(CBS/AP) - Jurors in Jodi Arias’ trial on Wednesday found the former waitress should be eligible for the death penalty after they convicted her last week of murdering her one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander.
The jury determined Arias murdered Alexander in an “especially cruel and heinous” manner, paving the way for the trial to move into a penalty phase, when the panel will weigh her possible execution.
During the trial’s next and final phase, prosecutors will call witnesses, including members of Alexander’s family, aimed at convincing the panel she should face the ultimate punishment of death.
Arias’ attorneys will also call witnesses, likely members of her family, in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors so they give her life in prison.
Arias was convicted of first-degree murder last Wednesday in Alexander’s 2008 stabbing death. She argued that she killed Alexander in self-defense.
At the beginning of Wednesdays hearing, a judge instructed the jury to weigh whether Alexander suffered physical or mental pain or anguish prior to his death, and whether Arias should have known he was suffering.
Travis Alexander suffered both physical and mental anguish in the final moments of his life, prosecutor Juan Martinez argued in court Wednesday.
“She made sure of it. She made sure she killed him by stabbing him over and over and over again and then finishing him off by slicing his throat,” Martinez said. “It is also sure that during this attack Mr. Alexander suffered. Mr. Alexander suffered pain every time the knife went into his body, every time the knife blade struck the back of his head, and when the blade went down to his throat, it was certainly also extremely painful.”
Arias’ defense argued that there is inherent cruelty in all first degree murders, and that the cruelty in Alexander’s murder was not unusually great or significant. Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ defense attorney, said that experts have testified that Arias’ mental state may have prevented her from knowing that she was causing pain during the attack on Alexander.
“You must make a detached objective judgment as to whether or not the state has proven the aggravating factor to you beyond a reasonable doubt,” Nurmi told the jury. “Your duty as jurors is to detach yourself from that emotion.”
If the jurors had not found Arias killed Alexander in an especially cruel manner, the jurors would have been dismissed, and the judge would have determined whether Arias should spend the rest of her life in prison or be sentenced to 25 years with the possibility of release.
Now, Arias’ fate is once again in the hands of the jury, who will be tasked with weighing her fate and recommending a sentence to the judge.