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May 8, 2013

NATION: Cheers, tears at Arias 1st-degree murder verdict

CULLMAN — The jury has found Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her one-time boyfriend in Arizona. Arias initially denied involvement and later blamed the killing on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said she killed Travis Alexander in self-defense.

After a four-month trial that included graphic details of their sexual escapades and photos of Alexander just after his death, jurors began deliberating Friday afternoon.

This is what AP reporters on the scene Wednesday are learning about the events unfolding:

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“RELIEF”, 2:32 p.m.

Julie Haslem, a close friend of the Alexander family, sobbed as she left the courtroom. She said: “I feel relief.” Asked if Arias will receive the death penalty: “I hope so.”

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ARIAS’ MOTHER, 2:29 p.m.

Sandra Arias, Jodi Arias’ mother, declined to comment to reporters as she left the courtroom.

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WRONGFUL DEATH, 2:24 p.m.

Attorney Jay Beckstead said Alexander’s siblings will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Arias. He thanked the county attorney, the detective, and said the siblings “appreciate the outpouring of support they have received from the public.”

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VICTIM’S FRIEND, 2:21 p.m.

David Hall, Alexander’s friend, told reporters as he left the court that this case was what the death penalty was for. He said after five years, the family finally got the verdict they were waiting for, and he thanked the jury. He said he couldn’t look at Arias as the verdict was read. “My eyes traveled up, I couldn’t see, I think I just looked skyward and said ‘Thank God,” for today.”

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EXPERT OPINION, 2:15 p.m.

Phoenix defense attorney Julio Laboy said he believed the prosecutor wouldn’t have any trouble convincing the jury that the crime was “either cruel, heinous, or depraved.” He said the jury sent clear messages in the questions during trial and in their speedy verdict. He points out the jury didn’t ask any questions during deliberations.

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JOY OUTSIDE COURTHOUSE, 2:10 p.m.

Sixty-year-old social worker Tish Guzman works downtown and came to the court building for the first time Wednesday to watch the trial. She had been hoping Arias would be convicted of first-degree murder. She said Alexander was “part of our community. We need to support our community.” Elise Leon, a paralegal who is also 60, made four signs all calling for justice for Travis. One read “Travis you are in our hearts.”

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EXPERT OPINION, 2:02 p.m.

Phoenix defense attorney Julio Laboy said he was not surprised by the first-degree conviction, “given the speed — yes the speed — with which the jury returned its verdict. Fifteen hours, despite what the naysayers say, for a four-month trial and 600-plus exhibits with one witness on the stand for 18 days, is lightning fast.”

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WHAT’S NEXT?, 1:58 p.m.

The same jury will reconvene at 1 p.m. Thursday for the next phase of the trial, called the “aggravation” phase. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. If the panel doesn’t find the presence of aggravating factors, the judge dismisses them and sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. If jurors find there were aggravating factors, the case moves into a penalty phase. The jury decides whether Arias should be executed or get life in prison. Additional witnesses could be called by both sides. If jurors don’t reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

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REACTION, 1:53 p.m.

As the guilty verdict was read, Arias opened her mouth, licked her lips and swallowed hard, and then fought back tears with a look of disbelief. Alexander’s family smiled and hugged each other. Outside, people cheered and hugged, then began chanting “USA, USA, USA.”

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ARIAS GUILTY OF 1ST-DEGREE MURDER, 1:49 p.m.

Jury finds Arias guilty of 1st-degree murder.

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JUDGE ENTERS, JURY ENTERS, 1:48 p.m.

The judge and jury are in the courtroom.

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ARIAS IN THE COURTROOM, 1:46 p.m.

Arias is in the courtroom.

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WHISPERS INSIDE, SHOUTING OUTSIDE, 1:43 p.m.

As those in the courtroom wait for Arias to be brought in and things to start, people are whispering. Alexander’s family is sitting and staring straight ahead. Outside, the crowd is chanting “Justice for Travis.” The court had said the hearing would begin at 1:30 p.m. It’s not clear what’s causing the delay.

