Jodi Arias Could Be Executed in Just Four Years — if Her Death Wish Isn’t Another Lie

In an exclusive post-conviction interview, boyfriend-killer Jodi Arias insisted that she didn't plan to kill 30-year-old Travis Alexander in 2008. But now that she's been convicted of premeditated murder, she'd "prefer to die sooner than later."

Jodi Arias's Murder Trial: Complete Coverage

Arias went on to say to Channel 10's Troy Hayden, "Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

If the jury gives the world-famous murderess the death penalty, and she keeps her word, she could be dead in as little as four years. But when has Arias told the truth since Alexander's bloody demise?

Leaving a cyanide pill in her cell so she could exit the world like arsonist Michael Marin did in a Phoenix courtroom last year ("Burning Man" Found Guilty of Arson, June 28) isn't an option, no matter how many people post tweets to "#jodiarias" wishing it was.

In fact, her comments to KSAZ-TV last week landed her on a Maricopa County jail suicide watch. A guard checked her every 15 minutes to make sure she'd be alive until the high-rating TV spectacle starring her ends. The suicide watch was lifted as this article went to press.

Yet Arias could hasten her demise substantially if she fails to appeal a death sentence, says Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.

The state grants one automatic appeal to inmates sentenced to die, regardless of their wishes. Assuming that's not successful in Arias' case — and Arias still claims she wants to die — the state will order a psychiatric examination to be "100 percent that the person is completely fine, mentally," Grisham says. Then: curtains.

In theory, the process could take just four years. Because a normal death-penalty case takes 20 to 27 years from conviction to execution, Arias' decision could save taxpayers millions of dollars, Grisham says.

The sensational trial, which has been going on since January 2, already has cost county taxpayers an estimated $2 million.

After finding Arias guilty of first-degree murder, jury members now turn their attention to the trial's aggravation and penalty phases. These could last at least a couple of weeks, experts say. The proceedings were scheduled to begin right before publication of this story.

In the aggravation phase, "The state will present evidence to prove the murder was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner," says Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the County Attorney's Office.

Defense attorney Mel McDonald, a former Arizona U.S. Attorney who has watched the trial closely, says he believes the chances that the jury will vote for the death penalty are "staggeringly high."

McDonald adds, "You don't get much more gruesome than this offense. You can tell from the jury questions that they were not sympathizing with her."

The horror-movie details of Alexander's slaying are familiar to even casual observers of what has been one of the most celebrated televised trials in U.S. history.

Stabbed 27 times. Throat slashed from ear to ear. Shot in the head.

Alexander's decomposing body was found several days after the June 4, 2008, murder. Arias, an ex-girlfriend whom Alexander and his friends considered a stalker, quickly fell under suspicion.

She had attended his memorial service and even written his grandmother a letter to express sorrow about Alexander's death. She told police she had nothing to do with the murder and hadn't been to Arizona in weeks. Technicians with the Mesa Police Department recovered pictures in Alexander's camera and DNA evidence that proved she was lying.

Confronted with the evidence after her arrest, Arias came up with a phony story about two masked intruders coming into Alexander's home, shooting him, then threatening her family if she ever told anyone. Arias related the bogus account of the slaying in TV interviews, claiming that a jury would never convict her. She finally ditched the story and replaced it with her failed self-defense claim.

The same jury of eight men and four women that convicted her now is tasked with writing the final chapter of the Arias saga. All 12 jurors must agree on at least one aggravating factor, according to state law.

Juan Martinez, the bombastic, now-internationally popular deputy county attorney responsible for securing Arias' conviction, will use evidence he's already presented at trial to make his case for "heinous, cruel, and depraved manner" as an aggravating factor.

The jury can decide that the state hasn't proved the aggravating factor, in which case the judge will sentence Arias to natural life, meaning she'll die in prison. If jury members can't agree on at least one factor, a new jury will be impaneled to make the decision.

If jurors agree with Martinez, the trial moves to the penalty phase. This is where Arias hopes to convince jurors that she doesn't deserve execution. McDonald says Arias' defense team will "throw everything at the wall" in an attempt to persuade jurors to spare her life.

But in the Channel 10 interview, Arias said one of her lawyers, Kirk Nurmi, told her she has no mitigating factors: "Um, nothing that is what you typically see in a case like this, such as a childhood where there [were] drugs, alcoholism, [or] molestation. None of those things occurred in my family. So I guess we would sort of joke that my mom didn't beat me hard enough. So I don't have mitigation."

As with the aggravation phase, a new jury will be impaneled if jurors disagree. Jurors must be unanimous that Arias doesn't deserve the death penalty — or unanimous that she does. If they vote for death, it's not a recommendation. Arias will be on her way to getting her supposed death wish.

It seems unlikely that she's suddenly telling the truth this time, after telling three big lies about how Alexander died.

Had Arias really wanted to die, she could have made it a murder-suicide by offing herself at the murder scene. Instead, she left Alexander's home with the .25-caliber gun that she recalled dumping in the desert. She drove to Utah for a make-out session with Ryan Burns, left a voice mail for Alexander as if he were still alive, and disposed of bloody socks and other evidence.

It certainly appears that she planned to get away with the murder — and live.

No doubt, she loves the limelight. And she's put an unsubtle clue on her website that she intends to enjoy life for as long as she can.

She's selling T-shirts emblazoned with the word "Survivor."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.