Consulting on the Jodi Arias Case
CRJ336 – Criminal Investigation
Colorado State University Global
In 2006, while working for Prepaid Legal Services, Jodi Arias met Travis Alexander. Travis Alexander was a salesman and motivational speaker for the company. The two quickly developed a sexual relationship and continued to communicate daily through phone calls and emails. They would also meet up when they could in different states. Alexander lived in Mesa, Arizona, and in early 2007 Arias decided to move to be closer to him. After five months of dating, they broke up but continued to maintain their sexual relationship. On June 4, 2008 Travis was murdered but his body wouldn’t be discovered until 5 days later by his friends. They found him dead in the shower; he had been stabbed repeatedly and shot once in the head.
During the investigation, the relationship between Alexander and Arias became their main focus. Friends of Alexander stated that Arias may be involved because Alexander had told them that Arias had been threatening him. During her several interrogations she gave multiple stories to show her innocence. A digital camera was found and the pictures retrieved showed Alexander lying on the bathroom floor, bleeding profusely. DNA and palm prints from the crime scene included those of Alexanders and Arias.
A month later Arias would be arrested and charged with the murder of Alexander. She pleaded not guilty, even though there was evidence strongly suggesting that Arias could have been the only one present during the murder. Arias’ trial would begin two years later. During the trial she admitted to murdering Alexander but claimed that it was in self-defense. She claimed that Alexander was physically and emotionally abusive and that on the day of the murder he had become violent, forcing her to protect herself. On May 8, 2013 Arias was convicted of murder in the first degree.
May 28, 2008 – A .25 caliber gun is reported stolen from Arias’ grandparents home (AP, 2014).
June 4, 2008 – Arias goes on a road trip but takes a detour to see Alexander (AP, 2014).
June 5, 2008 – Arias continues on her road trip (AP, 2014).
June 9, 2008 – Alexander’s body is found by his friends. He had been shot with a .25 caliber gun and stabbed nearly 30 times (AP, 2014).
July 9, 2008 – Aria is indicted of first degree murder (AP, 2014).
July 15, 2008 – Arias is arrested. She maintains her innocence (AP, 2014).
September 5, 2008 – Arias is extradited to Arizona to face trial (AP, 2014).
September 11, 2008 – Arias pleads not guilty to murder (AP, 2014).
October 31, 2008 – Prosecutors seek the death penalty (AP, 2014).
August 2010 – Arias changes her story to self defense (AP, 2014).
February 4, 2013 – Arias takes the stand and testifies for 18 days. She testifies that Alexander was physically and emotionally abusive (AP, 2014).
March 14, 2013 – The defense has an expert testify that Ariad suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia, which is why she can’t recall the murder (AP, 2014).
May 2, 2013 – A juror is dismissed from the trial for making bias statements. At this time the case is widely publicized (AP, 2014).
May 8, 2013 – The jury reached a verdict, Arias is found guilty of first-degree murder (AP, 2014).
During the trial, prosecutor Juan Martinez used aggressive tactics to make Arias appear to be a competent and coherent murderer and that she knew exactly what she was doing. The prosecution had pushed a narrative that Arias had killed Alexander in a fit of rage brought on by the knowledge that Alexander was moving on with other women (Barcella, 2019). In fact, he had planned out a vacation with a new girlfriend that he had previously extended to Arias before changing his plans.
The evidence that was presented to the jury including time-stamped photos and DNA evidence, phone records, the missing .25 caliber gun, as well as many grotesque photos of the couple. A key point in the prosecution’s argument wass Arias’ continuous lying during the investigation. Arias had originally told investigators that two masked intruders threatened to kill her and brutally murdered Alexander. During an interview with 48 Hours, Arias stated:
“He was, like, on his knees like this doing something like this or something like — I don’t know. And I was like — I was like, ‘Are — are you OK? What’s going on? What’s going on?’ And he was like, ‘Go get help, go get help.’ And I said ‘OK’ … And I turned around, there were two people there, one was a guy and one was a girl” (Blanco, n.d.).
