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Jodi Arias: Jury Instructions Key to Her Fate

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

The 12 final jurors in the Jodi Arias trial began deliberating Monday morning after hearing jury instructions Friday, reports The Huffington Post.

Arias, 32, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.

Here's a look at the charges jurors are considering, and the jury instructions that will be key to Arias' fate:

1. First-Degree Premeditated Murder.

In order to convict her of premeditated murder, a jury must unanimously find that Arias:

However, if jurors determine that they cannot find that Arias acted with premeditation, they may instead find her guilty of first-degree felony murder.

2. First-Degree Felony Murder.

A jury may find Arias guilty of first-degree felony murder if:

  • She was committing a felony (such as burglary) at the time of the killing. In Arias' case, prosecutors allege she was technically committing burglary -- i.e., breaking into Travis Alexander's home with the intent to commit a felony or theft inside -- when she killed Alexander; and
  • She caused Alexander's death during the commission of the felony. Arias can be found guilty of felony murder if Alexander's death was caused by her allegedly committing burglary.

So in summary, jurors can find Arias guilty of first-degree murder by either a unanimous vote that she committed felony murder, a unanimous vote that she committed premeditated murder, or some mix of the two (e.g., six vote for felony murder and six vote for premeditated murder).

3. Manslaughter.

If the jury cannot find premeditation or felony murder, then they may choose to find that although Arias had the intent to kill Alexander, she was adequately provoked.

In order for a jury to find that Arias' intentional killing was manslaughter, they must affirm that:

It is also possible that Arias may be acquitted entirely, if the jury finds she acted in self-defense.

4. Self-Defense.

Much of Jodi Arias' case depends on her claim that she killed Alexander in self defense, meaning:

  • A reasonable person in Arias' situation would have believed that lethal force was necessary;
  • Arias used reasonable lethal force in response to a threat of lethal force; and
  • Arias responded by killing Alexander under imminent danger of this threat.

The court has also allowed jurors to consider that Jodi Arias may have been the victim of domestic violence, and her actions may be judged like that of other domestic violence survivors.

Jurors in the Jodi Arias trial plan to deliberate from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time on weekdays until a verdict is reached. They don't plan to deliberate on weekends, HuffPo reports.

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