Jodi Arias' life spared; hung jury leads to 2nd mistrial - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Jodi Arias Sentenced

Jodi Arias' life spared; hung jury leads to 2nd mistrial

Arias was convicted last year of killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. (Source: CBS 5 News) Arias was convicted last year of killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. (Source: CBS 5 News)
© Jodi Arias as the judge read the verdict. © Jodi Arias as the judge read the verdict.
Judge Stephens reading the verdict Judge Stephens reading the verdict
Jodi Arias as the judge read the verdict. Jodi Arias as the judge read the verdict.

It took only one juror to spare the life of convicted murderer Jodi Arias.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens declared another mistrial in the penalty phase for Arias after the jury informed Stephens early Thursday morning they could not decide whether to sentence her to death or life in prison.

The jury was hung 11-1 after deliberating for five days, the second time a jury could not reach a unanimous decision for a verdict.

Stephens set an April 13 sentencing date to determine whether Arias will spend the rest of her life behind bars, or be eligible for parole after 25 years.

A Maricopa County Superior Court tweet said a verdict would be read at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, but the jury was hung for a second time in the sentencing phase for Arias.

Arias was convicted in the murder of her former lover Travis Alexander in June 2008, but a mistrial was declared when the jury couldn't agree on a sentence. The hung jury in the sentencing retrial means Arias will not become the third woman on Arizona's death row.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that a second hung jury was frustrating.

"Justice is sometimes very slow and very frustrating and does not provide relief or satisfaction with an outcome," he said.

Montgomery said that when resolutions don't match expectations, he "must accept it."

He said did not fault the jury and would not lay any blame or criticism at the jurors of their work "at this particular time."

Members of Alexander's family, Arias' mother, and several former jurors were in the courtroom. The Alexander family was very emotional after the reading of the decision and some openly wept in the courtroom.

The family later issued a statement in which they said that while extremely disappointed, they respected the work of the jury and appreciated the support the family received from the public.

Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi said the hung jury might have spared his client's life but that it does not erase the "tragedy" of Alexander's death.

Nurmi told the media outside the courthouse that he hoped the outcome would allow some closure for the family. He did not answer questions from reporters.

The jury wrapped about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday after spending most of the day behind closed doors deliberating.

Many court watchers had predicted an end to the trial Wednesday, with the possibility of a hung jury.

Jurors had told Stephens on Tuesday that the jury was deadlocked and Stephens instructed jurors to go back and keep trying to reach a unanimous decision.

"Usually, after the dynamite instruction is given, if they're really, really deadlocked, it ends relatively soon after," said legal expert Dwane Cates. "The fact they're still deliberating 24 hours later tells me, they're still deciding things there."

Stephens denied a request by defense attorney Kirk Nurmi for a mistrial because the jury was at an impasse.

Two juror questions given to the court sent the media and public scrambling after Stephens called attorneys and Arias to court Tuesday afternoon, and then provided the jury with modified instructions to break the apparent deadlock.

Stephens, in issuing the jury modified impasse instructions, waited until jurors returned from lunch to implore them to try harder to reach a verdict.

"I do not wish or intend to force a verdict. No juror should surrender his or her honest conviction," Stephens said.

Legal expert Jeff Gold said that it would be extremely difficult to get 12 jurors to all agree on the death penalty in this case.

"How do you convince somebody to kill?" Gold said. "If any one juror finds one of the nine mitigating factors apply, it's at least a hung jury and she gets life. It's hard to imagine those odds that the state faces right now will be overcome.

"When you're trying to convince your neighbor juror next to you, as to what happened in a case of guilt or innocence, that's like a whodunit, maybe," legal expert Jeff Gold said. "But when you're trying to convince the person next to you that I want to kill this person and you should kill them to - that's much harder."

Arias herself showed up dressed in civilian clothing, which meant the jury likely would come into the courtroom.

If the new jury had deadlocked, the death penalty would be removed as an option and Stephens will decide whether Arias serves natural life in prison or life with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Chris Hughes is a longtime friend of Alexander. He said that having another hung jury would be very frustrating.

"My personal opinion is that she earned the death penalty," Hughes said. "I would be OK with life in prison, if she never gets out again, but she deserves the life of a death row inmate."

Courtroom officials have said there would be a one-hour warning before any verdict was read.

Stephens handed the case to the panel Feb. 25 after defense attorney Nurmi finished his closing arguments.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez has spent the past five months trying to convince jurors that Arias is a manipulative killer, who lied about the crime and tried to cover it up.

Martinez told jurors that Arias has shown no remorse, and claims about her mental illness and history of abuse are just a distraction.

On Feb. 24, Stephens granted a media request to broadcast the verdict announcement live.

On Feb. 23, just hours after Stephens dismissed two jurors, Arias informed the court she would not make a final plea to the jury to spare her life.

The prosecution rested its case Feb. 12 and the defense rested its case Jan. 27. The sentencing retrial began Oct. 21.

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of the 30-year-old Alexander, whose body was found in his Mesa residence. He had been stabbed, his throat slit and he had a gunshot wound to his forehead.

Arias, who initially denied she killed Alexander, would eventually admit she killed him in self-defense, but jurors didn't buy into that claim.

The jury that convicted Arias on May 8, 2013, was unable to reach a verdict in her sentencing and Stephens declared a mistrial on May 23, 2013.

Members of the current jury were selected from more than 400 potential jurors over several weeks. The trial has generated an online and cable news audience nationwide.

Copyright 2015 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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