Prosecutor Juan Martinez brought this up during the trial and then addressed that in a second interview with 48 Hours, she had given a different sequence of events:
“I was hit on the back of the head. I don’t think I was out very long, but when I came to … Travis was on all fours on the tile — and well, I say all fours, but one of his hands was actually holding his head” (Blanco, n.d.).
Arias admitted in court that she had lied about all of this. It took her two years to admit that she was the one that killed Alexander, but her confession was one of self defense. Martinez used this information to prove her dishonesty to the jury. Arias’ credibility would be the only thing that could have saved her during the trial and Martinez made sure to destroy every bit of credibility that she had.
To show Arias’ premeditation and further discredit her, Juan Martinez followed a trail of receipts found in Arias’ possession (Blanco, n.d.). Among the receipts was one from Walmart. Investigators followed this lead, calling the Walmart, learning that Arias had purchased a gas can, but later returned it because she had borrowed two cans from her former boyfriend, Darryl Brewer (Kouri, 2016). Police went to the Budget Rent a Car that Arias had gone to in search of the vehicle that she had rented from them. Arias had told the rental service that she would be using the car locally, but later returned the car with 2,800 miles added to the odometer (Blanco, n.d.). The car had stains in it and the floor mats were missing; the car had been completely cleaned before the police were able to get their hands on it (Blanco, n.d.).
Martinez also cross-examined the psychological review of Arias intensely. Martinez told the jury that her diagnosis of PTSD came during the same time that she was lying about her involvement in Alexander’s death. The cross examination became so aggressive that Martinez even accused the psychologist of having feelings for Arias (Fuchs, 2013).
Martinez used the photos taken from the camera located at Alexanders home to show the gruesome nature of the murder, depicting Jodi Arias as a ‘cold-blooded killer’ (Lohr, 2013). Using the physical evidence, the blood trail, and photos, Martinez played out for the jury how Alexander attempted to flee his attacker. The prosecutor also remarked on how Alexander went to the bathroom sink, looked at himself in the mirror knowing that he would die, as she continued to stab him from behind (Lohr, 2013).
Repeatedly, the prosecution emphasized to the jury the brutality of this case saying that Arias had killed him three times over (Lohr, 2013). While showing the photos of the corpse and horribly bloody crime scene, Martinez paused for two minutes of silence to illustrate how long he said it took for Alexander to die at Arias’ hands (Blanco, n.d.).
This aggressive method by the prosecution really sold the jury on their decision. For every point that the defense brought up, the prosecution had something lined up to discredit it. This case appeared to be a very easy one for the prosecution thanks to all of the evidence found during the very thorough investigation.
Arias’ credibility began to deteriorate well before the trial, which created a solid foundation for police and the prosecution. Additionally, the use of phone records, which helped investigators track Arias on her road trip, along with receipts from the many gas stations and stores she used along the way, strengthened the fact that Arias was there and very much involved with Alexander. This evidence helped establish a timeline that was easy to follow and hard to refute. The moving performance of Jaun Martinez in describing how the murder played out was also an advantage.
Martinez would end on a strong note in rebuttal against the defenses’ closing arguments. Again, Martinez detailed the extent of Alexander’s wounds. Martinez argued that there was no evidence that Alexander had ever laid a hand on her. Nothing had ever indicated that this crime was anything less than a brutal slaughter. Martinez concluded, “There was no way to appease this woman who just wouldn’t leave him alone” (Blanco, n.d.).
In this case, the defense had their work cut out for them. During the investigation into Alexander’s death, Arias had changed her story several times. Typically, when a suspect changes their story, or can’t keep their story straight, when being interviewed by police it isn’t the best indicator of innocence. During the trial, Arias’ defense attorneys brought up 5 important points to defend her. They wanted to show that Arias was being abused by Alexander, both physically and sexually. They also wanted to give a valid reason as to why her story changed several times when she was questioned. Lastly, the defense wanted to present a solid story to the jury that this murder was a case of self defence.
