PHOENIX — Jurors in Jodi Arias' trial resumed deliberations Thursday, a day after they reported they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death but were instructed by the trial judge to keep trying.
The panel reported its impasse Wednesday after only about 2 1/2 hours of deliberations. Judge Sherry Stephens told them to try to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as they work toward a decision.
The jury later adjourned for the day without a decision and Thursday resumed deliberations about 9:45 a.m. local time.
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 Atty. 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 “CliffsNotes” 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, telling the jury 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.