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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 and the judge instructed them to keep trying.
The panel reported its impasse Wednesday after only about two and a half 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 finding. Deliberations resumed at about 9:45 a.m. local time but were interrupted about an hour and a half later when the jury brought a question to the court. Attorneys conferred privately with the judge, and an answer was sent back to the panel. The details of their question were not made public.
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, a mistrial of the penalty phase would be declared, and the case could drag on for several more months, said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.
The murder conviction would stand as the new jurors consider only the sentence. But they would have to review evidence and hear opening statements, closing arguments and witness testimony in a “Cliffs Notes” version of the trial, Romley said.
He 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 jury 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 was the only witness to speak to jurors on her behalf as she pleaded for mercy Tuesday. Later that night, she provided interviews from jail to multiple news outlets, including The Associated Press, during which she said she believed she deserved a chance at freedom someday.
The same panel of eight men and four women convicted Arias of first-degree murder two weeks ago in the 2008 killing of her one-time boyfriend at his suburban Phoenix home. Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 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.