New jury to decide Jodi Arias’ fate after penalty phase mistrial

Posted at 9:15 PM, May 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-23 21:15:08-04
(CNN) — An Arizona judge declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial Thursday after a deadlocked jury said it couldn’t decide whether to sentence her to death.

That means a new jury will be chosen, but the first-degree murder conviction still stands.

A retrial for the penalty phase will begin on July 18, Judge Sherry Stephens said. A status conference has been scheduled for June 20.

The hung jury brought to a close a dramatic chapter in a high-profile case that has lasted for months, drawing spectators who lined up for courtroom seats and waited anxiously outside the courthouse.

But the closely watched trial isn’t over yet.

In a written statement, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said prosecutors “will proceed with the intent to retry the penalty phase.”

“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.

Since Tuesday, jurors had been deliberating whether Arias, 32, should get a death sentence for murdering her ex-boyfriend in 2008.

Emotions ran high in the courtroom as the jury’s inability to agree on a sentence was announced. Arias appeared to be on the verge of tears. One of Alexander’s sisters sobbed.

Even the normally stoic judge’s voice cracked as she dismissed jurors.

“Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the participants in this trial, I wish to thank you for your extraordinary service to this community,” she told them. “This was not your typical trial. You were asked to perform very difficult responsibilities.”

An alternate juror and a juror who was on the panel cried as the verdict was being read, CNN’s Ted Rowlands reported.

As the jury filed out of the courtroom, Rowlands said he saw one juror say, “I’m sorry” to Alexander’s family.

Jurors struggle to agree

Jurors had deliberated for more than 13 hours in the penalty phase of the trial when they told the court they wouldn’t be able to agree on a verdict.

Earlier this month, the same jurors took less than two hours to decide that Arias was “exceptionally cruel” when she stabbed Travis Alexander 29 times, slit his neck from ear to ear and shot him in the face.

They pronounced her guilty of first-degree murder on May 8 after 15 hours of deliberations.

For Arias to be sentenced to death, a jury’s decision must be unanimous.

About an hour into its deliberations on Thursday, the jury sent out a question, but the details of its query were not revealed in court.

On Wednesday morning, the jury sent out a note saying its members couldn’t agree. Stephens told them to try again and ordered them back into the jury room.

If Arias is given a sentence of death, she would be the fourth woman on death row in the state of Arizona.

A plea for mercy

On Tuesday, Arias pleaded with jurors to spare her.

She told them she would dedicate her time in prison to performing acts of charity from behind bars. She said she would teach people to read or to speak Spanish, start a book club and donate her hair so it could be used to make wigs for sick children. She showed jurors several pieces of her artwork.

She called Alexander’s murder “the worst mistake” she had ever made, “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” She couldn’t have imagined herself capable of such a grisly crime, Arias told the jury.

“But I know that I was,” she said. “And for that I’m going to be sorry for the rest of my life — probably longer.”

Attorneys argue life, death

Prosecutor Juan Martinez argued that jurors should sentence Arias to death.

“You have a duty, and that duty really means that you actually do the honest, right thing, even though it may be difficult,” he told them.

Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott argued Tuesday that Arias’ life should be spared.

“We’re not talking about whether or not to convict. We’re talking about whether or not to kill. And so when we talk about that, it matters that she was 27 years old and she had no criminal history,” Willmott said. “It matters that she hadn’t done anything wrong in her life before that.”

When Alexander died

Arias was living in Yreka, California, when she met Alexander at a business convention in Las Vegas in September 2006. That November, he baptized Arias into the Mormon faith, a ceremony Arias said was followed by anal sex.

Arias became his girlfriend two months later, she testified. They broke up in the summer of 2007, and Alexander began dating other women.

In June 2008, Alexander missed two appointments, prompting friends to go to his house. They found his naked body crammed in a stand-up shower

He had been stabbed 29 times in the back and torso and shot in the head. His throat was slit.

After her arrest, Arias told an elaborate lie about masked intruders breaking into Alexander’s house and killing him before she narrowly escaped.

Relatives who spoke with police described her as mentally unstable.