Arias jurors say they’re stuck; deliberations resume

Posted at 7:13 PM, May 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-22 21:28:33-04

By Catherine E. Shoichet

Ben Brumfield and Eliott C. McLaughlin

(CNN) — After more than seven hours of deliberations, jurors still haven’t decided whether Jodi Arias will live or die.

The Arizona jury sent out a note Wednesday morning saying its members couldn’t agree.

Judge Sherry Stephens told them to try again and ordered them back into the jury room.

It was another unexpected turn in the dramatic, high-profile murder trial, which has lasted for months, sparked a media frenzy and drawn spectators who line up for courtroom seats.

Earlier this month, the same jurors took less than two hours to decide that Arias was “exceptionally cruel” in 2008 when she stabbed ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander 29 times, slit his neck from ear to ear and shot him in the face.

They pronounced her guilty of first-degree murder two weeks ago after 15 hours of deliberations.

Now, the jury is weighing whether Arias, 32, should get the death penalty.

After jurors told Stephens they were stuck on Wednesday, the judge encouraged them to listen to each other, pinpoint areas of agreement and disagreement and ask for further guidance if they need it.

It’s an approach often described as a “dynamite charge,” used by judges to blast open logjams in deliberations and help jurors reach a verdict.

It’s unclear whether her advice worked. After Stephens ordered them to continue their discussions, jurors deliberated for more than four more hours, then went home for the day.

The jury’s decision must be unanimous for Arias to be sentenced to death. In the case of a deadlock, a new jury would be chosen for this phase of the trial.

A plea for mercy

A path of heartbreak, violence, lies and confessions has led Arias to the Phoenix courtroom where her life is now in a jury’s hands.

On Tuesday, she pleaded with jurors to spare her.

It was a stark reversal from two weeks ago, when she told a journalist she preferred death to life in prison.

“I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I’d rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it,” she told KSAZ shortly after her conviction.

But her family implored her to change her mind, she told KSAZ late Tuesday. Now she wants to spare them further heartbreak, she said.

“One of my cousins really drove it home for me and told me how much it would affect them, if I did anything to myself,” she said.

Her mother pleaded with her, she claimed. “Please don’t give up; please don’t give up,” Arias said she told her.

Well-planned presentation

Her life seemed to pass before her, as she delivered a slideshow presentation — mostly of family photos — to the jury on Tuesday. It started off with pictures of her as a toddler wearing pigtails and showed several images from holidays and vacations with family members.

She read a prepared statement for nearly 20 minutes, at times crying.

Arias told jurors that she had been a victim of abuse as an adult and as a child. She had claimed she killed Alexander in self-defense after he hurt her, something evidence failed to substantiate.

She called his murder “the worst mistake” she’d ever made, “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” She couldn’t have imagined herself capable of such a grisly crime, Arias told the jury.

“But I know that I was,” she said. “And for that I’m going to be sorry for the rest of my life — probably longer.”

Arias pledged to make herself useful to other prisoners and humanity by performing acts of charity from behind bars, if spared. She told jurors Tuesday that she could teach people to read in prison and pledged to dedicate her life to good causes.

She noted she could bring “people together in a constructive and positive way” by participating in various programs, including prisoner literacy initiatives; by her “Survivor” T-shirts, which would benefit victims of domestic violence; and by donating her hair, so it could be used to make wigs for sick children. She showed the jurors several pieces of her artwork.

She told them she would suffer for what she did.

“I’m not going to become a mother because of my own terrible choices,” she said. “I won’t be at my sister’s wedding, when she ties the knot next year.”

Attorneys argue life and death

Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott argued Tuesday that Arias’ life should be spared.

“We’re not talking about whether or not to convict. We’re talking about whether or not to kill. And so when we talk about that, it matters that she was 27 years old and she had no criminal history,” she said. “It matters that she hadn’t done anything wrong in her life before that.”

Prosecutor Juan Martinez said pointing to Arias’ artwork as evidence that her life should be spared wasn’t a valid defense.

“It’s an entitlement road that they want you to travel when they talk to you about the fact that she’s a good artist,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything. All it means is: give her special or preferential treatment.”

He argued that jurors should sentence Arias to death.

“You have a duty, and that duty really means that you actually do the honest, right thing, even though it may be difficult,” he said.

If Arias is given a sentence of death, she would be the fourth woman on death row in the state of Arizona.

When Alexander died

Arias was living in Yreka, California, when she met Alexander at a business convention in Las Vegas in September 2006. That November, he baptized Arias into the Mormon faith, a ceremony Arias said was followed by anal sex.

Arias became his girlfriend two months later, she testified. They broke up in the summer of 2007, and Alexander began dating other women.

Alexander’s naked body was found crammed in a stand-up shower in June 2008 after he missed two appointments, prompting friends to go to his house. He had been stabbed 29 times in the back and torso and shot in the head. His throat was slit.

After her arrest, Arias told an elaborate lie about masked intruders breaking into Alexander’s house and killing him before she narrowly escaped.

Relatives who spoke with police described her as mentally unstable.

HLN’s Graham Winch and In Session’s Grace Wong contributed to this report.

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