(PHOENIX) — Jodi Arias cried through the first day of her death penalty hearing Thursday as the siblings of her slain ex-boyfriend told the jury they didn’t want to “see (their) brother’s murderer anymore.”
Travis Alexander’s brother Stephen Alexander and sister Samantha Alexander gave statements to the jury on the first day of the death penalty phase of Arias’ case.
Arias, 32, was convicted last week of murder for killing Alexander using a knife and a gun in 2008. If she is given the death penalty, she will be the third woman on Arizona’s death row.
“I thought my brother was bulletproof. I thought he was stronger than anything, that he couldn’t be cut down or knocked down,” Stephen Alexander said. “He was unbreakable. Who would want to do this to him? For what reasons? Unfortunately I won’t ever get the answers to most of my questions.”
Alexander’s brother and sister were not allowed to petition directly to the jury for any particular sentence. They were allowed only to express how Alexander’s murder has affected them and what type of person Alexander was. Stephen Alexander said that he suffered nightmares, became withdrawn and depressed, and separated from his wife after his brother’s murder.
“I don’t want these nightmares anymore. I don’t want to have to see my brother’s murderer anymore. I don’t want to hear his name dragged through the mud,” he said.
Both Stephen and Samantha Alexander had to pause frequently to compose themselves while addressing the court, and tears streamed down Arias’ face, dripping off her chin and onto her black dress.
Arias will also have the opportunity to speak directly to the jury. Her attorneys will first present character witnesses on her behalf, including another ex-boyfriend, Darryl Brewer, to convince the jury that “mitigating factors” exist in the murder that should prompt the jury to spare Arias from the death penalty.
Attorney Kirk Nurmi told the jury Thursday that they would hear about Arias’ clean criminal record and her lifelong attempts to better herself. They would also see examples of her artwork, he said.
The center of Thursday’s drama was the testimony of siblings, who live in California but have attended the trial in Arizona since it began in January.
“We have been at this trial every day since it started,” said Samantha Alexander. “We have heard every detail about the crime and the injuries Travis suffered. I am a police officer, and some of these photos are more gruesome than what I’ve seen in 11 years of law enforcement.”
“Our family has bore the burden of extreme financial hardship and loss to be sure that Travis’s life was not forgotten, not lost in vain,” she said. “To have Travis taken so barbarically is beyond any words we can find to describe our horrific loss.”
Earlier this week, Arias’ attorneys petitioned the judge to be let off the case, a motion they’ve made at least once before during the five-month trial in Arizona.
Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott met with Judge Sherry Stephens on Tuesday morning and asked to withdraw, according to court minutes documenting the meeting.
The documents do not shed any light on why Nurmi and Willmott wanted to withdraw from the case.
The request came after Arias’ conviction and a TV interview in which Arias said she would prefer death to life in prison. That created the irony of Nurmi and Willmott arguing on the next day for the jury to not sentence her to death.
Stephens denied their request and it was at least the second time she’s denied Nurmi and Willmott the opportunity to walk away from Arias during the case. During the prior request, Arias and her mother wrote to the judge asking that Nurmi and Willmott be ordered to continue serving as her attorneys.
The attorneys have not publicly said why they want off the case. Nurmi made a half-joking comment during his closing argument about how unlikeable Arias seems. He conceded to jurors that they might not like Arias very much, and added, “Nine days out of ten I don’t like her.” Arias smiled at the comment.
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