, Port Arthur, Texas

Breaking news

May 8, 2013

Phoenix jury reaches verdict in Jodi Arias trial

HOUSTON — The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of Jodi Arias, a waitress and aspiring photographer charged with killing her one-time boyfriend in Arizona. Arias initially denied involvement and later blamed the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed Travis Alexander in self-defense.

After a four-month trial that included graphic details of their sexual escapades and photos of Alexander just after his death, jurors began deliberating Friday afternoon.

This is what AP reporters on the scene Wednesday are learning about the events unfolding:



As those in the courtroom wait for Arias to be brought in and things to start, people are whispering. Alexander’s family is sitting and staring straight ahead. Outside, the crowd is chanting “Justice for Travis.” The court had said the hearing would begin at 1:30 p.m. It’s not clear what’s causing the delay.



AP Reporter Brian Skoloff is in the courtroom, which is packed. Some members of the media didn’t get in. The families are in the front, and the proceedings should start any minute.


“SHHHH”, 1:35 p.m.

Outside the courthouse, people are urging the crowd to be quiet as the time for the verdict approached. Reporters are being escorted into the courtroom.



In the minutes before the reading of the verdict, four of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in the United States had to do with the trial: Nancy Grace, Jodi Arias, (hashtag)justicefortravis and (hashtag)verdictwatch.



The case has caused a rift between a Phoenix couple standing outside the courthouse. Forty-three-year-old Gilbert Morales, who thinks Arias is guilty, wants her put to death. His wife, 38-year-old Kassandra Morales has been trying to convince her husband that Arias was a victim. She says Arias was abused, and that “if it was premeditated she would have done things better and different.”


FORMER JURORS, 1:25 p.m.

Two of the jurors removed from the case during the trial are in the courtroom to see the verdict.



The families of Alexander and Arias have entered the courtroom, as has prosecutor Juan Martinez.



Phoenix defense attorney Julio Laboy is providing analysis to the AP about the case and the upcoming verdict. He said it’s a fast verdict. He said deliberations mark the first-ever discussion about the evidence and testimony, since juries are admonished by the judge not talk about the case all through the trial.



The streets leading to the courthouse are lined with TV crews, media trucks and reporters. Outside the building entrance TV cameras are waiting. Spectators include families with kids in strollers. Margaret Fernandez, 68, retired, of Phoenix, has been following the case from home but came to catch sight of the prosecutor she admires and the other lawyers. “I just want to make sure the justice system works,” said Fernandez, who wants Arias to get life in prison. “I’m a mother. I have a son. I don’t know what I would do in that situation.”


VICTIM’S FAMILY, 1:00 p.m.

Family and friends of Alexander are at courthouse wearing blue ribbons and wristbands with the words “Justice For Travis.”



If the jury convicts Arias of first-degree murder, the trial will move into what’s called the “aggravation” phase. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. The jurors are the same. OPTION 1: The panel doesn’t find the presence of aggravating factors, so the judge dismisses them and sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. OPTION 2: Jurors find there were aggravating factors, and the case moves into a penalty phase. The jury decides whether Arias should be executed or get life in prison. Additional witnesses could be called by both sides. If jurors don’t reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.



If Arias is convicted of first-degree murder, she faces either life in prison or a death sentence. Jurors also have the option of convicting her of second-degree murder if they believe she didn’t premeditate the killing but still intentionally caused Alexander’s death. If convicted of that charge, she could be sentenced to 10 to 22 years in prison. Manslaughter is an option if the panel believes Arias didn’t plan the killing in advance and the attack occurred in the heat of passion after “adequate” provocation from Alexander. A conviction on this charge carries a sentence of seven to 21 years in prison. If they believe she killed Alexander in self-defense, Arias would be acquitted and would walk out after being incarcerated for more than four years.



Court system sends out an email: “The jury has reached a verdict in the State v Jodi Arias. The verdict will be read today at 1:30 p.m.” That triggered a flurry of people rushing to the courthouse and live TV shots and Web feeds by the numerous news outlets covering the trial.

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