PHOENIX – Jodi Arias sobbed uncontrollably, burying her face in her hands as a prosecutor relentlessly questioned her about the day she stabbed and shot her lover to death then methodically went about covering her tracks.
“Ma’am, were you crying when you were shooting him?” prosecutor Juan Martinez snapped.
“I don’t remember,” Arias replied, weeping.
“Were you crying when you were stabbing him?” Martinez asked.
“I don’t remember,” Arias said softly.
“How about when you cut his throat, were you crying then?” the prosecutor asked loudly.
Thursday’s testimony was the most dramatic in the widely watched death penalty trial that has captured headlines nationwide for weeks with salacious tales of raunchy sex, betrayal and a bloody killing.
Arias, 32, is charged in the June 2008 death of her lover in his suburban Phoenix home. She says she was forced to fight for her life after Travis Alexander attacked her, but police say she planned the killing in a jealous rage. Arias initially told authorities she had nothing to do with Alexander’s death, then later blamed it on masked intruders before settling on self-defense.
Testimony resumes next week after Martinez concluded his cross-examination Thursday.
He has been working to chip away at her numerous stories over four days of intense questioning, during which she has admitted to lying repeatedly. She says she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth sooner, but Martinez has pointed out how she was meticulously planning an alibi immediately after the killing.
She dumped the gun in the desert, got rid of her bloody clothes, tried to clean the scene at his home and even left Alexander a voicemail on his mobile phone within hours of killing him.
Arias admitted she was trying not to get caught.
“There would be no other reason to leave a dead man a telephone message would there?” Martinez noted.
“Um, that was my goal,” Arias replied.
Alexander’s body was found crumpled in his shower about five days later. He had been stabbed and slashed 27 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead.
Arias says she recalls little from the day of the killing.
She said Alexander lunged at her after she dropped his new camera while taking nude photos of him after a day of sex. She said he body-slammed her and chased her around the house. She grabbed a gun from his closet and fired it as they tussled, but she has no recollection of stabbing him. Arias said she disposed of the gun in the desert, then went to visit a man in Utah, acting as if nothing had happened in an attempt to throw off suspicion.
“I was terrified,” Arias said.
But as she stammered trying to answer questions, Martinez hammered her over photos taken by police at the scene of the killing that appeared to contradict some of her testimony.
Arias said Alexander was angrily charging her “like a linebacker” when she hurriedly reached for his gun on a shelf in his closet, yet Martinez pointed out in the photos how nothing seemed to be disturbed, not a shoe or tie out of place after what she described as a frantic fight.
Martinez then had Arias imitate for jurors how she says Alexander charged at her. She stood from the witness stand, bent over, lowered her head and stretched out her arms as if she was trying to tackle someone.
Arias says Alexander had grown physically abusive prior to the attack yet no witnesses have testified and jurors have seen no evidence indicating he had ever been violent in the past, no mention of abuse in numerous text messages, emails and recorded phone calls between Arias and the victim.
“Nowhere in those text messages does he ever threaten you physically, does he?” Martinez asked.
Arias paused briefly, apparently thinking out loud: “Hmmm, no.”
Martinez also noted how Arias maintained for several years after the killing that Alexander didn’t even own a gun, accusing her of only making up that story to help her get off.
“Yes, years it took me to admit it,” Arias acknowledged.
Authorities, however, don’t believe he had a weapon.
Arias’ grandparents had reported a .25 caliber handgun stolen from their Yreka home in Northern California about a week before Alexander’s death — the same caliber used to shoot him — yet she said she didn’t even know her grandfather had the weapon.
“You brought the gun from Yreka, didn’t you?” Martinez said sharply.
“No,” Arias replied.
The two traded barbs as Martinez tried to get Arias to recall more details from the moments after she said she shot him.
“I don’t remember anything after that point,” Arias said.
“No, you don’t remember a single solitary thing after that right?” Martinez said almost sarcastically.
She replied that she only recalled “pieces.”
Martinez then hit her with repeated questions about what she did when she left Alexander’s home, noting if she was in a “fog,” as she said, how could she have had the foresight to begin covering her tracks.
“Why would you even think of taking the gun unless you really knew what was going on?” he asked.
“I can only speculate because I don’t remember,” Arias said.
Martinez later displayed a photograph of Alexander’s body, his back covered in stab wounds.
“If he’s being stabbed in the back, would you acknowledge at that point that he’s no threat to you?” Martinez asked.
“I don’t know,” Arias replied crying.
“How could he possibly be a threat to you?” the prosecutor continued.
“I can only guess. I don’t know what you’re asking me,” Arias responded.
“All of these lies, ma’am, are meant for your benefit so you can escape responsibility,” Martinez noted at one point.
Arias looked back confused.
“You would have been satisfied to avoid any responsibility for the killing of Mr. Alexander, wouldn’t you?” Martinez said.
Arias paused again before replying: “Relieved.”