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Defense for woman charged in Arizona killing focuses on guns

Jodi Arias puts her arm around defense attorney Jennifer Willmott (R), after being asked to demonstrate how she had her arm around her siste
Jodi Arias puts her arm around defense attorney Jennifer Willmott (R), after being asked to demonstrate how she had her arm around her siste

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Defense lawyers for a California woman accused of murdering her lover in Arizona scrambled on Tuesday to counter the prosecution's contention that the killing was premeditated and cast doubt on speculation that she may have stolen a gun from her grandparents to use in the crime.

Jodi Arias could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering Travis Alexander, who was found at his upscale home in the Phoenix suburbs in June 2008 shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and with his throat slashed.

She has said she shot and killed Alexander in self defense with his own pistol, after he attacked her in a rage. The prosecution has said the killing was premeditated, and prosecutor Juan Martinez accused her of bringing the gun with her from California. The gun used in the killing has not been recovered.

On Tuesday, defense attorneys questioned Arias on a redirect, trying to rebuild their self-defense argument after the suspect underwent five days of blistering cross examination in which prosecutors tried to poke holes in her story.

Shortly before the killing, in late May 2008, a .25 caliber handgun - the same caliber of weapon used in Alexander's killing - was stolen along with other items in a robbery from her grandparents' California home. But Arias testified on Tuesday that she became aware of that theft only after the fact.

As defense lawyers tried to show that Arias did not need to steal a gun, she said that at the time of the robbery she would have had access to other guns through family and friends had she needed one.

"Matt had guns, Darryl had a gun ...," she testified, referring to friends. "My father had guns ... My dad had more guns than I was aware of at that time," she said, adding that they included guns her father kept in his bedroom and a room in which he received dialysis.

"You had several guns at your disposal?" defense attorney Kirk Nurmi asked her, to which she replied: "That's right."

ISSUES OF INTENT

Alexander and Arias dated for several months after meeting in the fall of 2006. She has said they split the following year, although Alexander would still invite her to his house for sex.

Arias, whose often lurid testimony about her relations with her former lover has riveted television viewers across the nation, has said she shot her lover in self defense with a gun he kept in his closet. She said he first attacked her when she dropped his camera while taking pictures of him in the shower.

Confronting the issue of whether the killing was premeditated, Nurmi asked Arias on Tuesday if she had gone to Alexander's home with the intention of "leaving him dead in a shower." She replied: "No."

Asked if she ever decided that she wanted to kill Alexander, she said: "No. That was never my thought, that I recall."

Arias previously told the court she has no memory of stabbing Alexander. She did recall tossing the pistol in the desert after the killing.

During cross examination, prosecutor Juan Martinez poked holes in her version of events, showing she lied to friends, family and detectives to cover her tracks after the killing, even going so far as to send Alexander text and email messages as if he were still alive.

Arias testified on Tuesday that she sent the messages as she did not believe at the time of Alexander's death that it was possible to plead self defense.

"Following with the emails and things, I knew what happened was wrong. And my philosophy then is that it's not OK to kill somebody under any circumstance," she said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)

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