The Mitigation of Justice: The Jodi Arias Trial

Mitigate: Make less severe, serious or painful

Justice:  The administration of the Law; especially the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.

Before I had children, I have to admit that it was easy for me to judge other parents. I would roll my eyes sometimes at parents whose kids were throwing tantrums in a store. I would think “cant they do a better job at controlling their children?” Then I had kids of my own and understand what it is like to be held hostage by a child throwing a fit in a store. The public meltdown is humiliating and you feel very helpless. The truth is you can’t “control” children. They are their own independent persons with a will of their own, a will that exerts itself against the very people who love them.

In the same way I can’t exactly understand what it is like to be called to be a juror of a murder case where the death penalty is a possible option. I know the jurors in the Jodi Arias case went through much. I know it had arias2to be agonizing to sit through all the testimony and then ultimately be handed the decision of her fate. Yet even though I commiserate that it is not an easy job, just like parenting isn’t an easy job, I still expect a parent with an out of control child to execute some kind of disciplinary measure to reign the child in. In the same way, I expected the Jodi Arias jury to execute a disciplinary measure towards Jodi Arias commensurate with her crime. The fact that the jury could not ultimately make a decision was excruciatingly painful. The whole point of their job was to “administer justice.” That is what they were called to do, no matter how painful it was. I understand that nobody asks to be a juror. At the same time, nobody volunteers to be a victim of a crime either. So just because a decision is hard, and you are forced to hear difficult things about the ultimate break down in social relations, does not mean a decision should not be made. I cannot but help to express my disappointment with the jury’s failure to do it’s job.

The law in Arizona allows a new jury to be formed for the penalty phase if a mistrial occurs, which it did in this case since the jurors deadlocked. A new jury, if an unprejudiced one can even be found, will only hear a fraction of the testimony this jury did, and then be forced to decide the “penalty phase.” If this jury couldn’t decide after hearing months of testimony, how is another jury going to feel confident deciding with less testimony. In essence by deadlocking, this jury is making it even less possible that a just decision can be made. If they don’t feel comfortable making that decision, do they feel comfortable handing the decision over to people who have less information? Do they feel justice will be better served that way?

By refusing to come to a unanimous decision, the jury played Pontius Pilate. They convicted Arias of first degree premeditated murder. They also agreed that the murder was especially cruel. Yet they couldn’t decide what punishment to give her. What they really decided is that they “wash their hands of the whole thing.” Pilate didn’t want Christ’s blood on his hands because he found him innocent. Four members of this jury didn’t have the guts to “have blood on their hands” by handing down a just punishment to Jodi Arias for a heinous crime they agreed she committed. Their decision was extremely disappointing. Did they not understand that handing down a punishment WAS their job from the beginning?

For those not aware of the case let me describe the crime. Jodi Arias, a woman in her twenties met and began dating a young man named Travis Alexander in February of 2007. Jodi did all that she could to hang onto Alexander, which included events as disparate as being baptized into the Mormon faith and engaging in wild sex. Despite her desires, the relationship did not work out and they broke up in June of 2007. After the break up Arias moved to Mesa Arizona where Alexander lived. Alexander communicated his fear of  Arias to friends. In April of 2008 Arias finally left Mesa and moved in with her grandparents in California which is where she was from. Alexander told friends he was relieved. However Arias wasn’t finished with him yet. On June 2nd she rented a car and drove to Mesa. She showed up at Alexander’s house. The two engaged in sex. Afterwords Alexander took a shower. Jodi had been taking photographs with her camera. At this point she claims Alexander attacked her because she dropped the camera and she then killed him in self-defense.

She attacked Alexander while he was naked, cornered and defenseless in the shower. In “self-defense” she stabbed him at least 27 times, slit his throat from ear to ear, and then shot him in the head with the same caliber of gun that had been stolen recently from her grandparents home. She put the digital camera in the washing machine. She returned the rental car after cleaning it. She then proceeded to a new “love interests” home where she engaged in kissing him. Her initial story was that it was a break in and that Alexander was killed by intruders while she fled. Then when she knew she was cornered by the evidence later recovered from the digital camera, she changed her story to Travis “abused her” and she was reacting in self-defense. Murdered on June 4th, Alexander’s body was discovered by friends from work on June 9th. In their 9-1-1 call made after the discovery of his body, they mentioned to police that Alexander had a girlfriend whom he complained was “stalking him, accessing his Facebook page, and who had slashed his tires.” Alexander was survived by seven siblings and his grandmother who raised him. His parents were both deceased. His grandmother would die before his case would come to trial.

Five years later the trial eventually commenced. At great hardship to them, two sisters and a brother of Alexander were at the trial every day. At the end of the trial one sister and a brother read “victim impact statements.” This is allowed by Arizona law. In very moving statements they described how the crime had impacted them personally.Alexander’s sister wept openly as she read her statement. Arias on the other hand, never showed any true remorse for her crime and lied repeatedly to the jury over and over, trying to and succeeding in manipulating them time and again. Prosecuting attorney Juan Martinez did an excellent job of juan-martinezprosecuting the case. DESPITE ALL THIS, the jury STILL COULD NOT DECIDE HER PUNISHMENT.

Let’s look at the “mitigating factors” in this case. The jury is instructed to consider these factors during the penalty phase. To mitigate means “to make less severe, serious or painful.” These were as follows: age, no prior criminal history, she was a “good friend”, she lacked support from family, she suffered abuse and neglect as a child, she tried to make the best of her life, she tried to improve herself, she is a talented artist. Let’s take these one by one.

