Defense attorneys for Jodi Arias, the 32-year-old Arizona woman who has admitted to brutally murdering her former boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, claim that she was abused and controlled by Alexander, who she says was a sexual deviant.
In a case that is already being compared to the dramatic 2010 murder trial of Casey Anthony, Arias is facing the death penalty if convicted in the capital murder case. She is accused of stabbing Alexander 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head as he showered in his Mesa, Ariz., home in 2008. A jury will have to decide if she is a cold-blooded murderer or was a victim of domestic violence, as she claims, who was forced to kill.
Appearing in court Wednesday as the trial opened, Arias cried through much of the opening arguments. Prosecutor Juan Martinez told the court that it's clear that Arias murdered Alexander.
"This is not a case of whodunit," he said. "The whodunit sits in court today."
Prosecutors told the jury Wednesday that Alexander was a devout Mormon who was seduced and then stalked by Arias, and killed by her in a jealous rage when she learned he was dating other women.
"She rewarded that love by sticking a knife in his chest," Martinez told the court. "She slit his throat as a reward for being a good man."
Arias' attorney Jennifer Willmott told the jury her client was forced to kill in self defense, saying that her client -- who recently won a Christmas caroling contest behind bars -- was abused and controlled by Alexander, who she claims was a sexual deviant. Willmott showed the jury a t-shirt she says he made Arias wear, with lettering that says 'Travis Alexander's.
"That t-shirt is the perfect example of how Travis treated her," she said.
The couple only dated a few months after meeting in 2006 at a work convention in Las Vegas. But the two continued a sexual relationship -- including on the day of the crime.
Police found a camera in Alexander's washing machine. They say Arias was literally trying to wash away the evidence.
Found on the camera's memory card were pictures of their final sexual encounter, shots of Alexander in the shower -- seconds before he was killed -- and pictures that appeared to be taken accidently when the camera was dropped. One of the images shows Alexander's bloody body, and another shows Arias actually dragging his body across the ground.
In a series of jailhouse interviews since her 2008 arrest, Arias repeatedly changed her story. First she denied being at Alexander's house the night of the murder, but two weeks later, she told the TV show "Inside Edition" she was there.
"I witnessed Travis being attacked by two other individuals," she said, "Who were they? I don't know."
Now she admits to killing Alexander, but says she had to after he attacked her when she dropped his new camera.
"Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander," Willmott said in court Wednesday. "The million-dollar question is what would have forced her to do it, and throughout this trial you will hear that Jodi was indeed forced."
Willmott told the court that Arias, who has remained in jail since her arrest, repeatedly lied about the killing because she was scared.
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