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"Are you going to kill this woman?"

“Are you going to kill this woman?” BRILLIANT.

So I hate to keep harping on the Jodi Arias story. Even I had reached a media saturation point by the time the verdict was finally read on May 8 after more than four months of trial. And I was beginning to feel like I needed to take a shower every time Jodi’s name was mentioned. That, and I had the very bad luck to stumble upon, in a HuffPost slideshow, an actual unedited crime scene photo of Travis’ body in the shower — the kind the mainstream media is forbidden to show by those pesky legal people down in Standards. (Arianna, God bless her little heart, has zero standards or scruples.)

But recent events have brought me back to overthinking this whole thing. I mean, the trial and its ensuing media coverage is essentially an exercise in American Cultural Studies at this point, as rabid Jodi followers like me, having stuck it out this long, have invested way too much for it to be considered merely morbid gawking. (Or so we tell ourselves.)

But I feel I must write today. The fact that the jury is apparently having a hard time conferring the death penalty by mere reflex — as everyone who’s ever come into contact with the HLN coverage of this trial, however tangentially, would presumably do, keeping in adherence with the rhetorical “JUSTICE FOR TRAVIS”-ethos — is sending all the daytime television talking heads into a tailspin this afternoon.

It’s kind of like when we had to wait a whole TWO AND A HALF DAYS before the verdict came in after the guilt phase of the deliberations began. The fact of her first-degree guilt had already been a central tenet of media coverage, so why was it even a question about what the verdict should be? Dumb jurors! Stop thinking and start being outraged and indignant!

To which I say: take it easy, people, this is a big fucking decision to have weighing on this jury’s shoulders, so let’s let these people actually do what they were sworn in to do and carefully consider all the evidence.

Also, what really astonished me today, listening to the jury instructions (which the Hon. Sherry Stephens, God bless HER little heart, originally misread), is that there’s no hard and fast criteria for deciding on death. Like, the circumstances can be “heinous,” but what does that really mean? Are there legal definitions of that stuff? Because otherwise, it seems pretty subjective.

So it comes down to an emotional decision. One in which you have to take complete moral accountability for your decision, since you weren’t merely following protocol or legal precedent. Yes, that WOULD be heavy.

************

On another note, while I think Jodi might not make a great as good of a prison social worker/hair donator/translator/literacy doyenne/recycling entrepreneur as she claims she would, she’s got a FABULOUS personality for reality television. The narcissism, the insistence on proper hair and makeup… the sex, the lies… the abject desperation, the unwitting campiness… it’s all there!

After reading “The Saddest Reality Stars of All: Prisoners” by the Daily Beast’s great Mansfield Frazier, who does a lot of crime-and-punishment coverage and commentary, you might see why a star turn on Bravo’s forthcoming The Real Housewives of Death Row might be the most fitting punishment of all for Jodi.

Also: ratings bonanza!

*Unless you’re pregnant and waiting for a bus in Honolulu… in which case it could take FOREVER.

Listen to the story here.

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Another day, another noteworthy NPR piece, this time from national correspondent Ina Jaffe, about one mother’s fight against California’s ludicrous “Three Strikes Law” after she unwittingly helped put her son in prison for life.

Shane Reams, now 44, was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1996 after he was found guilty of being involved in the sale of a $20 rock of cocaine. (See, I told you it was ludicrous.) This was his third and final “strike” because he had two prior convictions for burglary– not because the police nabbed him, but because his mother, Sue, had urged him to turn himself in when she found out he was a thief.

But Sue had no idea what she was getting her son into. She says she was concerned with getting Shane help, not putting him in prison.

She told him: “Maybe you’ll get a drug program. You need a drug program.”

Yes, he probably did. And he got it– that is, if you count seventeen years in state prison “treatment.” Shane admits that it was only when he saw a glimmer of hope for his release that he concentrated on getting clean.

(You don’t say! The prospect of a life sentence doesn’t necessarily motivate people to get clean on their own?)

In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown wisely approved a new sentencing guideline that gives convicted criminals the chance to participate in alternative rehabilitative services in lieu of prison time. And in the 2012 elections, voters passed Proposition 36, which, according to the NYT, “authorizes the courts to re-sentence thousands of people who were sent away for low-level third offenses and who present no danger to the public.”

From that NYT piece (which, I should add, is actually an op-ed by Brent Staples):

Three strikes created a cruel, Kafkaesque criminal justice system that lost all sense of proportion, doling out life sentences disproportionately to black defendants. Under the statute, the third offense that could result in a life sentence could be any number of low-level felony convictions, like stealing a jack from the back of a tow truck, shoplifting a pair of work gloves from a department store, pilfering small change from a parked car or passing a bad check. In addition to being unfairly punitive, the law drove up prison costs.

Yes, yes, and yes.

RELATED: “California was required to ‘come up a plan’ two years ago and it clearly has failed to do so, “ (article/quote from The Atlantic)