Jody Arias: An American Murder Mystery

**Warning – this post references homicide, domestic violence & pedophilia**

Welcome to #3 of 4 installations on the LBAF Crime Show Review Blog! I’m rounding out August with this theme before returning to my regularly scheduled content in September…let all the 2L fun begin.

Post #3 is dedicated to a Hulu show called “Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery.” You’ve probably heard of Jodi Arias and/or her crime, which was VERY sensationalized in 2008. A little backstory: Jodi met a man named Travis Alexander at a PPL conference (think – MLM before it was cool) and the two began dating in February 2007. Jodi lived in California and Travis lived in Arizona, but they quickly became serious. SO serious, in fact, that Jodi converted to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (actually, I think this happened even before they officially dated). Jodi and Travis dated sporadically for about a year and a half, but they were mostly broken up by June 4, 2008 – the day Travis Alexander was brutally murdered in his own apartment.

This is where you’ll probably go, “oh right, I heard about that…” Travis was supposed to go to Cancun with friends on June 15, 2008, but didn’t participate in the planning for several days leading up to the event. On June 9, several of Travis’ concerned friends went to his apartment; his two roommates said they hadn’t seen him in several days, but thought he was already in Cancun. When they tried the door to Travis’ bedroom, it was locked.

Cue absolute panic.

After finally finding a key to the bedroom, the friends and roommates entered and found large pools of blood leading to the bathroom, where Travis Alexanders’ body lay in the shower. His throat was slit, his body was stabbed over 27 times, and he had a single gunshot wound to the head. (They actually SHOWED full pictures of his body in the show, which I will not include here). The autopsy revealed he died five days earlier, so the police were IMMEDIATELY suspicious of Travis’ roommates – how could they possibly live with a decomposing body for five days and not know?! But they had airtight alibis, and the police quickly turned to a different suspect: Travis’ ex, Jodi Arias. Spoiler alert, she did it. Jodi was convicted of first-degree murder (the most severe category, remember!) on May 8, 2013, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Hulu show is split into three episodes, dramatically named “Blood on the Wall,” “A Lover Scorned,” and “Sex, Lies, and Audiotape.” Drama aside, the titles basically tell you everything you need to know about this documentary – what happened to Travis, Jodi’s (alleged) motive, and her attempt at a self-defense explanation at trial. But there are several things that caught my attention about this case, mostly pertaining to Jodi’s behavior and the evidence which ultimately convicted her. As one interviewee said – a bunch of Hollywood producers locked in a room for a year couldn’t come up with the stuff in this trial!

1. The Photographs

The night that Travis was found, police found a damaged digital camera in the apartment’s washing machine. They were able to recover the images saved in the damaged camera, which provided them with a good ole “smoking gun” – aka, uncontestable evidence incriminating Jodi Arias.

There were tons of pictures from June 4, beginning with nude shots of both Travis and Jodi in the afternoon and “glamor shots” of Travis in the shower around 5:30 pm. Then, police found a photo showing Travis on the ground, clearly bloodied, with Jodi’s pants and a FOOT in full view.

As a prosecutor for a murder, that’s about as good as it gets. Police also found a bloody palm print with DNA from Jodi and Travis, and a single 0.25 shell casing that, coincidentally, matched a gun recently stolen from Jodi’s family’s home.

Why she didn’t take the memory card with her, we’ll never know.

2. The Interview

Okay, this might be the most intriguing part of the show. A few days after Travis’ death, Jodi personally called the AZ police to “see if she could help” with the investigation – and let me tell you, she’s not the first killer to do so. I think that they think if they offer to help, they’ll 1. be seen as helpful and not suspicious, and 2. can see where the police investigations are leading, and steer suspicion away from themselves if necessary.

I hope you can see how that miiiiiiiiight not work out.

Anyway, the investigator calls Jodi for a follow-up interview – but he frames it as “just trying to get more information,” and “painting a clearer picture” about the night Travis died. This should have tipped Jodi off because she claimed to be road tripping and nowhere near Mesa when he died. Girl, if that was the case, they wouldn’t be calling you.

But Jodi rolled breezily into the interview room, and that’s when the show began. The investigator started by asking her about the road trip, start to finish, before beginning to poke holes in the story. Jodi had an answer for absolutely everything; she’d give tons of details and explanations, then the investigator would point out a flaw, then she’d come up with another answer, then he’d point out a flaw, and so on.

