Jodi Arias Trial Returns: Travis Alexander Killer Back In Court To Escape Death Penalty

By Staff Reporter on July 16, 2013 12:06 PM EDT

jodi arias
Jodi Arias Trial resumes. Defense attorneys ask for the death penalty to be removed. (Photo: Reuters)

The Jodi Arias trial resumes as the killer of Travis Alexander returns to court on Tuesday. Arias and her attorneys will appeal the jury's "especially cruel" verdict and ask the judge to throw out the death penalty.

Jodi Arias was convicted of first-degree murder on May 8 for the gruesome death of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. In June 2008, Jodi Arias killed Alexander at his Arizona home. Police found Alexander's body with a bullet to the forehead, 27 stab wounds, and a slit throat from ear to ear. 

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After two weeks of deliberations following her conviction for first-degree murder, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence Jodi Arias to the death penalty or to life in prison. Now, it is up to the judge to determine whether to appoint a new jury for further deliberations or to simply remove the death penalty. If the judge decides to go with the latter, Jodi Arias will be sentenced to life in prison and may even be eligible for release after 25 years.

According to Jodi Arias' defense attorneys, the particular definition of "especially cruel" is unclear and may be misinterpreted by jurors that lack the legal experience necessary to determine whether one murder is crueler than another. 

However, prosecutors argue that the defense motion lacks merit as the claim conflicts with a landmark ruling in 2002, when the U.S. Surpreme Court determined that allowing judges to determine an "especially cruel" verdict violates a defendant's constitutional right to a trial by jury.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Mongomery will consult with the victim's families and defense lawyers in an attempt to resolve the Jodi Arias trial amid the decision on whether to drop the death penalty or appoint a second jury. Should the trial extend to a second jury and a unanimous decision on the death penalty still cannot be reached, then the death penalty will be automatically removed from consideration, effectively sentencing Arias to life in prison.

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