An Arizona jury could not decide whether Jodi Arias should be sentenced to death for shooting and stabbing her former boyfriend to death in a case that drew national attention.
The hung jury announced Thursday means that Judge Sherry Stephens will decide whether to sentence Arias to prison for life or a life term with the possibility of release after 25 years.
The Phoenix jury began deliberating Arias' fate on the afternoon of Feb. 25 in Maricopa County Superior Court. Jurors announced their inability to come to a verdict at about 10 a.m. local time Thursday.
Stephens said jurors consistently voted the same way since their second day of deliberations. Jurors told her more time wouldn’t help them, she said.
Arias, now 34, shot and stabbed Travis Alexander, a onetime boyfriend whom prosecutors say she killed in a jealous rage in June 2008. A previous jury convicted her of murder in 2013 and agreed that the case could qualify for the death penalty, but could not agree on whether to impose it.
The attractive young couple had a perfect story for true-crime dramas: They were outwardly devout Mormons with a tempestuous life behind closed doors that was revealed to the first jury in graphic detail, including about their sex life, via recorded phone calls and text messages. Arias claimed self-defense and said Alexander had subjected her to physical and sexual abuse.
Arias, whose murder trial drew nationwide attention, had been in a state of legal limbo since 2013, when the first jury convicted her but failed to resolve the sentence.
In October, a new jury in Phoenix began hearing prosecutors' case for a death sentence. The sentencing trial ran five months, about the length of the original trial. That trial was a media circus, leading television newscasts, inspiring quickly published e-books and prompting online arguments between her supporters and detractors.
At a news conference Thursday, jurors said they were split 11 to 1 on the verdict. The lone holdout, a woman who did not attend the news conference, refused to deliberate, some jurors said.
None of the 11 jurors present, nor the two alternates, identified themselves. But several were pointed in their assessment of what happened with the eight-women, four-man jury.
"We feel like we failed," said one female juror.
The holdout juror "alluded that the death penalty would be a form of revenge," said a male juror. That was upsetting, he said. "There are lots of us on the jury whose religions don't support capital punishment. We had to overcome that."
Maricopa County Atty. Bill Montgomery bemoaned the attention the trial received and the way people took sides for and against Arias.
"Our criminal justice system is not a game. It’s not a sporting event," Montgomery said.
Members of the Alexander family audibly sobbed in the courtroom while a television camera rolled. They declined to speak with reporters outside the courthouse, but their attorney, Jay Beckstead, issued a statement to the Associated Press.
The Alexanders "are saddened by the jury's inability to reach a decision on the death penalty, however, we understand the difficulty of the decision, and have nothing but respect for the jury's time," Beckstead said.
In closing arguments before the jury last week, defense attorney Kirk Nurmi said that the abuse Arias suffered under Alexander, her clean criminal record and her struggle with mental illness should persuade jurors to spare her life.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez had urged jurors to look past the attempts at mitigating her culpability for the crime.
Martinez said the case wasn’t one of love gone wrong, but simple murder, a brutal slaying punishable by death.
Arias stabbed Alexander nearly 30 times and shot him in the forehead. She slit his throat and dragged his body into the shower, where friends found it about five days later.
Arias at first claimed that two men attacked the couple and killed Alexander. She admitted two years after her initial denial that she had killed him, claiming self-defense.
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