PHOENIX (AP) — Steven Alexander stood before the jury, looked up at a family picture and grimaced and cried as he ticked off the list of problems that have befallen him in the five years since his brother was murdered: ulcers, depression, a separation from his wife, nightmares.
The dreams consist of someone coming at him with a knife then going after his wife and daughter. Other times, he has nightmares about his brother, “curled up in a shower, thrown in there, left to rot for days, all alone.” He feels like a child, unable to sleep alone in the dark.
“I don’t want these nightmares anymore. I don’t want to see my brother’s murderer anymore,” he said.
The gut-wrenching comments came as jurors began considering whether Jodi Arias should get a life sentence or be executed for the 2008 stabbing death of Travis Alexander. Jurors became visibly shaken as Steven Alexander and his sister spoke on deeply emotional levels in arguing for the death penalty. Arias sobbed throughout the hearing, with tears streaming down her face and landing on her black shirt.
Alexander’s two siblings were the only witnesses for the prosecution. Trial will resume Monday with statements from an ex-boyfriend of Arias and the defendant herself, among others.
The same jury listening to the statements convicted Arias of first-degree murder last week after about 15 hours of deliberations.
In opening statements Thursday, prosecutor Juan Martinez said there are no factors that should cause the jury to even consider a sentence other than death. The judge had instructed jurors that they could take into account certain things that might help them make a decision, such as Arias’ lack of a prior criminal record and assertions that she was a good friend, had an abusive childhood and is a talented artist.
Martinez said none of that matters in regard to the brutal killing.
“The only appropriate sentence … is death.”
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi explained to jurors that their decision ultimately would be the final one, telling them that they each had to make their own “moral assessment on what verdict is correct.”
“Your verdict, ladies and gentleman, will determine whether or not Jodi Arias spends the rest of her life in prison or if she is sentenced to be executed,” Nurmi said.
He then told the panel they would later hear directly from Arias.
“When you understand who Ms. Arias is, you will understand that life is the appropriate sentence,” Nurmi said.
Alexander’s sister Samantha later described for the panel how their grandmother, who raised the victim, saw her health fail after the killing and died around the time of jury selection.
“Travis was our strength, our beacon of hope, our motivation,” she said through tears. “Our lives will never be the same. … We would give anything to have him back.”
Steven Alexander recalled seeing his brother for the last time over the Christmas holiday in 2007.
“Now when I want to talk to or see my brother, I have to go to a … 6-foot-deep hole in the ground,” he said.
The trial was inexplicably delayed Thursday afternoon after the judge and attorneys met privately. It is set to resume Monday morning when other witnesses will include Arias’ friends and an ex-boyfriend who lived with her for several years in California.
Earlier this week, Arias’ attorneys asked to be allowed to step down from the case, but a judge denied the request.
Details about the motion were sealed, but legal experts said Arias complicated efforts for her defense when she gave an interview to Fox affiliate KSAZ minutes after her conviction, saying she preferred death over life in prison.
The interview prompted the judge to issue an order that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office allow no more interviews with Arias. Less than a week later, Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday gave reporters a tour of Arias’ cinderblock jail cell. The messy cell had a mattress on a lower bunk and the upper bunk cluttered with files and papers.
During a closed-door meeting with the judge Tuesday, Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott sought permission to withdraw from the case, according to court minutes released Thursday. Legal experts say the decision was not a surprising one because the attorneys have a conflict of interest with their own efforts to try and save her life while Arias has said she’d rather die.
“It would be something I would do in my major felony cases if I found that a client was actually working against me and not working with her defense,” Phoenix criminal defense lawyer Julio Laboy said.
Arias cannot choose the death penalty. It’s up to the jury to determine a sentence. Her attorneys’ motion to withdraw will have no impact on the penalty phase of the trial given jurors are not privy to the filing, and not even media have the details due to a court order sealing all such proceedings.
Arias, 32, acknowledged killing Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home after a day of sex on June 4, 2008. She initially denied any involvement and later blamed the attack on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, Arias said she killed Alexander in self-defense.
The victim 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.
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