The jury in the Jodi Arias murder trial huddled at 9 a.m. this morning on its big decision following about an hour of deliberations on Friday.
The panel's decision will be announced about an hour or less after it's made, court staff tells us this morning. Whether individual jury members feel Arias deserves to be freed or executed for killing Travis Alexander, no doubt they're all ready to quit the temp job they began on January 2.
You don't have to twist our arm -- we'll give you our best guess as to what happens.
And, of course, we'd love to hear your prediction, so please feel free to take our poll at the end of this post.
No need to say too much about the closing arguments of the defense. Like much of Arias' attempts to convince the jury and the rest of the world that she had a good reason for killing Alexander, the excuses fell flat.
Judging from many of the tens of thousands of tweets from the past few days, many trial watchers believe Juan Martinez's closing arguments were brilliant. We wouldn't go that far, but it did seem he did set up the pins for an easy strike.
His closing arguments also had several fun flourishes (we used "The Count's" YouTube site to view the vids). For instance, when Martinez covers how Arias drove to Utah to visit Ryan Burns after mutilating and killing Alexander, he comments on what a "romantic" scene it must have been, and how "you could almost hear the violins" playing.
Naturally, Martinez focused on the evidence of premeditation. The jury instructions state (see below) that to find someone guilty of first degree premeditated murder, an unspecified period of time must elapse in which the defendant considers and reflects upon the murder about to be committed.
According to Martinez, the evidence clearly shows the premeditation began in late May 2008, when -- he says -- Arias stole the .25-caliber handgun from her grandparents that was likely used to shoot Alexander. But, in a point he'd made previously in the trial, the fact that Arias "killed" Alexander three separate times proves premeditation took place between each separate act.
Blood smears in the hallway showed that Alexander tried desperately to escape his attacker after she began stabbing him in the shower.
"She chases him down -- that's what she did," Martinez told the jury. "How many stab wounds has she already given him at that point?"
The first assault was followed by the "strike to kill right at the neck." There's no doubt that Arias sliced his neck from ear to ear, and the act itself is one in which the attacker would have known would be fatal to the victim, Martinez argued.
Then came the gunshot. Forensic science shows that the bullet punched through Alexander's face and tore through his brain -- a devastating fatal wound in and of itself. Alexander would not have been capable of fighting back after the shot to the head, as a medical examiner testified. Moreover, the autopsy showed the bullet track didn't cause any blood flow -- because Alexander was already dead when he was shot.
"She killed him three times over," Martinez insisted. "Is that enough premeditation?"
if the answer to that question is "yes," then jurors will find Arias guilty of first-degree murder.
They have other options:
* Felony murder, based on the idea that she was committing burglary by being in Alexander's house with the intention of committing a murder.
* Second-degree murder, which doesn't require proof of premeditation.
* Manslaughter, based on the idea of a heat-of-passion quarrel that resulted in a death.
* Self-defense. This is Arias' ultimate hope and what her entire defense was tailored around. She claims that Alexander, naked and dripping in the shower, attacked her because he was angry that she'd dropped her new camera. She ran into his closet and grabbed "his" gun. It fired. The next thing she remembered, she was driving in the desert, far from the murder scene. The self-defense story is her third account of her role in the murder.
Whether Arias receives the death sentence will be decided in a penalty phase of the trial.
We're still willing to get out on that limb and predict that Arias will be found guilty of first-degree murder and will be sentenced to death. As we've written, .25-caliber guns are not very popular. The gun stolen from the home in which Arias lived was a .25 caliber, and the bullet found in Alexander's head was a .25 caliber. The odds of those two facts not being related are beyond reasonable doubt, in our humble opinion. Because of that, the murder was obviously well-planned ahead of time -- and that's not even taking into account the evidence of the gas cans, the license plate and her dyed hair.
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