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Judge to Arias jury: Try harder to reach verdict

Posted at 2:05 PM, Mar 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-04 14:10:16-05

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The judge in the sentencing retrial of convicted killer Jodi Arias asked the jury to try hard to reach a verdict after they posed two questions to the court on Tuesday afternoon.

KPHO reports that the questions sent the media and public scrambling after Judge Sherry Stephens called attorneys and Arias to court Tuesday afternoon, and then provided the jury with modified instructions to break what appeared to be an apparent deadlock.

Stephens, in issuing the jury modified impasse instructions, waited until jurors returned from lunch to implore them to try harder to reach a verdict.

“I do not wish or intend to force a verdict. No juror should surrender his or her honest conviction,” Stephens said.

The jury is deciding whether Arias will get the death penalty or life in prison for killing her boyfriend Travis Alexander in June 2008.

Arias herself showed up dressed in civilian clothing, which meant the jury likely would come into the courtroom.

The family of Alexander and Arias’ mother, Sandy, were also in court Tuesday afternoon.

A photograph from inside the Arizona courtroom where a jury deliberated a verdict in the Jodi Arias trial. Jurors had two questions for the judge on March 3, 2015. The judge told them to continue deliberating.

A photograph from inside the Arizona courtroom where a jury deliberated a verdict in the Jodi Arias trial. Jurors had two questions for the judge on March 3, 2015. The judge told them to continue deliberating.

Courtroom officials have said there would be a one-hour warning before any verdict is read.

After about 16 hours of deliberations through Monday, jurors left late in the afternoon and reconvened on Tuesday.

“The jury knows the press is watching what happens here, so they will be very careful with what they do,” said legal expert Dwane Cates. “In order for 12 people to agree to kill somebody, they’re going to take some time and think about it and make sure it’s the right decision.”

If the new jury deadlocks, the death penalty would be removed as an option and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens will decided whether Arias serves natural life in prison or life with the possibility of release after 25 years.

Stephens handed the case to the panel Feb. 25 after defense attorney Kirk Nurmi finished his closing arguments.

Nurmi told jurors, “There is no duty to kill Ms. Arias.”

“You have an opportunity to render a verdict of life, a verdict based on love and compassion,” Nurmi said.

“He did a good job of humanizing her – pointing to her and saying, are you going to kill this woman?” said legal expert Beth Karas.

Stephens read the final instructions to the jury of eight women and four men and two alternates before turning the case over to the jury just before noon.

The jury spent the afternoon deliberating and then went home for the day at around 4:30 p.m.

Arias is trying to avoid the death penalty after being convicted of killing her ex-boyfriend in June of 2008.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez has spent the past five months trying to convince jurors that Arias is a manipulative killer, who lied about the crime and tried to cover it up.

Martinez told jurors that Arias has shown no remorse, and claims about her mental illness and history of abuse are just a distraction.

Legal expert Jeff Gold told KPHO that it will be extremely difficult to get 12 jurors to all agree on the death penalty in this case.

“How do you convince somebody to kill?” asked Gold. “If any one juror finds one of the nine mitigating factors apply, it’s at least a hung jury and she gets life. It’s hard to imagine those odds that the state faces right now will be overcome.”

On Feb. 24, Stephens granted a media request to broadcast the verdict announcement live.

On Feb. 23, just hours after Stephens dismissed two jurors, Arias informed the court she would not make a final plea to the jury to spare her life.

The prosecution rested its case Feb. 12 and the defense rested its case Jan. 27. The sentencing retrial began Oct. 21.

Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of the 30-year-old Alexander, whose body was found in his Mesa residence. He had been stabbed, his throat slit and he had a gunshot wound to his forehead.

Arias, who initially denied she killed Alexander, would eventually admit she killed him in self-defense, but jurors didn’t buy into that claim.

The jury that convicted Arias on May 8, 2013, was unable to reach a verdict in her sentencing and Stephens declared a mistrial on May 23, 2013.

Members of the current jury were selected from more than 400 potential jurors over several weeks. The trial has generated an online and cable news audience nationwide.