By Brian Skoloff
The Associated Press
PHOENIX — The same jury that convicted Jodi Arias of murder one week ago took less than three hours Wednesday to determine that the former waitress is eligible for the death penalty in the stabbing death of her one-time lover.
The swift verdict sets the stage for the final phase of the trial to determine whether the 32-year-old Arias should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty for the 2008 murder of Travis Alexander in a Phoenix suburb.
Prosecutors will call Alexander’s family and other witnesses in an effort to convince the panel Arias should face the ultimate punishment. Her defense lawyers will call family members in an attempt to gain sympathy from jurors to save her life. It’s not yet known if Arias will testify.
Arias showed no emotion Wednesday after the jury returned a decision that was widely expected given the violent nature of the killing. Investigators say she slashed the victim’s throat, stabbed him in the heart and shot him in the face in what they say was a jealous rage after Alexander wanted to date other women and take a trip to Mexico with his latest love interest.
The jury simply had to determine the killing was committed in an especially cruel and heinous manner to complete the “aggravation phase” of the trial and move on to the penalty portion. The jury got the case around noon, took a lunch break and returned the verdict around 3 p.m.
Family members of Alexander sobbed in the front row as prosecutor Juan Martinez took the jury through the killing one more time earlier in the day. He described how blood gushed from Alexander’s chest, hands and neck.