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Jury receives murder case against Jodi Arias -- manslaughter is an option

Pool / REUTERS

Defendant Jodi Arias listens to defense attorney Kirk Nurmi make his closing arguments during her trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on Friday.

The murder case against Jodi Arias is now in the hands of the jury.

A judge in a Phoenix courtroom passed the reins to jurors Friday, instructing them to consider charges of first- and second-degree murder or manslaughter against Arias in the shooting and stabbing death of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, 30.

The start of jury deliberations Monday comes at the end of a lurid 17-week trial that mixed kinky sex and grisly violence straight out of a pulpy paperback.

Arias, 32, a slight, soft-spoken defendant who admits she killed Alexander but claims self-defense, faces life in prison – potentially even the death penalty – if the eight men and four women on the jury find her guilty of premeditated first-degree murder.

Jurors may also find Arias guilty of second-degree murder if they don’t believe she planned the gruesome killing. If she is convicted on that charge, Arias faces up to 25 years in prison.

Closing arguments focused as much on the facts of the gruesome killing as they did on the Arias’ polarizing personality.

Lead prosecutor Juan Martinez described Arias on Thursday as a liar who “attempted to manipulate” the jury.

“She scammed [Alexander],” Martinez told jurors. “Are you going to allow her to scam you?”

The defense on Friday asked jurors to look at the case and his client with unjaundiced eyes – even if they don’t like her.

“It’s not about whether or not you like Jodi Arias,” said Kirk Nurmi, Arias’ defense attorney. “Nine days out of ten, I don’t like Jodi Arias. … But that doesn’t matter.”

“Fear, love, sex, lies and dirty little secrets,” Nurmi said repeatedly Friday, according to The Associated Press. “Each one of these aspects of the human condition plays a prominent role in the relationship that Jodi Arias shared with Travis Alexander.”

Prosecutors say that on June 4, 2008, Arias drove a thousand miles from Yreka, Calif., to Mesa, Ariz., where she showed up at Alexander’s home. She had rented a car, dyed her hair, and powered down her cell phone – all allegedly to make her harder to track and harder to spot.

Arias and Alexander had broken up after a furtive affair. Alexander, according to his friends, was a well-to-do salesman who liked to play the field – despite his membership in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which disapproves of premarital sex.

Friends said that even though Arias converted to Mormonism for her beau, he nevertheless ended their relationship and started seeing other women – including one woman with whom he may have planned a vacation to Mexico.

Arias didn’t take the break-up well, according to Alexander’s friends, who testified for the prosecution. They say Arias stalked Alexander and slashed his tires.

Prosecutors say it wasn’t long before Arias’ jealousy took on a murderous edge.

After Arias showed up at Alexander’s house, they fell back on old habits and had hours of sex. But their rendezvous climaxed in shocking bloodshed.

Arias has admitted that she shot Alexander in the face, stabbed him more than 30 times and slit his throat.

Arias initially denied any involvement and later blamed the killing on masked burglars. But two years later, Arias reversed her version of events and said she killed Alexander in self-defense.

During the sensational trial, Arias testified in her own defense. She told the jury that Alexander subjected her to repeated physical abuse. However, no evidence or testimony was presented during the trial to corroborate Arias’ allegations of abuse.

Arias said that the day she killed Alexander began with sex play — each took raunchy photos of the other — but spiraled into violence when she accidentally dropped his camera and he attacked her.

Nurmi told jurors that the prosecution’s theory that the murder was premeditated “doesn’t make any sense.”

Nurmi said that Arias had many other chances to kill Alexander.

“But she didn’t,” Nurmi said, according to the AP.

Nurmi told the jury that his client has lied on a various occasions. But he said that lying isn’t the focal point of the trial.

“Nowhere, nowhere in your jury instructions are you asked to convict Jodi Arias of lying,” he said.

Dateline producer Joe Delmonico contributed to this report. Dateline has been covering the Jodi Arias trial from the start. After the verdict, watch for an hour-long report on the case, with new interviews and new information you won’t see anywhere else.