Jodi Arias to Represent Herself in Death Penalty Decision. Wise or Ridiculous Decision?

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Jodi Arias is back in the spotlight once again with the news that she will represent herself in the penalty phase of her murder trial, despite the fact she has no legal experience, no college diploma and is only equipped with a GED she completed while in prison.

Judge Sherry Stephens granted Arias' motion to act as her own attorney, but strongly suggested the convicted murderer reconsider her decision.

"I do not believe it is in your best interests. I strongly urge you to reconsider," said Stephens.

Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder following the brutal stabbing of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008. Arias admitted killing Alexander, but claimed it was self-defense. However, Alexander was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the forehead. Prosecutors said the murder was a premeditated act of jealousy in response to Alexander's decision to end their affair.

At the time of her conviction, jurors could not reach a decision on sentencing. A new jury was selected to hear a second penalty phase per Arizona law, and prosecutors hope to secure the death penalty this time around.

While it may seem a preposterous idea for a convicted murderer to represent themselves, there are some attorneys who think it might not be a bad idea.

“It’s actually probably a good idea to represent herself,” said Daniel Horowitz, a San Francisco-based defense attorney . “She looks like a vicious psychopath with a ridiculous defense.”

On the other hand, Horowitz said the jury “may find her pathetic.”

“If she can get just one juror to bond with her on some level, even if they hate her, they’re getting to know her, and it’s harder to kill someone you know,” he said.

Her defense lawyers, who will continue to serve as advisory council, declined to comment on the decision.

Arias and her attorneys have tried repeatedly to sever their relationship — especially after a series of interviews following her conviction in May 2013 — to no avail.

Mel McDonald, a Phoenix defense lawyer and a former Maricopa County judge and federal prosecutor, believes Arias has nothing to lose in the decision to represent herself in the penalty phase, which will commence in four weeks.

“I think generally that anybody that represents themselves has a fool for a client, but it also gives her a way, if she’s out there making a fool of herself, to maybe invoke some sympathy from a juror,” McDonald said.

The death penalty will no longer be considered if the new jury cannot unanimously decide on the death penalty. In that case, the judge would sentence Arias to life-imprisonment with the option of possible release in 25 years.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Pam Wright

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