The investigator was a COMPLETELY different person by the interview’s conclusion. He went from Understanding Dad to full-on Attack Dog, and straight up told Jodi he knew she killed Travis. He showed her the photos (to which Jodi replied, “that looks like me….”), the DNA in the bloody palm print, the gaps in her timeline, the shell casing – absolutely everything. And still, she maintained her innocence.

Some free legal advice: DO NOT VOLUNTARILY TALK TO POLICE ABOUT A MURDER UNLESS YOU HAVE A LAWYER.

3. Post-Arrest Behavior

You might also be vaguely familiar with Jodi’s behavior while she was in her interview – at times, the investigator left her alone (with cameras still rolling…that’s intentional) just to see what would happen. Jodi continued to put on a show – she took off her shoes, did a headstand, quietly sang “O Holy Night,” and finally curled into a ball on her chair and whispered to herself.

Her narcissistic tendencies also caught some flak – after she was formally arrested, Jodi asked if she could “clean herself up” before her mugshot. (The cops said no). During said photo, she half-smiled and asked how her hair looked. As one person observed, Jodi was “uncaring about anything else other than herself.”

Jeepers CREEPERS MAN.

The infamous 2008 mugshot (left) and Jodi Arias in 2020 (right). Seems a little less happy…

4. Changing Stories

This is pretty classic for criminals who realize they’re in trouble – Jodi’s story changed about four times. First, she wasn’t even in Arizona on the day of Travis’ murder. Then, she DID see him that day, but left that evening (pre-murder). Later, she WAS present during the murder – but two masked intruders broke in and attacked them both, killing Travis but leaving her alive. Finally, she admitted she killed him…in self-defense. This was the theory the defense ultimately adopted at trial, and honestly, the public defender did the best he could.

How did the story evolve THAT much, and why did Jodi (and her team) ultimately admit to killing Travis? For one thing, the evidence that she was present/likely did it was pretty overwhelming. For another, the defense attorney heard the ‘intruder theory’ one time and straight up told her, “that’s not gonna work.” So when Jodi started claiming Travis abused her and was a child predator (a WHOLE separate thing I won’t go into here), and actually had some evidence to back that up, the defense attorney latched onto a theory of self-defense.

I’m speculating here (because I’m not the attorney and don’t have all the facts) but I’m pretty sure the defense attorney went into trial with a single goal – avoid the death penalty. He KNEW Jodi would be convicted, but tried to mitigate her crime through self-defense…and ultimately, mission accomplished. Jodi was convicted of first-degree murder but received life in prison instead of a death sentence. The jury deadlocked twice when deciding on her punishment, meaning they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision to give her the death penalty (which is required under Arizona law), and Jodi received life as a result.

5. The Trial Transformation

Okay, I love a good trial transformation. You’ve seen this in the recent Sex Offender Tycoon cases – the gross old man, who was VERY healthy up until a few months ago, suddenly appears at trial looking frail as a bird and relying on a cane to walk. The idea is to garner sympathy from the judge and jurors, as well as the general public – and Jodi Arias (or at least, her defense counsel) did their best to make this happen. Check out this Before and After:

The glasses, the lack of make-up, the childish hairstyle (and subdued brown tone), and conservative shirt are all part of the “Jodi-couldn’t-be-a-violent-killer” narrative. It certainly painted a better picture on the stand than the media’s image of a confident “blonde bombshell.”

6. The Press

“Jodi Arias is a defense counsel’s worst nightmare because she couldn’t stay away from the press.” TRUE TRUE TRUE. This goes hand-in-hand with #3 – Jodi just could not stay off the television. She gave interviews left and right, including one RIGHT AFTER receiving her first-degree murder conviction. During that particular interview, Jodi said she felt “betrayed by the jury” for convicting an innocent person (?) and calmly said she preferred the death penalty to life in prison (??)

She quickly changed her mind, and asked the jury for life in prison prior to sentencing. But on the heels of asking for life to spare her family grief, Jodi also asked that she be spared to help domestic violence victims everywhere. She legitimately pulled out a white tee shirt branded with the word “Survivor,” and proclaimed that she’d sell the shirts from prison and donate 100% of the proceeds to victims of domestic abuse.

Let me just repeat that – she held up a shirt that said SURVIVOR in front of the family of the man she killed.

Carry on.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In conclusion, Jodi Arias is a NUTSO, once-in-a-lifetime case – but that makes it all the more fascinating to re-examine. From an unbelievable set of facts to equally unbelievable evidence, the interviews, and the displays during trial…justice really can be wild.

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