Jodi Arias Trial Update: Why Couldn't Jury Reach A Verdict? Did Prosecution Mishandle Case? Death Penalty In Question After Judge Declares Mistrial [VIDEO, PHOTOS & REPORT]

By Beth Roeser May 24, 2013 2:38 PM EDT
Jodi Arias reacts to the announcement that the jury's failure to reach a unanimous decision will leave the case headed for retrial. (Photo: Reuters)
Jodi Arias reacts to the announcement that the jury's failure to reach a unanimous decision will leave the case headed for retrial. (Photo: Reuters)

The judge in the Jodi Arias trial declared a mistrial late Thursday afternoon after the jury reported that it could not reach a unanimous decision over whether to sentence her to life in prison or death for the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008.

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The Jodi Arias jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon after hearing Arias plead for a life sentence in court. Late Wednesday morning, the jurors announced that they were deadlocked. Judge Sherry Stephens instructed them to keep trying, pressing them to locate areas of agreement and disagreement as they worked towards their decision.

RELATED: Travis Alexander Felt 'Absolute Terror,' As Jodi Arias Stabbed Him; New Graphic Details [VIDEO & REPORT] 

But it was to no avail. After five months of emotional testimony, gruesome photographs, and 13 hours of deliberations over the course of three days, the jury gave up.

Judge Stephens announced the hung jury with a heavy sigh Thursday, calling for a conference with the attorneys on June 20 to decide how both sides wish to proceed as the court prepares for a retrial, which is set for July 18.

A member of Travis Alexander's family reacts to the mistrial announcement. (Photo: Reuters)
A member of Travis Alexander's family reacts to the mistrial announcement. (Photo: Reuters)

Jurors were emotional as they filed into the courtroom to announce that they could not reach a decision. As the Alexander family cried, one juror reportedly looked towards the victim's relatives and mouthed the word, "Sorry." Three jurors were reportedly crying as they left the courtroom.

Though the judge was clearly unhappy with the outcome of the trial, she gracefully thanked the jurors for their service and acknowledged what a difficult position they had been in. "This was not your typical trial," Judge Stephens told the jurors. "You were asked to perform some very difficult duties ... I will be back shortly to personally thank each of you for your service." The judge added that the jurors could speak about the trial or not speak about it, as they preferred.

RELATED: Arias Lawyers Want Out! Judge Denies Motion To Withdraw [VIDEO & REPORT] 

Jury foreman William Zervakos spoke to ABC's Good Morning America on Friday to explain that Jodi Arias' testimony didn't do her any good, but that the 18 days on the stand against the prosecutor's aggressive style left things difficult to hash out.

"I think 18 days hurt her," Zervakos said. "I think she was not a good witness."

Watch a portion of Jodi Arias' tearful testimony with prosecutor Juan Martinez:

"We're charged with going in and presuming innocence, right?" he continued. "But she was on the stand for so long, and there are so many contradicting stories." At the same time, the prosecutor's style and the length of testifying "would be difficult for anybody. I don't think I'd want to sit on the stand for 18 days."

The juror said his understanding of the relationship between Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander made it difficult to determine whether a death penalty would be justified. Zervakos said he believed Alexander abused Arias both mentally and physically.

"Is that an excuse? Of course not. Does it factor in the decision that we make? It has to."

RELATED: Arias Speaks To Jury After Character Witness Backs Out, Defense Lawyers Move To Withdraw Yet Again

The jury had already convicted Jodi Arias of first-degree murder for the brutal slaying of Travis Alexander, a conviction that will still stand as the case moves to retrial. Arias stabbed Alexander nearly 30 times, slashed his throat from ear to ear, and shot him in the face. Prosecutors described how Arias planned and executed the killing in a jealous rage after Alexander wanted to end their sexual relationship and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.

As per Arizona law, jurors found Arias eligible for the death penalty after the prosecution proved that the crime was "especially cruel" and had caused "mental and physical anguish" to the victim. Though the jury found Arias eligible for a death sentence in less than three hours of deliberations, applying the death penalty turned out to be a much more difficult task.

Watch Jodi Arias call death "the ultimate freedom" in a post-conviction interview:

There is a way to avoid a retrial, however. Prosecutors have the option of taking the death penalty off of the table, in which case the judge would determine whether to sentence Arias to spend her whole life behind bars or to sentence her to life with the possibility of release after 25 years.

But if the state should choose to seek the death penalty again, a new jury will have to be selected. The process of jury selection could take weeks, especially given the challenge of assembling an impartial panel in a case that has attracted a huge amount of attention and commentary around the globe.

RELATED: Death Penalty In Question As Jury Deadlock Continues; What Will Prosecution Do? [VIDEO & REPORT] 

A retrial would proceed from the first-degree murder conviction, but the case could drag on for months again as the new jury reviews evidence, opening statements, closing arguments, and witness testimony in a condensed version of the trial. If the second jury still fails to reach a unanimous decision, the judge will proceed to sentence Arias to some form of life in prison. A judge alone cannot sentence Arias to death.

Arias seemed visibly upset by the mistrial announcement. Her family didn't attend court Thursday, but has been present for much of the trial.

Watch Jodi Arias plead for her life before jury deliberations:

When Arias spoke to the jurors Tuesday, she said she had "lacked perspective" when she had previously stated her preference for the death penalty in an interview given shortly after her conviction. Arias asked the jury to grant her a life sentence, promising to use her time in prison in a positive way by donating her hair to non-profit organization Locks of Love and starting a recycling program, among other things. That night, Arias gave a spree of jailhouse media interviews in which she discussed her disagreements with her legal team and her believe that she "deserves a second chance at freedom someday."

RELATED: 'I'll Donate My Hair,' Jodi Arias Tells Jury Before Death Penalty Deliberations [VIDEO & PHOTOS] 

Jodi Arias originally denied killing Travis Alexander, blaming the crime on armed, masked murderers, but later changed her story to contend that she had killed him in self-defense when he attacked her in a rage after a day of sex at his home in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona. The case became a sensation for its lurid sexual dimensions and gruesome crime-scene pictures. Evidence presented during the trial included nude photos, a recorded phone sex call between Arias and Alexander, bloody photos from the scene of the crime, and stories of kinky sex.

As the court determines how to proceed, Arias will remain in the Maricopa County jail system, where she has been for the past five years. She will be confined to her cell 23 hours a day and will not be allowed to give any more media interviews.

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