PHOENIX – Jurors in the murder trial of a U.S. woman told the judge Wednesday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether the convicted murderer should be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend. The judge instructed them to continue deliberations and try to work through their differences in the case that has captivated many Americans.
The jury reported its impasse after only about two and a half hours of deliberations that began Tuesday afternoon.
The same jury of eight men and four women convicted Jodi Arias of first-degree murder two weeks ago. Arias stabbed and slashed Travis Alexander about 30 times, shot him in the forehead and slit his throat in what authorities said was a jealous rage. Arias claimed it was self-defence.
Under Arizona law, a hung jury in the death penalty phase of a trial 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.
If the current jury deadlocks, the prosecutor could decide to take the death penalty off the table. If that happens, the judge would determine whether Arias spends her entire life in prison or is eligible for release after 25 years, said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.
The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors were summoned to the courtroom for a clarification of their instructions.
Judge Sherry Stephens had already explained that the jury’s decision, either life or death, would be final and wasn’t just a recommendation. But she failed to clarify that a life sentence could mean Arias would be eligible for release after 25 years or spend her remaining days behind bars, and that that decision would be up to the judge.
About an hour later, the jury informed the court it was unable to reach a decision.
The panel heard emotional comments last week from Alexander’s family as the prosecutor argued the 32-year-old Arias should be executed for his gruesome killing.
Arias responded Tuesday by pleading for mercy, saying she can become a model prisoner who teaches inmates how to read and speak Spanish, and helps the prison launch recycling programs. She also wants to be an advocate for domestic violence victims.
She spoke to The Associated Press and other media outlets in jailhouse interviews Tuesday night just hours after the jury began deliberations. She talked out about her murder trial, her many fights with her legal team and her belief that she “deserves a second chance at freedom someday.”
Arias said her lawyers let her down by not calling more witnesses who could have bolstered her claims that she was a victim of domestic violence at Alexander’s hands.
Following her conviction last week, Arias told a local TV station that she preferred the death penalty. However, she said Tuesday night that she changed her mind after a tearful meeting with family members, realizing her death would only cause them more pain.
“I felt like by asking for death, it’s like asking for assisted suicide, and I didn’t want to do that to my family,” she told the AP.
Watch Arias address the jury on May 21, explaining how she could contribute to society if she was sentenced to life in prison rather than death:
© 2013 The Associated Press