The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 15, 2013

Arias back in court as jury ponders death option

PHOENIX (AP) — Jodi Arias heads back to court Wednesday as jurors consider whether the death penalty should be an option for sentencing the former waitress after convicting her of first-degree murder last week.

Arias spent the weekend on suicide watch before being transferred back to the all-female Estrella Jail on Monday where she will remain held until her sentencing.

The so-called "aggravation" phase of the trial is set for Wednesday, during which jurors will deliberate one more time to weigh the death penalty option.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez must convince the panel that the murder was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner. This phase will be a mini-trial of sorts, as both sides call witnesses to present testimony to jurors — the defense in an effort to spare Arias' life, the prosecution to at least have a shot at a death sentence.

Martinez will likely call the county medical examiner who performed the autopsy on the victim to explain to jurors how Travis Alexander did not die calmly and fought for his life as evidenced by the numerous defensive wounds on his hands and feet. The lead detective on the case also will likely testify about the crime scene in an effort to show jurors just how much blood was spread around Alexander's bathroom and bedroom as he struggled to fend off the attack.

It wasn't clear who the defense would call to testify in an effort to get the death penalty off the table.

If jurors find the killing fits the definition of cruel and heinous, the panel will recommend either life in prison or death during the next and final penalty phase of the trial.

If the panel finds no aggravating factors exist, jurors will be dismissed and the judge will determine whether Arias should spend the rest of her life in prison or be sentenced to 25 years with the possibility of release.

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