Prosecutor questions woman in Arizona murder case

  • Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 11:17 p.m.

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — A woman charged in the stabbing and shooting death of her Arizona lover testified under a withering cross-examination Thursday that she has memory problems as she struggled to explain why she can recall precise details of her life from years earlier, yet can’t remember crucial aspects of the murder case against her.

Jodi Arias, 32, faces a potential death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. She was testifying for a ninth day Thursday as the prosecution began its cross-examination, hammering her with questions about her apparent selective memory.

Alternating between tears and poise, Arias has testified in painstaking detail about the events that led her to kill Alexander, she says in self-defense.

Yet when asked to detail the day of the killing, she didn’t recall much.

“Do you have memory problems, ma’am?” prosecutor Juan Martinez asked Thursday.

“Sometimes,” Arias replied.

Martinez hammered back, noting it’s puzzling that she can’t remember details of such a crucial day, yet “can tell us what kind of coffee you bought at Starbucks sometime back in 2008.”

Martinez also questioned her on her contention that she was monogamous throughout her relationship with the victim while referring to Arias’ previous testimony that the day she killed him, she went to visit a man in Utah and slept in his bed, kissing and cuddling.

“At the end, when you killed him, you indicated you were monogamous with him right?” Martinez prodded.

“Yes,” Arias said.

She had testified a day earlier that she didn’t know Alexander was dead when she left his home on June 4, 2008, noting her memory from that day has “huge gaps.”

“At that point you didn’t know, according to your own story, that Mr. Alexander was dead, right?” Martinez snapped.

“I guess I knew. I just wasn’t expecting it,” Arias said softly. “I wasn’t really in my own mind.”

“Make up your mind, please,” Martinez responded sharply.

Arias testified on Wednesday she recalled little about the day of the killing. She remembers Alexander in a rage, body slamming her and chasing her around his home.

She said she grabbed a gun from his closet, and it went off, but she wasn’t sure if she shot him. She had no explanation for his 27 stab wounds and slit throat. He had been shot in the forehead.

Arias also attempted to explain away her repeated lies. She first told authorities she knew nothing about Alexander’s death, then later blamed it on masked intruders before eventually settling on self-defense.

She said she was scared of being arrested, had been contemplating suicide and didn’t want to sully Alexander’s name with accounts of his violent behavior and lurid details of their sexual relationship, given his public persona as a devout Mormon who was saving himself for marriage.

And she said she needed to keep up the farce to avoid suspicion.

“I just have always heard don’t admit to anything,” she told jurors.

Martinez also hammered her Thursday on other changing stories. Arias claims she injured her right finger when Alexander beat her months before the killing, even once holding up her crooked digit in a dramatic display for jurors in previous testimony.

However, Martinez noted Arias told police after her arrest that she injured her finger on the day of Alexander’s death when one of the intruders attacked her.

“You gave him a different story,” Martinez said pointedly.

“Yes,” Arias replied.

“Then you testified about it in this court and you gave us another story of how this happened, right?” Martinez asked.

“No,” Arias said defiantly.

Martinez’s questioning of Arias became so heated Thursday that at one point the judge admonished both to stop talking over each other.

Prosecutors say Arias planned the killing in a jealous rage, savagely attacking Alexander in his home, then leaving his body in the shower.

Alexander’s friends have said Arias is lying about her contention that he had sexual desires for young boys, and that he was physically abusive, and no witnesses have testified of any previous violent behavior. Authorities also have said they did not believe Alexander owned a gun, and there has been no testimony to back up Arias’ story that he kept one in his closet.

Arias’ grandparents reported a .25 caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California house about a week before the killing -- the same caliber used to shoot Alexander -- but Arias claims to know nothing about the robbery.

Arias is hoping the jury will spare her the death penalty with a conviction on a lesser charge -- or even an acquittal. Prosecutors must prove she planned the attack in advance to secure a first-degree murder conviction and a chance for a death sentence.

Arias said the fight started after she accidentally dropped Alexander’s new digital camera while taking provocative photos of him in the shower.

When prodded for details of the killing, Arias said she only remembered shooting at him, putting a knife in the dishwasher and disposing of the gun in the desert as she drove from Arizona on her way to see a friend in Utah. And she immediately began planning an alibi “to “throw the scent off for a little while.”

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