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AP IN THE COURTROOM, 1:38 p.m.

AP Reporter Brian Skoloff is in the courtroom, which is packed. Some members of the media didn’t get in. The families are in the front, and the proceedings should start any minute.

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“SHHHH”, 1:35 p.m.

Outside the courthouse, people are urging the crowd to be quiet as the time for the verdict approached. Reporters are being escorted into the courtroom.

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TWITTER TRENDS, 1:30 p.m.

In the minutes before the reading of the verdict, four of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in the United States had to do with the trial: Nancy Grace, Jodi Arias, (hashtag)justicefortravis and (hashtag)verdictwatch.

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DIFFERING OPINIONS, 1:28 p.m.

The case has caused a rift between a Phoenix couple standing outside the courthouse. Forty-three-year-old Gilbert Morales, who thinks Arias is guilty, wants her put to death. His wife, 38-year-old Kassandra Morales has been trying to convince her husband that Arias was a victim. She says Arias was abused, and that “if it was premeditated she would have done things better and different.”

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FORMER JURORS, 1:25 p.m.

Two of the jurors removed from the case during the trial are in the courtroom to see the verdict.

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FAMILIES ARRIVE, 1:20 p.m.

The families of Alexander and Arias have entered the courtroom, as has prosecutor Juan Martinez.

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EXPERT OPINION, 1:15 p.m.

Phoenix defense attorney Julio Laboy is providing analysis to the AP about the case and the upcoming verdict. He said it’s a fast verdict. He said deliberations mark the first-ever discussion about the evidence and testimony, since juries are admonished by the judge not talk about the case all through the trial.

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SCENE OUTSIDE COURTHOUSE, 1:10 p.m.

The streets leading to the courthouse are lined with TV crews, media trucks and reporters. Outside the building entrance TV cameras are waiting. Spectators include families with kids in strollers. Margaret Fernandez, 68, retired, of Phoenix, has been following the case from home but came to catch sight of the prosecutor she admires and the other lawyers. “I just want to make sure the justice system works,” said Fernandez, who wants Arias to get life in prison. “I’m a mother. I have a son. I don’t know what I would do in that situation.”

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VICTIM’S FAMILY, 1:00 p.m.

Family and friends of Alexander are at courthouse wearing blue ribbons and wristbands with the words “Justice For Travis.”

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FIRST-DEGREE MURDER, 12:45 p.m.

If the jury convicts Arias of first-degree murder, the trial will move into what’s called the “aggravation” phase. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence during a mini trial of sorts. The jurors are the same. OPTION 1: The panel doesn’t find the presence of aggravating factors, so the judge dismisses them and sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. OPTION 2: Jurors find there were aggravating factors, and the case moves into a penalty phase. The jury decides whether Arias should be executed or get life in prison. Additional witnesses could be called by both sides. If jurors don’t reach a unanimous agreement on the death penalty, the judge sentences Arias to either the rest of her life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

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POSSIBLE VERDICTS, 12:18 p.m.

If Arias is convicted of first-degree murder, she faces either life in prison or a death sentence. Jurors also have the option of convicting her of second-degree murder if they believe she didn’t premeditate the killing but still intentionally caused Alexander’s death. If convicted of that charge, she could be sentenced to 10 to 22 years in prison. Manslaughter is an option if the panel believes Arias didn’t plan the killing in advance and the attack occurred in the heat of passion after “adequate” provocation from Alexander. A conviction on this charge carries a sentence of seven to 21 years in prison. If they believe she killed Alexander in self-defense, Arias would be acquitted and would walk out after being incarcerated for more than four years.

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VERDICT REACHED, 11:30 a.m.

Court system sends out an email: “The jury has reached a verdict in the State v Jodi Arias. The verdict will be read today at 1:30 p.m.” That triggered a flurry of people rushing to the courthouse and live TV shots and Web feeds by the numerous news outlets covering the trial.

 

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