Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Associated Press
PHOENIX — Jurors who spent five months determining Jodi Arias' fate couldn't decide whether she should get life in prison or die for murdering her boyfriend, sending prosecutors back to the drawing board to rehash the shocking case of sex, lies and violence to another 12 people.
A friend of the Alexander family reacts as the sentencing for the first degree murder conviction of Jodi Arias is declared a hung jury at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Ariz., on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The jury in Jodi Arias’ murder trial was dismissed Thursday after failing to reach a verdict against the woman they convicted of murdering her one-time boyfriend in a case that captured headlines worldwide with its sex, lies, violence. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace, Pool)
Jodi Arias listens as the verdict for sentencing is read for her first degree murder conviction at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Ariz., on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The jury in Jodi Arias' trial was dismissed Thursday after failing to reach a unanimous decision on whether the woman they convicted of murdering her one-time boyfriend should be sentenced to life or death in a case that has captured headlines worldwide with its sex, lies, violence. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace, Pool)
Judge Sherry Stephens gave a heavy sigh as she announced a mistrial in the penalty phase of the case Thursday and scheduled a July 18 retrial.
"This was not your typical trial," she told jurors. "You were asked to perform some very difficult duties."
As the panel filed out of the courtroom, one female juror looked at the victim's family and mouthed, "Sorry." She and two other women on the jury were crying.
None of the jurors commented as they left court.
A new jury will now be seated to try again to reach a decision on Arias' sentence — unless the prosecutor takes execution off the table and agrees to a life term.
Arias, who first said she wanted to die and later that she wanted to live, looked visibly upset about the mistrial and sobbed in the courtroom before it was announced. Her family didn't attend Thursday but has been present for much of the trial.
Family members of the victim, Travis Alexander, also cried in court.
Jurors began deliberating Arias' sentence Tuesday and first reported they had failed to reach a unanimous decision the next day. Stephens instructed them to keep trying.
The same jury on May 8 found Arias guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Alexander, who was stabbed and slashed nearly 30 times and nearly decapitated at his Mesa home. It later determined the killing was cruel enough to merit consideration of the death penalty.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery thanked the panel in a statement after the mistrial was announced: "We appreciate the jury's work in the guilt and aggravation phases of the trial, and now we will assess, based upon available information, what the next steps will be."
He said a status hearing has been set for June 20, "and we will proceed with the intent to retry the penalty phase."
Under Arizona law, a hung jury in a trial's death penalty phase requires a new jury to be seated to decide the punishment. If the second jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life in prison or be eligible for release after 25 years. The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley has said the case could drag on for several months as the new jury reviews evidence and hears opening statements, closing arguments and witness testimony in a "Cliffs Notes" version of the trial.
However, if the prosecutor decides not to pursue the death penalty a second time, the judge would sentence Arias to one of the life term options, and the trial would conclude.
As the proceedings continue, Arias will remain in the Maricopa County jail system, where she has spent the past five years. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday she will be confined to her cell 23 hours a day and not be allowed to give interviews.
The mistrial came two days after Arias spoke to jurors and pleaded for her life. She said she "lacked perspective" when she told a local reporter after her conviction that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail. She also told jurors she could bring about positive change in prison by teaching inmates how to read and helping launch prison recycling programs.
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Jodi Arias stands as the jury enters the courtroom on Wednesday during the penalty phase of her murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
The Associated Press