PHOENIX — Attorneys for a woman charged with killing her lover worked Wednesday at her trial to portray the victim as a liar and cheat who repeatedly deceived his girlfriends, friends and family members in the months before his death.
Jodi Arias, 32, is accused of fatally shooting and stabbing Travis Alexander in June 2008 at his suburban Phoenix home.
Defense attorneys began their case Tuesday with witnesses who spoke of Arias as a professional, conservative woman who never acted sexually inappropriate.
Wednesday’s first witness was an ex-girlfriend of Alexander who testified that he cheated on her with Arias and lied about being a virgin.
Lisa Daidone said she first met Alexander in a Mormon singles group. She said they began dating in July 2007 and continued an on-again, off-again relationship until February 2008.
She said she first broke up with him when she “came to the understanding that he was cheating on me” with Arias. The couple got back together, she said, after he convinced her he hadn’t been cheating, and she believed him to be a devout Mormon who was a virgin saving himself for marriage.
“At some point did you ever have suspicions that he might have been cheating again?” asked Arias’ defense attorney Jennifer Willmott.
“Yes,” Daidone replied.
“After Travis’ death were you shocked to learn that he was not a virgin?” Willmott prodded.
“Yes,” Daidone said softly.
She said she never had sex with Alexander and began feeling as if he was just using her as their encounters grew more physical.
On cross examination by the prosecutor, however, Daidone said he never forced himself on her.
“He never touched you in an aggressive, physical way did he?” asked prosecutor Juan Martinez.
“No he didn’t,” Daidone said.
Daidone also acknowledged on cross-examination that it was her own sexual inexperience that led her to believe some of Alexander’s behavior was inappropriate.
In a dramatic move that led the judge to stop the trial briefly, Martinez then attempted to display for jurors a large photo of Alexander’s head, his throat slit from ear to ear.
“Do you think it is appropriate, given everything that they (the defense) claims he put you through ... to take a knife and slash someone’s throat?” Martinez asked. Defense attorneys immediately objected. A short recess ensued, followed by a different line of questioning.
Several of Alexander’s family members wept and left the courtroom, and the judge later denied a motion for a mistrial from defense attorneys.
The jury also had questions for Daidone, something allowed in Arizona criminal cases when given to the judge and vetted by attorneys.
“Did you ever refer to Jodi Arias as a stalker to Travis Alexander?”
“Yes,” Daidone replied.
“Did you feel threatened by him?”
“No,” she said.
Two other witnesses testified about Alexander’s involvement in the Mormon faith, his claims that he was still a virgin, and how Alexander and Arias acted very much like a couple when they were together.
Authorities say Arias shot Alexander in the forehead, stabbed and slashed him nearly 30 times, slit his throat and left him in his shower.
The couple met at a Las Vegas convention in 2007 and had an on-again, off-again relationship for about five months.
Prosecutors claim Arias went to Alexander’s home intent on killing him after learning he planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman. Arias claims the two maintained an ongoing affair, and she came to his home on the day of the killing at his urging for sex.
She first told police she knew nothing of the killing then later blamed it on masked intruders. She eventually claimed self-defense after Alexander attacked her.
Police say Arias’ bloody palm print and hair were found at the crime scene, and they found sexually explicit, time-stamped photographs in a camera inside Alexander’s washing machine that placed Arias there on the day of the killing.
The photos included images of her naked, him in the shower, and one showing him dead on the bathroom floor.
Defense lawyers have yet to explain why Arias put the camera in the washing machine, what happened to the weapons used in the killing, and why Arias changed her stories.
Authorities say Alexander was shot with a .25-caliber gun, the same caliber weapon her grandparents reported stolen from their California home just days before the killing. Arias was staying with them at the time.
Alexander’s religion and sex life have been a constant theme throughout the trial. Some friends and family members, including Daidone, believed him to be a devout Mormon who was saving sex for marriage, while he simultaneously dated and had sex with multiple women.
The prosecution rested its case on Jan. 17. Defense attorneys are now trying to portray Alexander as a contradiction who lied to friends and family, cheated on girlfriends and used women for sex.
If convicted, Arias could face the death penalty.