PHOENIX—The judge in the Jodi Arias murder trial declared a mistrial in the penalty phase Thursday after the jury reported for a second time that it was deadlocked on whether to sentence her to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend in 2008.
Judge Sherry Stephens scheduled a retrial for July 18. A new panel likely will be seated to try again to reach a decision on a sentence — unless the prosecutor takes death off the table agrees to a life sentence.
The panel began deliberating Tuesday, and the next day reported it had reached an impasse. The judge instructed the jurors to keep trying. The jury must be unanimous.
The same panel found Arias guilty two weeks ago of first-degree murder in the death of Travis Alexander, who was stabbed and slashed nearly 30 times and nearly decapitated at his Mesa home. The jury later determined the killing was cruel enough to merit consideration of the death penalty.
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. The judge cannot sentence Arias to death.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley has said the case could drag on for several more months as the new jury reviews evidence and hears opening statements, closing arguments and witness testimony in a “CliffsNotes” version of the trial.
If the prosecutor decides not to pursue the death penalty a second time, the judge would then sentence Arias to one of the life in prison options, and the trial would come to a conclusion.
The jury's impasse was announced two days after Arias spoke directly to jurors and pleaded for her life. She said she “lacked perspective” when she told a local reporter after her conviction that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail. She displayed family pictures for the jurors and told them she could bring about positive change in prison by teaching inmates how to read and helping launch prison recycling programs.
That night, Arias gave a series of media interviews from jail, telling reporters about her many fights with her legal team and her belief that she “deserves a second chance at freedom someday.”
Arias, 32, contends she killed Alexander in self-defense when he became enraged after a day of sex, forcing her to fight for her life. Prosecutors say she attacked him in a jealous rage because he wanted to end their relationship and go to Mexico with another woman.
She went on trial in January, and the case provided endless amounts of cable TV and tabloid fodder, including a recorded phone sex call between Arias and the victim, nude photos, bloody crime-scene pictures and a defendant who described her life story in intimate detail over 18 days on the witness stand.