Jodi Arias, the 32-year-old woman at the center of an Arizona murder trial wherein she is accused of killing her ex-boyfriend in 2008, surprised everyone by taking the stand Monday and stating that she killed him in self-defense. Most who were examining this case did not expect Arias to testify because she could face the death penalty, but a possibly incriminating statement she made in a September 2008 interview with the television show Inside Edition may have fueled the decision. In the interview, which was three months following the violent death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander on June 4th, Arias stated that “no jury would ever convict” her of Alexander’s murder. On the stand, after stating that she killed Alexander because “he attacked me and I defended myself,” she softly told the jury that she said that because she was planning to commit suicide before the trial would be over. “I was very confident that no jury would convict me because I was sure I’d be dead,” she continued. “Those are probably the most bitter words I’ll ever eat.”
Arias is accused of stabbing Alexander 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him twice in the head, so a self-defense story is going to be a tough sell–particularly because Arias has previously lied to authorities more than once, first claiming that she wasn’t present at all at the time of the murder, then claiming that she watched an intruder do it. This uphill battle is likely why defense attorney Kirk Nurmi took Arias through the details of her allegedly violent childhood, to build a foundation for a scenario where she could have wildly overreacted in such a way to a brutal attack. She claimed that from the age of seven her childhood grew progressively rougher, with both of her parents beating her and her siblings with their hands and with foreign objects. She also claimed that her mother once accidentally broke her brother’s wrist during one of these altercations, and that her father, who was 5’11” and could bench press over 500 pounds, used to throw her against walls and door frames. She said that by the time she was a teenager, these beatings were occurring approximately four times per week, and that while she still loved her mother despite the abuse, her father was “sarcastic, negative, critical, and gossipy.”
Arias went on to state that this situation forced her out of her parents’ home and into the arms of an abusive, unemployed boyfriend, whom she supported with a full-time restaurant job after dropping out of high school after her junior year. She said that he cheated and was physically abusive toward her on two separate occasions, but her fragile mental state prevented her from leaving him. After he finally left her and moved to Oregon, she moved in with her grandparents before getting involved with Alexander. Her attorneys used women’s clothing and underwear labeled with the possessive “Travis Alexander’s” and “Travis’s” as evidence that he was controlling and dangerously possessive of Arias during their two-year relationship. Photos of these items were found on Arias’s camera in July 2008, so prosecutors took the opportunity to point out that they could have been created after Alexander’s death. The defense is also planning on trying to prove that Alexander was obsessed with looking at online porn, which seems like more of a stretch, and an actual obsession will be difficult to prove posthumously.
Jodi Arias will take the stand again on Tuesday, as the defense tries to paint a picture of a man who lived a double life–outwardly a devout Mormon, but hiding an erotic sex life with Arias that included nude photographs and looking at sexual content online. This evidence seems mostly useless, as it merely points to a private sex life between two consenting adults. The only real hope the defense has here is to prove that the violence in Arias’s past and the resulting psychological damage is what caused her to act in such a crazed manner, and the fact that her repeated lying to authorities is causing some to compare this trial to the Casey Anthony trial is not going to help in the court of public opinion.
Photo: Alan Cleaver, Flickr