month.

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Abdallah Law

Abdallah Law has been a successful law firm serving the people of Chicago and the surrounding area for years. This success can be attributed to one thing: Our team. At Abdallah Law, protecting our clients’ rights and safeguarding their liberties is the driving force of everything we do.

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