Jodi Arias will serve a life sentence after a second jury failed to reach agreement on whether or not she should be executed for the 2008 slaying of Travis Alexander.
Alexander's sister sobbed as Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens read the jury decision, which actually was a non-decision.
A mistrial was declared, meaning Arias won't get the death penalty.
Arias didn't have much reaction.
There's still one more decision to make: Stephens will decide after another hearing whether Arias should serve the rest of her natural life in prison or be sentenced to 25 years-to-life.
A sentencing hearing was set for April 13.
Arias already has served six years in jail, so in theory the 34-year-old murderer could be released in 19 years, at age 53.
The decision comes as a tremendous anti-climax to one of the most sensational murder trials in modern history.
Arias was found guilty in May 2013 of first-degree murder, but the jury couldn't reach a decision on whether to execute her or send her to prison for life. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery chose to keep pressing for lethal injection.
The new jury was convened last year. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens elected to ban live TV coverage of the penalty-phase trial, dampening the circus-like atmosphere of the previous trial.
As we covered in our March 2013 feature article, Arias' first trial became a worldwide sensation for a number of reasons. Viewers packed the Phoenix courtroom daily, some having driven hundreds of miles for the privilege of witnessing firsthand what millions were watching on their computer and TV screens. Prosecutor Juan Martinez appeared to enjoy his fame, putting on a good show in the courtroom and getting in trouble for signing an autograph for a female fan on the courtroom steps.
The main publicity driver in the case was Arias herself. Young, smart, seemingly mild-tempered and reasonably telegenic, her demeanor and comeliness stood in horrifying contrast to her lies and attempted cover-up of Alexander's brutal slaying. In television interviews, Arias told ludicrous stories of a home invasion. In the courtroom, she told an equally ridiculous tale of alleged self-defense.
The sexual explicitness of the testimony during the 2013 trial shocked even longtime courtroom observers, especially when juxtaposed with references to the Mormon religion both victim and murderer shared.
Evidence in the case showed Arias had planned the murder meticulously. After breaking up with Alexander, Arias arranged a meeting with him in Mesa in June of 2008. She dyed her hair and took gas cans in her car as she drove from California, hoping to leave no trace of her passage. The .25-caliber gun used in the slaying, it was theorized, was the same gun stolen from Arias' grandpa's home, where Arias had been living.
Alexander had been surprised in the shower of his Mesa home by Arias. She shot him, sliced and stabbed him about two dozen times, and then cut his throat from ear to ear. Following a quick cleanup attempt, Arias drove to Utah for a prearranged meeting with another guy; testimony showed she was necking with the Utah man less than 24 hours after slashing Alexander's neck.
Had the jury voted for the death penalty, Arias would have been the first woman to die by execution since 1930, when Eva Dugan's head popped off in an infamous botched hanging.
Arizona has two female murderers on death row currently: Wendi Andriano and Shawna Forde.
UPDATE: Comments from Bill Montgomery:
"The jury's inability to render a decision to impose either the death penalty or life in prison will now result in a sentencing decision of natural life or life with the possibility of release after 25 years. The State's sentencing recommendation will be set forth in pleadings filed with the Court and in argument before the Court.
"Rendering decisions this jury was asked to make are among the most difficult that are made in our criminal justice system. While receiving a jury verdict is, of course, the preferred resolution, Arizona law establishes finality for the sentencing phase of the Defendant's case and the Court will now impose her punishment."
UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will deny media requests for interviews of Jodi Arias:
"Jodi Arias has been in our jail for seven years. A comprehensive report of the history of her behaviors and activities while in our custody is in progress. Upon reviewing the report it notes that she craves media attention and continues to seek out ways to attract that attention. I will not allow her to play that game and will deny any media interviews with her. Arias is a convicted killer, and her 15 minutes of fame are over."
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