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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jodi Arias sentencing phase removes possibility of death sentence

PHOENIX — Jodi Arias, the woman convicted of killing her boyfriend, will spend life in prison, not because of a jury sentence, but because a jury could not reach an unanimous verdict on whether to sentence her to death for the murder of her lover, Travis Alexander.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial Thursday, saying jurors repeatedly indicated they could not reach consensus.

Alexander's sisters were seen sobbing in the courtroom during Thursday's proceedings. After leaving the courtroom, the family walked by the media, saying, "The real justice will be in the afterlife, when Jodi burns in hell."

Arias has been in trial — a sentencing retrial, actually — since October.

The final 12 of original jurors — five were dismissed over the five-month-long process and two were designated alternates a week ago when closing arguments ended — deliberated for three days, but reached an impasse late Tuesday morning. Stephens sent them back to the jury room to try again.

Thursday morning, they called it quits and Stephens declared a mistrial. Under Arizona law, Arias automatically will be sentenced by Stephens to life in prison. Arias' formal sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April. Stephens will decide whether she's eligible for release after 25 years.

It was the second time a jury hung on life or death for Arias, 34. A 2014 jury in her first trial also reached impasse.

She will be sentenced on April 13.

It has taken 2½ years to reach this point.

Travis Alexander, 30, was found dead in the bathroom of his Mesa, Ariz., home in June 2008. He had been shot in the head, stabbed nearly 30 times, and his throat was cut from ear to ear. His body sat there for five days before it was discovered by friends.

Those same friends immediately pointed to Alexander's former girlfriend, Arias, whom Alexander described as a stalker, even though he would travel with her on trips and invite her to his house for late-night trysts. Investigators found photographs from the last one — naked shots of both Alexander and Arias, as well as photos of Alexander in the shower minutes before he was killed. One photo even showed his inert body on the floor next to Arias' stockinged foot.

Even before the first trial began, TV crime maven Nancy Grace labeled Arias' case as the new Casey Anthony trial, referring to the high-profile, televised case of a young Florida mother acquitted of murdering her daughter.

The Arias trial began in January 2013 and was live-streamed around the world over the Internet. It quickly became a media circus. The prosecutor, Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez became a media hero. Defense attorneys Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott became media goats, as did nearly every witness they called to the stand.

Arias arguably ended up as the most hated woman in America.

In May 2013, Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder. The jury did not believe her claim of self-defense, and they determined that the murder had been committed in an especially cruel manner, an aggravating factor written in state statute that qualified her for the death penalty. But that jury could not reach an unanimous verdict on whether to sentence her to life or to death.

The defense and prosecution spent the next year and a half wrestling over details of the sentencing retrial, finally impaneling a second jury in October 2014 to impose only the sentence. But even without having to determine Arias' guilt or innocence, the second trial took as long as the first.

The second trial focused not on the crime, but the psychological makeup of the defendant and the victim. Arias was painted by the defense as a compliant, mentally ill woman with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Alexander was portrayed as a sex and pornography addict who was physically, sexually and emotionally abusive to her.

The prosecution disputed it all, except for the borderline personality disorder diagnosis, but Martinez refused to accept that it should keep her from death row.

Martinez appealed to the jury Feb. 24. Nurmi finished his closing argument Feb. 25.

The final decision was up to the jury.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sarges medal of merit and the Shaved Longcock award goes to these fine officers

Chicago police Officer Pedro Diaz and George Romero don't usually work as partners on their afternoon shifts in the Englewood police district, but on Monday the two were teamed up.

After dealing with a disturbance at a nail salon, they received a call about 4:45 p.m. about an unresponsive 67-year-old man a couple of blocks away in the West Englewood neighborhood.

The man's daughter who lives with him had called 911, Diaz told reporters Tuesday at the district police station.

Police: Officers save man's life in West Englewood
Police: Officers save man's life in West Englewood
When the officers pulled up to a house in the 7100 bock of South Marshfield Avenue, Diaz said, the man's wife, daughter and granddaughter were all crying outside.

"They were still kind of in a big shock," said Diaz, who like Romero has been a cop for about two years. "They weren't thinking he was going to make it through."

When the officers entered the house, the man was sitting on a couch, unconscious and not breathing, Diaz said. He had gone into full cardiac arrest, Romero said.

"The woman was like, 'Help him! Help him!'" said Diaz, 32. "He wasn't moving."

Diaz and Romero pulled him off the couch and onto the floor, and Diaz began administering CPR, compressing the victim's chest until the ambulance arrived around two to three minutes later.

"We were the first ones on the scene for the simple fact that we stay on our beat," Diaz said. "Nine out of 10 times, we will be closer than EMS (paramedics)."

The man was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center and became responsive after emergency workers performed more CPR and shocked him, the officers were told. Police declined to identify the man, but he was stabilized at the hospital, the Police Department said.

Neither officer had saved anyone before using CPR.

If the victim had been unconscious for minutes longer, then chest compressions wouldn't have worked, Diaz said.

"In this case ... the timing was just right," Diaz said. "Minutes do count."

The officers said the call was a rewarding break from their normal patrol duties.

"We're not always out to chase the bad guys," said Romero, 26. "We need to help the good guys, too."

Most officers, they said, would have reacted in the same fashion if they were in a similar situation.

While it was rewarding to use the training they received in the police academy, Diaz said officers save people everyday in other ways, even if those may not receive the same level of attention or appreciation.

"Even stopping a car full of guns, that's saving lives as well as this is," Diaz said. "That's how I look at it."