Murder accused recounts sex, lies and religion
A US woman charged in the stabbing and shooting death of her lover has recounted her abusive past, the numerous boyfriends who cheated on her, her troubled relationships and how her life changed forever the day she met the victim.
Jodi Arias, 32, is accused of stabbing and slashing Travis Alexander 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008. She initially denied any involvement, then later blamed it on masked intruders before eventually settling on self-defence.
Arias claims Alexander invited her to his home for a day of sex, then turned violent, forcing her to fight for her life. Prosecutors say she killed him in a jealous rage.
She could face the death penalty if convicted in a case that has been US cable news fodder for weeks with lurid stories of sex, lies, religion and violence.
Arias testified on Monday about her abusive childhood at the hands of her parents, and of a high school boyfriend who once tried to strangle her.
On Tuesday, she told jurors of other boyfriends - before she met Alexander - who cheated on her, lied to her, had alcohol problems and didn't treat her well. The defence claims Alexander, a successful businessman and motivational speaker, too, was abusive, both physically and mentally.
Arias said she first met Alexander at a Las Vegas convention in late 2006 after years of bad relationships, working multiple jobs and struggling to pay bills. She was enamoured by him. She had been in a bad relationship, but after meeting Alexander, everything seemed different. She suddenly saw both personal and professional opportunities, a time to begin enjoying life.
"The things he said to me made a big impression on me," Arias told jurors, often staring directly at the panel as if having a conversation with them. She said Alexander allowed her to "step back and make me look at where I was and where I was going".
He also told her about his Mormon faith, she said.
Arias said she soon ended her relationship with another man and within a week, she saw Alexander again. That's when things became sexual, she testified.
While staying the night at a home of one of Alexander's friends, a day before he was to take her to church, she said the pair engaged in oral sex.
"I didn't want to tell him no so I just kept going with it," she said. "At that point in time, I was not really accustomed to saying no."
Throughout the trial, defence attorneys have depicted Alexander as a liar and a cheater who called Arias derogatory names, belittled her, and told her and other girlfriends that he was a devout Mormon saving sex for marriage, while in reality he was having sex with other women.
Arias's defence is attempting to build sympathy with jurors in hopes they won't convict her of first-degree murder, something that could potentially lead to a death sentence, by establishing a past littered with abuse, said California criminal defence lawyer Michael Cardoza, who has been following the trial.
"What they're doing is trying to elicit sympathy from the jury, to show, look at what this poor person had to go through throughout her life," Cardoza said.
It's a good technique, he said, but it could backfire if her testimony drags too long into the minutia of her life.
"They could start losing some jurors," Cardoza said. "They should really step it up and move it along because if jurors get bored, they could stop paying attention."
The trial began in early January with salacious details about a torrid romance between Arias and Alexander. She claims they dated for about five months, then broke up but continued to see each other for sex. Alexander's friends said she stalked him after the break-up and became possessive and jealous.
Arias said she lied early in the investigation about not being at the scene of the killing because she planned to commit suicide.
Authorities said they found her hair and bloody palm print at the scene of the killing, along with time-stamped photographs on a memory card in a camera discovered inside Alexander's washing machine that place Arias there on the day he died. The photos included one of Arias nude on his bed, one of Alexander alive in the shower, then one of his body on the bathroom floor.
Defence attorneys have yet to explain why Arias apparently attempted to clean the scene, washing Alexander's bedding and the camera, and what happened to the weapons.
Authorities say Alexander was shot in the head with a .25 calibre gun, the same calibre Arias's grandparents reported stolen from their Northern California home about a week before the killing.