By BRIAN SKOLOFF and JOSH HOFFNER
Jurors in the Jodi Arias murder trial said Wednesday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend, prompting the judge to instruct them to keep trying.
The panel reported its impasse after only about two and a half hours of deliberations. Judge Sherry Stephens told jurors to try to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as they work toward a decision.
The jury then continued deliberating until late afternoon, when it adjourned for the day without a decision. Deliberations were set to resume at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday.
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 Attorney 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 “Cliffs Notes” 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.