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Jodi Arias trial: Does her statement about wanting death penalty factor in?

The death penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial began on Thursday. Jurors aren't supposed to watch news coverage of the case, but experts say information from it often filters in.

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Jodi Arias looks at the family of Travis Alexander as the jury arrives on Wednesday, during the sentencing phase of her trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. Jurors might find themselves considering more than just the question of how heinous her crime was and whether mitigating factors should weigh against the death penalty.

Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic/AP

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As the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial began on Thursday, jurors might find themselves considering more than just the question of how heinous her crime was and whether mitigating factors should weigh against the death penalty.

They might also be wrestling with whether life in prison or the death penalty is the most fitting punishment for a convicted murderer who said in a Fox News interview last week that “death is the ultimate freedom, and I’d rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it.”

Jurors aren’t supposed to watch news coverage of the case, but experts say such information often filters in. The Arias jury was not sequestered.

“If the law were followed in black-letter form with no human element attached, the jurors would have to consider only evidence in aggravation of the murder ... [and] any relevant evidence in mitigation of punishment,” but if they hear about her statement, “it couldn’t be totally expunged from their thinking,” says James Acker, a death-penalty expert and professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. 

Perhaps she spoke in the heat of the moment after being convicted and will present a very different view when she speaks to the jury, which defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi said she would. He told the jury Thursday that they should grant her mercy and consider factors such as her lack of a criminal record, her age, and her artistic talent.

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