PHOENIX (Reuters) - Defense counsel for Jodi Arias denied in closing arguments on Friday in her high-profile murder trial that she went on a meticulously planned “covert mission” to Arizona expressly to kill her ex-boyfriend and then hide her tracks.
The 32-year-old California woman could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower at his Phoenix valley home in June 2008. He was shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and his throat was slit.
Arias has admitted killing Alexander, whom she dated for several months and with whom she continued having intimate relations after their breakup. She said she killed him in self-defense after he attacked her in a rage because she dropped his camera.
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi told the jury on Friday that Arias left a clear “paper trail” of receipts for a car she rented at the airport in Redding, California, countering the prosecution’s argument that she had gone on a mission to his home in the Phoenix suburbs intending to kill him.
“You don’t go to Budget rent-a-car, plop down a couple of hundred dollars and drive off with their car ... you have a driver’s license and credit card information. There’s a clear paper trail,” Nurmi told the court.
“An airport with security cameras, and security all around ... It doesn’t make any sense if you are on a covert mission,” he said.
In an appeal to counter the prosecution’s charges that Arias had bought gas cans and filled them up in California to mask her trip to the Phoenix suburbs to kill Alexander, Nurmi said she had kept the receipts for the items rather than tossing them.
“Why would this smart woman not ... take this receipt and throw it right in the garbage can? ‘I don’t want anyone to know I bought this gas can, because I‘m on this covert mission.’ But she didn’t do that, did she?”
In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Juan Martinez said Arias took the first steps in planning the murder when she stole a .25 caliber handgun - the same caliber weapon used in the slaying - that was reported missing in a burglary at her grandparents’ California home.
Arias was never charged with the theft. She previously testified she shot Alexander, 30, with his own pistol, and that she only became aware of the theft after it occurred. The weapon used in the killing has never been recovered.
In an appeal to the jury on Friday, Nurmi said it “made no sense” for Arias to have stolen the gun, which led to a police report being filed, when she could have reached into the gun cabinet and removed it, or taken another more powerful, unregistered gun from her father.
“Why would she stage this burglary ... when she could have just reached in there (to the gun cabinet), or got a gun from another source?” he asked.
Nurmi said Arias arrived at Alexander’s house the night before the killing, finding her lover watching videos. He asked the jury why she did not kill him then, when he had his back to her, if she was on a mission to kill him.
“You put the gun to his head and you do it. You put the knife to his throat and do it! What better time to do it? ... It doesn’t make any sense.”
Closing arguments were continuing.
(This story has been refiled to remove additional word in paragraph six)
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Vicki Allen