May 23, 2013 — -- Jodi Arias will not be put to death -- at least not yet.
A judge declared a mistrial in the sentencing phase of her murder trial today, after the jury could not agree on whether to sentence Arias to death or to life in prison for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008.
Arias, 32, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder for Alexander's death, and her conviction will stand. Only the death penalty phase of her case can be retried.
It will be up to the prosecutor to decide whether to retry the penalty phase. If he decides to try again for the death penalty, a new jury will be selected and both the prosecution and defense will present evidence and arguments over what sentence Arias should receive.
The retrial would begin July 18, Judge Sherry Stephens announced today. Arias can either be sentenced to death or to life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.
If the prosecution chooses not to retry the penalty phase, Arias will get life in prison, either with or without parole.
The prosecutor's office has not yet decided what it plans to do.
"We appreciate the jury's work in the guilt and aggravation phases of the trial and now we will assess, based upon available information, what the next steps will be," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a written statement. "As of this point in time, the court has set a status conference for June 20 and we will proceed with the intent to retry the penalty phase. Because, for purposes of a jury determination on punishment, this is still a pending matter, there will be no further comment."
Arias, whose family did not show up for the verdict, cried as the clerk read aloud the jury's inability to come to a unanimous decision.
Alexander's family members also cried as the verdict was read.
One juror mouthed, "I'm so sorry," toward Alexander's family and prosecutors after the verdict was read and before the jury left the courtroom.
The jury has been hearing the Arias case for nearly five months. Jurors declined to be interviewed by the media, their names were sealed, and the court did not say how many jurors wanted to sentence Arias to death and how many wanted to sentence her to life in prison.
It began deliberating the death penalty on Tuesday afternoon, after Arias and her attorneys made a final plea, begging the jury to spare her life.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez argued that because the murder was especially cruel -- involving 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to Alexander's head -- Arias deserved the death penalty.
If the prosecutor's office proceeds, the case will face logistical challenges, including scheduling additional court time with all of the attorneys and the judge, finding an impartial jury in Maricopa County, and presenting enough evidence in the death penalty phase that the new jury would be brought up to speed on the case.
"If state decides to retry with new jury, they get a new chance, but one more chance only to convince jury to impose death sentence," Cobb said.
"The facts and evidence presented in the guilt phase would be brought out and presented to jury, but the jury would be told that the defendant was found guilty and here is the evidence. It would be a shorter version of the original trial," Cobb said.
If a second jury was seated and the death phase retried, that jury would then deliberate whether to give Arias the death penalty or life in prison. If it also reached an impasse, and could not agree, then Arias' life would be saved.
Stephens would then sentence Arias either to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years or natural life without the possibility of parole.