Jodi Arias was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder, and jurors will start hearing evidence in the aggravation phase of the trial starting Thursday, the Associated Press reports.
This phase of the trial marks the beginning of the jury's determination of whether Arias should receive the death penalty. However, there are still at least three potential ways in which she could avoid capital punishment.
Here's an overview of how that could happen:
1. Jurors May Find Mitigating Factors.
After prosecutors present evidence of so-called "aggravating factors" that support imposing the death penalty, Jodi Arias' defense team will present mitigating factors which are meant to sway the jury away from the death penalty.
Some of these factors can include:
- Mental impairment. A jury may be appropriately convinced that Arias was mentally impaired because she did not appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions.
- No criminal history. Defense attorneys may present evidence that Arias had no contact with the criminal justice system prior to her murder conviction, which can potentially mitigate a sentence.
- A history of abuse. Arias has alleged abuse by her parents and by the murder victim, Travis Alexander. This evidence may be used to sway the jury against the death penalty.
If the jury either finds no aggravating circumstances or believes that the mitigating ones outweigh imposing the death penalty, Arias may avoid capital punishment.
2. Jodi Arias Could Appeal.
If a jury decides on the death penalty for Arias, she may appeal her case directly to the Arizona Supreme Court.
The Arizona Supreme Court will review both the conviction for first-degree murder and the sentencing phase of the trial for error.
Arias may also appeal her case in federal district court by filing a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that her federal constitutional rights were violated during her trial, her conviction, or her sentencing.
If she wins any of these appeals, she may be able to avoid the death penalty.
3. Arias Could Seek Clemency.
Almost every movie and TV show involving an execution includes the moment where a death-row inmate is waiting on a call for a pardon or reprieve from the governor. If Arias is sentenced to death, she too will have this opportunity for last-minute clemency.
Arias may avoid the death penalty if the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency reviews her case and makes a recommendation to either:
- Commute her sentence, which means changing it, probably to life in prison.
- Pardon her, which means Jodi Arias would be completely legally absolved of her crime and her conviction.
Of course, the aggravation and penalty phases of Jodi Arias' trial have to occur first before these options become available. The aggravation phase is set to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday, according to the AP.
- Jodi Arias Guilty of Murder; Sentencing Is Next (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Arizona jury finds Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder (Reuters)
- Jodi Arias: Jury Instructions Key to Her Fate (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Browse Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyers and Law Firms (FindLaw)