May 22, 2013

Death or life in prison? Arias jury can't decide

The judge tells the jurors to try to work through their differences Thursday, or else a new jury must be seated.

The Associated Press

PHOENIX — Jurors in the Jodi Arias murder trial said Wednesday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend, prompting the judge to instruct them to keep trying.

click image to enlarge

Judge Sherry Stephens looks at a question from the jury with prosecutor Juan Martinez, left, and defense attorneys Jennifer Wilmott and Kirk Nurmi, right, on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 during the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix . Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool)

click image to enlarge

Jodi Arias, right, and her defense attorneys Jennifer Wilmott and Kirk Murmi, left, listen as Judge Sherry Stephens urges the jury to continue deliberating after the jury delivered a message that they are deadlocked on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 during the penalty phase of her murder trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting to death of Travis Alexander. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool)

Jodi Arias Timeline

The Jodi Arias murder trial has drawn international attention for its graphic tales of sex and lies. The following is a timeline of some of the key events in the case:

— September 2006: Arias and Travis Alexander meet at a Las Vegas work convention and quickly enter into a stormy long-distance relationship. Arias, an aspiring saleswoman and photographer, lives in California and visits Alexander in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa. Alexander is a Mormon and works as a salesman and motivational speaker.

— November 2006: The 26-year-old Arias is baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

— June 29, 2007: Arias and Alexander break up but continue to see each other for sex. Weeks later, Arias moves to Arizona, where she waits tables and cleans Alexander's home for extra cash. She moves back to California in spring 2008.

— May 28, 2008: A .25 caliber gun is reported stolen from the home of Arias' grandparents, where Arias has been staying.

— June 4, 2008: On a road trip to Utah to see another co-worker and love interest, Arias takes a detour to Arizona to visit the 30-year-old Alexander. Arias and Alexander have sex at his home, then take provocative photographs of each other. Arias kills Alexander during this visit. Prosecutors say she arrived unannounced, but Arias claims Alexander invited her.

— June 5, 2008: Arias continues to Utah, where she sees the other man.

— June 9, 2008: Friends find Alexander's body in his shower and call 911. He had been shot in the head with a .25 caliber, and stabbed and slashed nearly 30 times. Authorities later find Arias' hair and bloody palm print at the scene, along with time-stamped photos in a camera discovered inside Alexander's washing machine.

— July 9, 2008: On Arias' 28th birthday, a grand jury indicts her on first-degree murder.

— July 15, 2008: Arias is arrested at her grandparents' home. She maintains she wasn't involved in Alexander's slaying, telling a detective: "I don't even hurt spiders."

— Sept. 5, 2008: Arias is extradited to Arizona. A public defender is later assigned to represent her.

— Sept. 11, 2008: Arias pleads not guilty.

— September 2008: Arias tells various media outlets that two masked intruders attacked her and killed Alexander. In a jailhouse interview with "Inside Edition," Arias says: "No jury is going to convict me. I am innocent, and you can mark my words on that."

— Oct. 31, 2008: Prosecutors file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. They contend Arias planned the attack and killed Alexander in a jealous rage.

— August 2010: Arias changes her story about the killing, saying it was self-defense.

— Dec. 10, 2012: July selection begins. Eighteen potential jurors and alternates eventually are chosen.

— Jan. 2, 2013: Opening statements start. Artwork purportedly drawn by Arias soon begins selling online.

— Jan. 8, 2013: Prosecutors show jurors bloody crime-scene photos. Arias appears shaken.

— Feb. 4, 2013: Arias takes the witness stand. She testifies for 18 days, telling jurors that Alexander was physically and emotionally abusive. She says he turned violent the day of his death, forcing her to fight for her life. She says she lied about it earlier because she planned to commit suicide.

— March 14, 2013: A defense expert testifies that Arias suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia, and says that's why Arias can't recall much from the day of the killing. Prosecutor Juan Martinez later questions the expert's evaluation process, saying Arias was still lying at the time about having killed Alexander.

— March-April 2013: Another defense witness tells jurors Arias was abused by Alexander and suffered from battered woman's syndrome. A previous paper by the psychotherapist sparks a debate between her and Martinez over whether Snow White was an abused woman. Meanwhile, a prosecution expert maintains Arias has borderline personality disorder.

— April 2, 2013: A juror is dismissed, reportedly for making statements that showed bias. By this time, the case is a tabloid and cable TV sensation, attracting spectators from around the country. Two more jurors eventually are released.

— May 2, 2013: Closing arguments begin. Prosecutors maintain Arias is a manipulative liar who meticulously planned the savage attack.

— May 3, 2013: Closings conclude with Arias' lawyer imploring jurors to take an impartial view of the case and his client, even if they don't like her. The final 12 jurors are chosen, and they begin deliberations.

— May 8, 2013: The jury announces its verdict: Arias is guilty of first-degree murder. She fights back tears as Alexander's family members weep and hug each other. A crowd outside the courthouse erupts in cheers. Minutes later, Arias tells Fox affiliate KSAZ that she would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of her days behind bars.

— May 15, 2013: Martinez argues during the "aggravation" phase of the trial that Alexander died an especially cruel, depraved and heinous death. Jurors agree, making Arias eligible for the death penalty.

— May 21, 2013: Arias speaks to jurors during the trial's penalty phase, pleading with them to spare her life. She says she "lacked perspective" when she told KSAZ she preferred execution to a life term. The jury begins deliberations. Hours later, Arias gives a series of media interviews from jail.

— May 22, 2013: Jurors tell the judge after a total of about two and a half hours of deliberations that they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict on Arias' sentence. The judge sends them back to the deliberation room to work through their differences.

The panel reported its impasse after only about two and a half hours of deliberations. Judge Sherry Stephens told jurors to try to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as they work toward a decision.

The jury then continued deliberating until late afternoon, when it adjourned for the day without a decision. Deliberations were set to resume at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday.

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.

In the event of a hung jury in the Arias trial, the case could drag on for several more months, said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

"If that happens, this jury would be dismissed and a second jury would be impaneled, and you'd literally have to go through the whole case again," Romley said, adding the murder conviction would stand and the new panel would be considering only the sentence.

However, the new jury would have to review evidence and hear opening statements, closing arguments and witness testimony in a "Cliffs Notes" version of the trial, Romley said.

Romley also noted that 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.

The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.

The panel heard emotional comments last week from Travis 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 by teaching inmates how to read and speak Spanish and helping the prison launch recycling programs. She also wants to be an advocate for domestic violence victims.

The same jury of eight men and four women convicted Arias of first-degree murder two weeks ago. Arias stabbed and slashed 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-defense.

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.

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