PHOENIX -- After being convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of her onetime lover, Jodi Arias returns to court Monday for the continuation of the penalty phase of her trial, with jurors considering a sentence of life in prison or execution.
Arias, 32, has acknowledged killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home on June 4, 2008 -- after initially denying any involvement and later blaming the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, Arias said she killed Alexander in self-defense.
After about 15 hours of deliberations over four days, jurors on May 8 convicted Arias of first-degree murder.
The panel later took less than three hours to determine that the killing was especially cruel, meaning the death penalty would be a consideration for sentencing.
Last week, jurors heard tearful statements from Alexander's brother and sister as they described how his death has torn their lives apart.
Monday begins a new phase of the trial as defense attorneys present witnesses to testify on Arias' behalf in hopes of saving her life.
Judge Sherry Stephens has instructed jurors they could consider a handful of factors when deciding Arias' sentence, including her lack of a prior criminal record and assertions that she was a good friend, had an abusive childhood and is a talented artist.
In opening statements, prosecutor Juan Martinez told the panel that none of those factors should cause them to even consider a sentence other than death, given the brutal nature of the killing.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi explained to jurors that Arias herself would testify this week.
“When you understand who Ms. Arias is, you will understand that life [in prison] is the appropriate sentence,” Nurmi said.
Defense attorneys said they also plan to call to testify an ex-boyfriend of Arias, among others, as they work to convince the jury their client's life should be spared.
Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, had his throat slit from ear to ear and was shot in the forehead. Prosecutors say the attack was fueled by jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end his affair with Arias and prepared to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.
The ongoing penalty proceedings will be the final phase of the trial. Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Arias' ultimate fate later this week.
Under Arizona law, if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on sentencing, the panel will be dismissed and jury selection will begin anew.
Another panel would then be seated to hear arguments in only the penalty phase to determine a sentence. If the second panel cannot reach a unanimous agreement, the judge would then sentence Arias, choosing between life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.
The most anticipated part of the penalty phase is Arias' scheduled return to the witness stand because almost immediately after she was convicted, she gave an interview to KSAZ-TV, saying she preferred death over life in prison.
It wasn't clear whether prosecutors would use those words against her in court.
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