Jodi Arias penalty phase jury is hung: 8 - 4 in favor of death (video)

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2013 — It is not easy to sentence someone to death. Even someone as unlikeable as Jodi Arias.

Arias, whose defense lawyer Kirk Nurmi famously admitted “It’s not about whether or not you like Jodi Arias. Nine days out of 10, I don’t like Jodi Arias,” was given a temporary reprieve from death. Her jury, which had spent the last five months monitoring one of the most remarkable trials ever, could not unanimously agree to sentence the young woman either to death or life in prison.

The final tally of the jurors was 8 to 4 in favor of the death penalty.

The same jury that find themselves unable to agree on a final verdict for Arias was able to unanimously agree and find her guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Travis Alexander, who was nearly decapitated in the bathroom of his Mesa home.

The jury was able to find the killing was cruel enough to merit consideration of the death penalty, but in the end unable to sentence Arias to death. Judge Sherry Stephens audibly sighed at the announcement of the mistrial in the penalty phase, scheduling the retrial of the punishment phase for July 18.

“This was not your typical trial,” she told jurors. “You were asked to perform some very difficult duties.”

The panel then filed out of the courtroom after 13 hours of deliberation that spanned three days, with one female juror turning to the victim’s family and mouthing, “Sorry.” She and two other jurors could be seen crying.

The mistrial means the state will have to start a new proceding to decide whether Arias should be given a life sentence or the death penalty for the murder of Travis Alexander. Alexander, whose body was found five days after his murder, was stabbed nearly 30 times, with his throat slit ear to ear by Arias. Among the bizarre elements of the case are the photographs taken by Arias of Alexander. The last one shows him on the floor, bleeding and dying.

Prosecutors argued that Arias brutally killed Alexander in a jealous rage when she learned Alexander wanted to date other women. Arias claimed she killed Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her when she dropped his camera.

Changing her previous demeanor showing bravado and claiming she preferred a death sentence because death represented the ultimate release and freedom, Arias asked the jury to spare her life. She said she could do good things while incarcerated, such as running a book club, growing and cutting her hair for cancer patients, teaching inmates how to read and helping launch prison recycling programs.

Telling a local reporter within hours after her guilty conviction that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail, Arias says she “lacked perspective.”

Though they had been present for much of the trial, Arias’ family members did not attend today’s penalty phase. Alexander’s family cried at news of the mistrial.

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 only way to avoid the time and cost of seating a new jury is for the prosecutor to remove execution from the sentencing phase, in effect agreeing to sentence Arias to life in prison.

The judge cannot make the decision to sentence Arias to death. She can only ratify a jury’s decision. The future jury will not have the burden of the lengthy trial, in which members were able to hear Arias, and ask her questions, putting a more human and emotional face on the defendant. 

Jodi Arias in one of her bizarre Maricopa County Jail interviews

Jodi Arias in one of her bizarre Maricopa County Jail interviews

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Arias will remain in the Maricopa County jail system, where she has spent the past five years.

The Arias trial has been an ongoing soap opera of tabloid fodder style testimony, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim. Evidence introduced during the trial included nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and Jodi Arias’ life story which included an abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and a prurient sexual relationship with Alexander that she claims had grown physically violent.

Alexander, 30, whose family and friends speak lovingly of their brother, son and friend, overcame a tough upbringing in Southern California to become a successful businessman at a legal insurance company and a source of inspiration to his colleagues, his friends at his Mormon church and his family.

During the trial Arias seemed to enjoy the spotlight, speaking to a Fox TV affiliate minutes after her conviction, as well as granting a series of jailhouse interviews just hours after the jury got the case in the penalty phase.

“The prosecutor has accused me of wanting to be famous, which is not true,” Arias told the Associated Press on Tuesday in an interview where she combed her hair beforehand and wore makeup for the cameras.

She also insisted that no images be transmitted of her from the waist down, showing her striped jail pants and shackled ankles.

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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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