The televised trial of Jodi Arias for the murder of her ex-boyfriend has turned into the most surreal, salacious parody of justice in recent memory.
Arias, 32, is charged with plotting to kill her devout Mormon ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home in 2008.
Arias says he sexually humiliated and abused her, and that she killed him to fend off an attack. Alexander, a Mormon motivational speaker, was stabbed repeatedly and nearly had his head cut off.
His death was utterly gruesome, but the first-degree murder trial against Arias that’s scheduled to end next week has been anything but sober. It’s become a spectacle in the mould of the O.J. Simpson saga, Michael Jackson’s gruelling child molestation trial, and more recently the sordid tale of Casey Anthony.
A verdict hasn’t even come down in the Arias case, and “Lost” actress Tania Raymonde has already been cast in a Lifetime TV movie based on a trial that has cast a light on Mormons having sex and possibly the most bitter breakup in human history.
The public is already following the trial like it’s a TV movie and not the result of a real-life mutilation. Most recently, somebody tried to sell her seat at the death penalty trial for $200, prompting one criminal defence lawyer in Phoenix to complain that people seem to have forgotten this trial came about because somebody died.
“I think this particular trial has brought out so many salacious facts and sordid details that what happens is people lose sight of how very real this is,” attorney Julio Laboy told the Associated Press. “Whether you like Jodi Arias or not, whether you side with Travis Alexander or not, for these families, it’s very real.”
While Arias’ life is at stake, it appears she’s also reveling in her newfound celebrity. She’s selling her art on a website operated by her mum, and she’s even enlisted a friend to tweet on her behalf. She also has an online following from folks who’ve launched a website proclaiming her innocence.
Arias has some scary detractors, too. Her lawyer Jennifer Willmott and Alyce LaViolette, a domestic violence expert who testified in her defence, have both gotten death threats, The Arizona Republic has reported.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the case, Juan Martinez, has become something of a hero and even reportedly signed autographs and posed for pictures outside the courthouse.
The daily televised clips of the drama — and its stars like Martinez and Arias herself — make it easy to forget that this is a criminal trial and not a soap opera.
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