Jodi Arias claims self defense, or is it Burning Bed?
In the one of the most famous recent criminal murder cases, Jodi Arias testified and claimed her killing of her boyfriend Travis Alexander was justified self-defense (see "Arias breaks down in tears testifying at murder trial" by AZfamily.com).
Jodi Arias, 32, has spent four days on the witness stand recounting her troubled childhood marred by abuse at the hands of her parents, a string of bad relationships, and how Travis Alexander belittled her, cheated on her, call her derogatory names and used her to fulfill his sexual fantasies.
She later explained how Alexander once beat her, pushed her to the ground, kicked her in the ribs and broke her finger, then in a theatrical moment for the jury, raised her hand to display her crooked digit.
In Arizona, for a defendant to prevail on the affirmative defense of self-defense, the following two conditions must be true (see "AZ state bar criminal jury instruction 4.04 − Justification for Self-Defense"):
1. A reasonable person in the situation would have believed that physical force was immediately necessary to protect against another’s use or apparent attempted or threatened use of unlawful physical force; and
2. The defendant used or threatened no more physical force than would have appeared necessary to a reasonable person in the situation.
A couple significant points are worth mentioning here: first, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable it was not self defense:
The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act with such justification. If the State fails to carry this burden, then you must find the defendant not guilty of the charge.
This is a change in the law from a few years ago because of a case called State v. Harold Fish. While the defense has a duty to present "some evidence" for self-defense to apply, which is the case for any argument by the defense or state, that duty is light and be carried simply by Ms. Arias testifying. Whether Ms. Arias is believable or not is for the jury to decide.
Second, to be self defense, the threat must be immediate. That means the "burning bed" defense, which seems to be Ms. Arias' actual defense strategy, would not be self defense. The important point here is that from what I know of Francine Hughes' (played by Farrah Fawcett in the movie) acquittal of murdering her husband, James Hughes, her defense at trial was not self defense but temporary insanity.
That brings up the question why wouldn't Jodi Arias instead have tried the insanity defense instead of self defense? I don't know for sure, but probably because winning "guilty except insane" in Arizona is next to impossible, probably even less likely that trying self defense when the threat was not so immediate.