Arias testified that Alexander became more and more physically and emotionally abusive towards her, claiming that he would shake her and scream at her (Emery, 2013). Arias also elaborated on how Alexander would tackle her violently, throwing her to the ground, kicking her in the ribs and, one time, kicking her hand resulting in a broken finger (Emery, 2013). The defence used this only as an argument, as they did not have any evidence to support the claims. Arias put her hand up to show her crooked finger, explaining that Alexander broke it and it had never been set properly. She never filed any police reports to corroborate her stories, and the prosecution destroyed this argument by presenting statements from Alexanders previous girlfriends who all said he was never like that (Hogan, 2014).
The defense played explicit audio recordings of Arias and Alexander during the trial in an attempt to promote discussion of the couples sexual relationship (Pelisek, 2013). Arias was depicted as a submissive girlfriend who was used for crude, sexual acts, later leading to domestic abuse. On one of the audio recordings it could be heard quite clearly Alexander saying that he wanted to tie her to a tree “and put it in her ass” (Pelisek, 2013). They added this to their argument to show that Alexander was sexually deviant. When Arias took the stand she would go into great detail about their sexual exploits which did not convince the jury that she did not enjoy what Alexander put her through.
Psychologist Richard Samuels testified on the side of the defense, saying that her memory loss was caused by the stress of the murder (Owens, 2013). Dr. Samuels explained that the diagnosis of PTSD could medically explain why Arias had suffered from amnesia during the killing of Alexander (Fuchs, 2013). To elaborate on her lack of memory of the event, Jodi Arias voluntarily called the police and interviewed with them, claiming she had no idea what had happened to Alexander (Blanco, n.d.). The interviews with the police made Arias’ credibility virtually nonexistent, which made it harder for the jury to believe her. Bringing in the psychologist was supposed to help build that credibility back up. Arias had gone through several tests to determine whether or not she had experienced traumatic amnesia, but even those tests didn’t seem to help (Hogan, 2014).
Helping Arias seemed to be a nearly impossible task for her attorney, Kirk Nurmi. The prosecution constantly reminded the jury that the defendant changed her story multiple times and never reported abuse to police or to family or friends. Arias tried continually to make herself look like a victim of abuse by saying Alexander was a ‘womanizer’ who slept with many women outside of their relationship. Unfortunately, many people felt that Jodi’s claims were far-fetched, unsettling and unconvincing (Pelisek, 2013). Many also felt that her testimony was a desperate attempt to slander Alexander’s name, promote her own name, and embarrass the Mormon community (Hogan, 2014).
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The use of science and technology to support investigations and reduce crime rates is not new to the world of criminal justice. Over the years, law enforcement has become increasingly dependent on the use of science and technology to be effective in a world of constant change (Mennell & Shaw, 2005). Establishing these capabilities requires law enforcement to maintain, acquire, develop and research a broad range of technologies to ensure that they are able to identify and eliminate threats to the public, monitor offenders and undertake effective surveillance (Mennell & Shaw, 2005). For the investigation of crimes, it is also very important that law enforcement agencies have the capabilities to exchange data they have collected in a secure ways (Mennell & Shaw, 2005).
The trial of Jodi Arias brought many things to light about the relationship between Arias and Alexander. Most of the evidence presented was circumstantial and/or anecdotal such as the defensive wounds found on Alexander’s body, Arias’ bandaged hands, her journal entries and her inconsistent stories. The evidence that was presented that required deeper analysis through science and technology was what really did Arias in. Alexander’s new camera had been found in the washing machine along with what appeared to be blood stained sheets and clothing. The pathology of Alexander’s body, and the bloody handprint in the bathroom where Alexander was found seemingly sealed Arias’ metaphorical coffin.
The camera found at the scene of the crime was probably one of the most damning pieces of evidence brought against Arias. Police found the camera in the washing machine; it had gone through a wash cycle with clothing that was ruined with bleach and the images had been deleted (Smolowe & Bruer, 2013). Even though someone clearly tried to get rid of the pictures, digital forensic technicians were able to recover the images on the SD card. The images recovered showed Alexander and Arias being intimate, Alexander in the shower, and finally several images of Alexander laying on the bathroom floor bleeding out (Smolowe & Bruer, 2013).
