Arizona judge finds Jodi Arias jury at an impasse, offers legal help

Jodi Arias jury at impasse, gets special instruction from Arizona judge

Jurors weighing a death sentence for Jodi Arias have reached an impasse, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge said Tuesday, before giving them a special instruction in an effort to resolve the case.

Judge Sherry Stephens delivered the impasse instruction on Tuesday afternoon after more than 19 hours of deliberations on Arias’ fate. The instruction orders jurors to try to reach a verdict, if possible, or to tell the judge that additional deliberation would not be helpful.

Arias was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder after fatally stabbing and shooting her boyfriend in 2008. That jury could not decide whether she should be sentenced to death, so a second penalty phase was held, with a second jury.

The impasse instruction, according to the State Bar of Arizona, is delivered to juries after a judge determines they have reached an impasse and are in “apparent need of help.”

The instruction tells jurors that attorneys for both sides and the judge are in a position to help them navigate the nitty-gritty legal issues, but is not meant to coerce them into reaching a verdict.

“During your deliberations, you should not hesitate to reexamine your own views and change your opinion if you become convinced that it is wrong,” the instruction says, according to the wording provided by the state bar. “However, you should not change your belief concerning the weight or effect of the evidence solely because of the opinions of your fellow jurors, or for the mere purpose of returning a verdict.”

If jurors still can’t reach a verdict, they may submit a list of written questions to the bailiff, and the judge and attorneys will try to answer them.

Alternatively, the jurors can tell the judge that such assistance, and additional deliberation, is of no help.

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