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Arizona Jury Deadlocked on Death Penalty Decision

In a capital murder trial that has captivated national media for months, an Arizona jury appears to be deadlocked in the determining the recommended penalty against accused murderer Jodi Arias. As of this writing, jurors had deliberated for less than a day but had already reported an impasse to the trial judge. The judge ordered them to reconvene and continue their deliberations.

Arias was found guilty of the first-degree murder of her lover Travis Alexander by the same jury last week. Under Arizona law, the jury’s sentencing recommendation must be unanimous. (Florida, in contrast, requires only a simple majority of the jury to recommend the death penalty. Florida is the only state in the nation which does not require a unanimous jury for a death penalty recommendation.)

A hung jury (one which is not unanimous) in the death penalty phase of a trial in Arizona 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.

If the jury is unable to reach an unanimous decision, this jury would be dismissed and a second jury would be impaneled. Upon impaneling a new jury, the parties would have to present the entire case again. The murder conviction would stand and the new panel would be considering only the sentence – but the details of the crime are relevant to the consideration of sentencing.

A presentation to the second jury would like be a bit shorter. Another possible outcome, if the jury deadlocks, is for the prosecutor to abandon pursuit of the death penalty.

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. Arias claimed it was self-defense.

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