Jodi Arias, left, was found guilty May 8 in the grisly premeditated first-degree murder of her ex, Travis Alexander, right, in June 2008. (Photo : courtesy Facebook)
Personal attacks and exasperated arguments; tense, red-faced shouting matches; fierce interrogation methods; desperate defense lawyers searching for any chance to escape—the initial stage of the Jodi Arias trial had no shortage of drama. And now, as more court transcripts are unsealed, it's clear some of the most heated moments in the case happened behind-the-scenes.
A waitress and aspiring photographer from California, Arias, 32, was found guilty in May of premeditated first-degree murder in the killing of her former boyfriend, 30-year-old Travis Alexander, in June 2008. The gruesome, shocking nature of Arias' crime, and her steadfast contention that she acted in self-defense, dominated media coverage and polarized the public. Medical examiners found Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times in the torso, chest, heart, and back, shot him in the face, and slit his throat from ear to ear with such extreme force that it almost decapitated him, and all in less than two minutes.
Arias lied to various sources on numerous occasions over the years about her involvement in Alexander's death, but eventually admitted to killing him, claiming she was forced to fight for her life when he suddenly attacked her during a nude photo shoot in the bathroom of his Arizona home.
While jurors agreed they didn't believe Arias' self-defense testimony, the jury could not reach a unanimous agreement about whether or not she should receive the death penalty or life in prison. Faced with a hung jury, Judge Sherry Stephens was forced to dismiss jurors, throwing the trial into purgatory until July 16 status update hearing that will determine if Arias' case will undergo another penalty phase to decide her fate, or if she will be offered a plea deal, taking the death penalty off the table.
Despite the highly-publicized nature of Arias' trial, with live video feeds of proceedings, and pervasive media coverage, Judge Stephens chose to hide the content of often contentious in court sidebars and closed hearings from the public. That is, until recently; The Arizona Republic has obtained the trial transcripts briefly released by Judge Stephens. And the action that was only inferred until now depicts an intense courtroom, to say the least, with lawyers at each other's throats, often over prosecutor Juan Martinez's spitfire questioning of defense witnesses, with Arias' lawyers struggling for control.
The Arizona Republic reports that the transcripts reveal Martinez and Arias' defense team constantly butted heads in front of Judge Stephens quibbling over what witnesses would or might say, and often throwing petty insults at one another. Arias' lawyers alleged attorney misconduct on several occasions, though none of the claims were sustained, and Martinez was also apparently growing increasingly frustrated with the defense team's "characterizations and objections to him."
The transcripts also suggest that a key final witness for Arias, Patricia Womack, who never testified supposedly due to death threats, may have chosen not to take the stand for fear of what Martinez could say about her. According to the transcript, when the witness refused to appear on the last day of court, Martinez was overheard during a sidebar with the Judge explaining his plan for the witness. She had a drug problem, Martinez said. She appeared "high" in a certain interview. She could be guilty of violating welfare regulations. And Martinez also said he would insinuate she also might have failed to claim income from photographs she had sold to a TV station.
Defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi previously pleaded to Judge Stephens that the case should be thrown out, and Arias retried because her childhood friend, Womack, who planned to testify during the initial penalty phase, would not take the stand because she allegedly received "threats on her life if she were to testify on Ms. Arias' behalf," according to the defense's motion.
Arias will next appear in court on July 16 when a decision about the trial's future, and date for a new penalty phase are expected to be announced.