PHOENIX -- One of the more scandalous moments of the Jodi Arias murder trial took place in mid-February when defense attorney Jennifer Willmott played a recording of phone sex between Arias and the lover she killed, Travis Alexander.
On Friday, The Arizona Republic obtained a transcript of the Jan. 31 in-chambers hearing that put the steamy recording into evidence.
Arias, 32, was found guilty of first-degree murder on May 8, but on May 23, the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence her to life or death for the gruesome 2008 slaying. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens, who presided over the case, has since unsealed some of the bench conferences and in-chambers arguments that took place during the controversial trial.
In the Jan. 31 hearing, prosecutor Juan Martinez tried to dismiss the tape-recording as hearsay and claimed there was no verification that the woman's voice on the recording was that of Arias. Martinez wanted to argue in chambers because, as he said, according to the transcript, "what I'm trying to avoid is having to squawk up like a Jack-in-the-box every five minutes" with objections, a threat he repeated later in the argument.
"And rather than making a big fight out there, I guess, I'm wanting to make the big fight here," he said.
The actual tape, which was aired for millions, was recorded in May 2008, a month before the murder. In it, Alexander says, in cruder words, that he wants to tie Arias to a tree and sodomize her, and he describes other acts he would like to perform and photograph with her, using porn-movie terms that he has to explain to Arias.
Martinez argued in the hearing that there was no proof that Alexander actually performed those acts. Willmott responded that the intent of playing the tape was to show that Alexander was sexually aggressive with Arias and hardly the virgin that some witnesses testified they thought him to be.
Arias' other defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, added that "it relates to the abusive and exploitative relationship which is entirely relevant to not only her self-defense, but also anything that can give rise to sudden heat of passion," in other words, second-degree murder or manslaughter. The jury, ultimately, did not buy that argument.
Willmott said, "They actually hear Travis' voice and Travis talking about the things he supposedly wouldn't know if he really was a virgin before he met Ms. Arias."
Nurmi added, "Again at a time when she is supposedly this crazy stalker person that he doesn't want around, he's having phone sex with her and talking about the things that he wishes to do."
Martinez countered by saying, "He's not the aggressor, she is."
At the end of the transcript, Stephens agreed to listen to the tape.
Arias has a trial date of July 18 to seat a new jury to determine the life or death sentence, but Willmott has already indicated she has a conflict for that day and will ask that the trial be delayed until later in the year. Meanwhile, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has not reached a final decision as to whether he will take it back to trial or lift the intent to seek the death penalty.