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Jodi Arias eligible for death penalty, jurors decide

PHOENIX — Jurors in Jodi Arias' trial found Wednesday that the former waitress should be eligible for the death penalty because the slaying of her lover was especially cruel and heinous.

The decision came after a day of testimony.

Arias, 32, admitted killing Travis Alexander in June 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home. She first denied involvement. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense. Prosecutors said she planned the killing in a jealous rage.

Next comes the final penalty phase, when prosecutors call witnesses, including Alexander's family, as they attempt to convince jurors that Arias should face the ultimate punishment. Arias' attorneys will work to gain sympathy from jurors to spare her life.

During Wednesday's proceedings, Alexander's family sobbed in the front row as prosecutor Juan Martinez took the jury through the killing one more time. He described how blood gushed from Alexander's chest, hands and throat as he stood at the sink in his master bathroom and looked into the mirror with Arias behind him.

"The last thing he saw before he lapsed into unconsciousness ... was that blade coming to his throat," Martinez said. "And the last thing he felt before he left this Earth was pain."

The "aggravation phase" of the trial played out in quick fashion, with only one prosecution witness and none for the defense. The most dramatic moments occurred when Martinez displayed photos of the bloody crime scene for the jury and paused in silence for two minutes to describe how long he said it took for Alexander to die at Arias' hands on June 4, 2008.

Arias appeared to fight back tears most of the morning. She spent the weekend on suicide watch before being transferred back to an all-female jail, where she will remain until sentencing.

"She made sure she killed him by stabbing him over and over and over again," Martinez said.

The defense didn't have much of a case given how many times Alexander was stabbed, the defensive wounds on his hands, the length of the attack, and the sheer amount of blood found at the scene. Defense lawyers said Alexander would have had so much adrenaline rushing through his body that he might not have felt much pain.

The only witness was the medical examiner who performed the autopsy and explained to jurors how Alexander did not die calmly and fought for his life as evidenced by the numerous defensive wounds on his body.

Minutes after her first-degree murder conviction last Wednesday, Arias granted an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ, only adding to the circus-like environment surrounding the trial that has become a cable TV sensation with its graphic tales of sex, lies and violence.

"Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place," a tearful Arias said. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

However, Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It's up to the jury to recommend a sentence.

Testimony in her trial began in early January. The jury reached its verdict after about 15 hours of deliberations over four days. All 12 jurors, eight men and four women, unanimously agreed the killing was premeditated.

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