  1. Age: Should Arias not get the death penalty for a brutal crime it was proven she committed because she was young? To me age does not make the crime “less severe.” If anything, it should be considered a strike against you that you could commit such a heinous crime at such a young age. If she is that hardened by age 28, she hasn’t been a practicing saint for some time.
  2. No prior criminal history: What we SHOULD say here is NO PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY ON RECORD. It was clear from the stalking and the slashing of tires and the inherent threat in such activity, not to mention the robbery at her grandparent’s house where she stole the gun she used to kill Alexander that “prior criminal history” did exist.
  3. The was a good friend: Prosecutor Juan Martinez covered this one. A friend, he noted is one whom you have a trusting, reciprocal relationship with. Since Arias proved herself to be a pathological liar, could she really have been a true friend to anyone?
  4. She lacked support from family: Many people lack support from their families. Should we use this to cut them a break in committing a heinous crime? There are legitimate means of finding support as opposed to killing an ex-boyfriend who you feel “owes you” support. We are all required to find legitimate legal ways of meeting our needs. That is a part of growing up and doesn’t excuse us when we don’t.
  5. She suffered abuse and neglect as a child: Interesting that they did not put “she suffered abuse” from Alexander as a mitigating factor. Again, many children suffer abuse and neglect as children and have to overcome that hardship. Of any of the mitigating factors, this is probably the only one that has any substance. In terms of the crime, the only way abuse should have been a mitigating factor for the crime was if Alexander abused her. A previous girlfriend of Alexander’s testified under oath that he was never abusive toward her. I think abuse could be a mitigating factor, if it were true. Since Arias is a pathological liar, can anything she says be believed? Was there enough tangible proof there that Alexander was abusive? Abuse by our family of origin does not justify not giving the death penalty for a heinous crime.
  6. She tried to make the best of her life: If you call trespassing, harassment, stalking, vandalism, lying, stealing, and murder “trying to make the best of your life” then I guess it’s a mitigating factor.
  7.  She tried to improve herself: What evidence do we see that she was trying to improve herself? The only thing she tried to improve was her “image.” In her media interviews she was very concerned about her looks. She wanted to powder her nose and make sure her make-up was just right. She knows one thing about America, “we like things to look good.” I notice she was not a blonde bombshell in court. For court she dyed her hair mousy brown, wore glasses and demure clothes. She was going for sympathy. Arias knows how play on the emotions. She is a master at it.
  8.  She is a talented artist: I really appreciated the “survivor” t-shirt she displayed in court. It gives me great joy to know that if we give her life in prison she will continue to make these “survivor” shirts for victims of domestic violence, after all that is what she is. I have to agree that she is a talented artist. She is a talented CON ARTIST. Even while standing convicted of especially cruel first degree premeditated murder she has the audacity to play the victim card in front of the Alexander family and the whole court. I don’t know how defense attorney’s sleep at night when they defend such humanity.

I think it is striking that no one, not even her mother or father, got up to say anything to the jury about why Jodi should get life and not the death penalty. That is pretty rare. Yet even that can be a sympathy factor for some jurors. “This poor girl, not even her family is defending her!” I really wish they had called in Robert Hare, who is an expert in Sociopathy. He wrote a book called “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. In his book he talked about the main weapon Sociopath’s use to get what they want: SYMPATHY. Ironically sociopaths themselves show a marked lack of empathy. They do not truly “connect with other people.” They show no respect for their boundaries. They don’t care about others. People are merely things for them to exploit to get what they want.

Maybe if the jury could realize that about Arias, they wouldn’t make the mistake of regarding Arias as “a person like themselves” and shown empathy for her. Several of the jurors, including the jury foreman, expressed arias3difficulty seeing her as a murderer. She just didn’t “look like one.” She was too demure, to soft spoken, too mousy.” I think they even felt sorry for her when she cried on the stand when Prosecutor Juan Martinez grilled her “Were you crying when you stabbed Travis Alexander over twenty times.” Poor, poor Jodi. He is SUCH a mean, aggressive prosecutor. How dare he make her cry on the stand? Do they understand that for a sociopath crying is just a performance like everything else? In a sense their whole life is a performance, and the rest of the world are just their pawns in a grand game of manipulation.

At the end of the day some of the jurors got sucked in to the sympathy card Jodi Arias plays so well. That and probably unrecognized prejudices about putting women to death, especially attractive, articulate, pretty women. How can we put such a delicate petal as her under such a harsh penalty? One of the jurors said, “Well she still get’s death,” meaning life in prison is as good as death. But life in prison is not as good as death. Not to the Alexander family and not to anyone who is concerned about justice, such as me. I am truly baffled at this jury’s inability to make this decision. I am not only baffled, I am acutely disappointed. Are we really, truly confused about what type of crime should incur the death penalty? If an exceedingly cruel premeditated first degree murder does not deserve this penalty, what does?

One of the jurors’ implied that “the system worked.” Yes, maybe the system did “work”, and maybe that salves their conscience, but the system is imperfect. The bottom line is that this jury failed to complete their job. Yes I have sympathy that it was a hard job, it was brutal and emotionally taxing. I agree it was a difficult decision, but we were relying on them to make it and they let us down. What they did is essentially elegate a difficult decision to someone else. They did not execute justice, they obscured it.

A jury member reading this might say, “Easy for you to say. You weren’t there.You weren’t on the jury. You don’t REALLY know what it was like.” I have to admit that is true. However I would say to that, that I do know what it is like to be a victim of a crime by a woman sociopath who has never been brought to justice. Like Arias, she too does criminal activity without getting caught because she hides behind a facade. This jury’s decision makes me very sad, because it makes me feel I too would never be able to get true justice even if I could get a trial and present the evidence. Most of all I am sad for the Alexanders who not only received no justice, they have lost their beloved brother forever. Some of these jurors obviously could not live with themselves by putting someone to death. I hope they can live with themselves knowing they mitigated justice away.