Jury selection today in Arias retrial
Phoenix — Roughly a third of 200 potential jurors were dismissed Monday in the penalty retrial of convicted murderer Jodi Arias after telling a judge they had seen too much media coverage of her first trial to be impartial or had already made up their minds about her punishment.
Other jurors were let go due to work conflicts or language barriers, among other reasons, as jury selection began in the second attempt by prosecutors to secure a death sentence in the Arizona case that became a tabloid TV sensation.
Arias, 34, has acknowledged killing ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home and claimed it was self-defense. He suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.
Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair. Arias, a former waitress, was found guilty last year.
The murder conviction will stand as lawyers spar again over whether she should die for the crime.
Another 100 prospective jurors were set to be queried later Monday in the effort to seat an impartial panel. Some 200 more will be brought in on Wednesday.
Arias glanced back at the media at one point on Monday and smiled just before jurors started arriving. The victim’s sister and her husband also sat in the courtroom watching the proceedings.
Some of the prospective jurors who were dismissed said they had already seen so much media coverage of the first trial that they couldn’t put it out of their minds and would not be able to make a decision based only on information presented at the penalty retrial, which is expected to last into December.
The upcoming proceedings will not be televised live after the judge ruled that no video footage can be broadcast until after the verdict.
If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option and the judge will sentence Arias to spend her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.
Arias’ five-month trial began in January 2013 and was broadcast live, providing endless cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and a defendant who described her life story in intimate detail over 18 days on the witness stand.
Alexander’s family sat in the front row of the courtroom throughout the trial, often sobbing, looking away from horrific photographs, and wincing as Arias described the victim as an abusive boyfriend who wanted nothing but sex.
It was a far cry from the man Alexander presented himself to be publicly — a devout Mormon in search of his soul mate.
Trial watchers say the lack of live television coverage this time around will likely lead to less public interest in the case.
“It wasn’t really until Jodi took the stand last time that it turned into a circus and built into a frenzy,” said Phoenix criminal defense lawyer Dwane Cates.
Cates said the biggest problem prosecutors now face will be weeding out prospective jurors with an agenda, those “who want their 15 minutes of fame” and could potentially cause another mistrial.
Jury selection is expected to last several weeks.
Key details in the penalty retrial of Jodi Arias
The murder conviction of Jodi Arias will stand, but she is returning to court Monday for a second penalty phase to determine her punishment for the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend. A new jury will decide if Arias is sentenced to death. Here are some key things to know about the case:
Arias, a 34-year-old former waitress, has acknowledged killing Travis Alexander but claimed it was self-defense. He suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit and was shot in the head in his suburban Phoenix home. Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage.
Hundreds of possible jurors
About 300 prospective jurors will initially be called in the effort to seat an impartial panel. Under Arizona law, prosecutors get one more shot at trying to secure a death sentence after the first panel deadlocked. If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option and a judge will sentence her to spend the rest of her life behind bars or to be eligible for release after 25 years.
Not seen on TV
Arias’ first trial was broadcast live, providing endless cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos and bloody crime-scene pictures. Her attorneys claimed the televised spectacle led to threats against one of Arias’ lawyers and defense witnesses who then refused to testify. Citing Arias’ right to a fair trial, the judge ruled that no footage of the retrial can be broadcast until after the verdict.
Screening the jury
The new proceedings could last until mid-December. Prosecution and defense witness lists have been sealed along with the jury questionnaire. Experts believe prospective jurors will be asked about their knowledge of the case, how much they followed it in the media, and whether they have already made up their minds on Arias’ punishment. The prosecution likely will call witnesses to paint Arias as a habitual liar and callous killer who deserves death. Arias’ attorneys are expected to rely on witnesses who portray her as a victim of abuse whose life is worth saving.
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