It is unclear exactly how they were able to retrieve the photos, but it is possible that the SD card could have escaped water damage entirely, simply because it was still inserted in the camera. This technology is not new, police have been able to recover digital images and records from completely destroyed electronics. The images were time stamped and allowed prosecutors to establish that Arias was very likely the last person to see Alexander alive. If the forensic technicians had not been able to pull the images, especially the very incriminating photos of Alexander lying on the floor, bleeding profusely, then the defense would have been able to build a stronger case for Arias.
The DNA evidence in the case was also key to sealing Arias fate. Investigator found a bloody hand print in the bathroom (Hill, 2013). They were not able to get fingerprints but samples of the blood were taken. DNA profiling was conducted on the sample that came from the handprint Thanks to DNA analysis, the sample showed that there were two DNA profiles: Alexander’s and Arias’ (Hill, 2013).
This evidence made it even harder for Arias to maintain her story that she was innocent. If this evidence was not provided, it would have been very impactful on the case. DNA evidence is hard to refute and if her blood had not been found mixed with his then there could have been some doubt cast on Arias being the perpetrator. The photos from the day of the murder do show that Arias was there with him, but the two pictures that show Alexander bleeding don’t actually confirm that she did it.
The autopsy was just as important in this case as it is in any other murder case. While Dr. Kevin Horn, Maricopa County Medical Examiner, conducted his autopsy of Alexander’s body, he found that he had sustained a multitude of injuries originating from different weapons. Alexander was stabbed roughly 27 times (Owen, 2013). There was blood spatter on and around the bathroom sink, showing that Alexander had made his way to the sink during his attack, looking at the mirror as he bled out. The blood trail showed that Alexander crawled on all fours in an attempt to escape this violent attack (Blanco, n.d.). In what is believed to be an ultimate show of power, Alexander’s throat is cut from ear to ear, cutting his jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe (Blanco, n.d.). Additionally, Alexander was shot in the head, but it is unclear as to when this event took place.
The pathology report, conducted by Doctor Kevin Horn, showed that even though Alexander was shot through his face this is not what killed him (Office of the Medical Examiner, 2008). The most important determination that came from the pathology report was time of death. The medical examiner was able to show that the level of decomposition was consistent with the time of the photographs (Hill, 2013). In addition to that, investigators were able to give a more accurate description of the weapons used to kill him. None of the weapons used were ever recovered (Gaynor, 2018). Finally, the violent manner in which Alexander was murdered is consistent with ‘passion murders’. Arias provided a story that Alexander and her were attacked by two intruders, but the extent of Alexander’s injuries and the lack of Arias’ made this hard to believe. The science that goes into autopsies is important. The murder of Travis Alexander was incredibly gruesome and the state of his body told a story of explosive violence.
There was a vast amount of evidence against Jodi Arias in this case. Her confession, coming half a decade after his death, made it significantly easier for the prosecution to prove her guilt. Jodi had previously broken many laws, including breaking and entering, larceny and stalking, but the greatest law she broke was unlawful killing (Sarteschi, 2017). Arias wanted to make a plea deal with Alexander’s family, but they refused to give up without a fight. It was no question that Arias would be convicted, the trial was to determine if she committed first-degree murder or manslaughter.
Consumed by jealousy, Arias harassed Alexander, destroying his property, and threatening women close to him. A common M.O. of female killers is that they plan the location of their crimes; Arias had gone to Alexander’s house, knowing full well what she was going to do. Arias had to have planned out the details of her crime beforehand, and the prosecution knew this as well. She tried to cover up her trail while driving from California to Utah and then to Arizona, she called Alexander’s phone, and performed several other actions, as well as fabricated stories that were meant to throw police off.
The jury was tasked with deciding the fate of Arias and if she would spend 20 to life in prison or if she would be sentenced to death. The criminal justice system was successful in this case in collecting evidence. A strong presentation by the prosecution helped the jury see her guilt. She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole (Blanco, n.d.). Personally, I agree with the decision of the jury to convict Arias for her crimes. She does deserve to spend the rest of her life behind bars, away from society, and away from physical relationships.
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