Jodi Arias' Death Penalty Retrial Begins, Once Again
More than a year after she was found guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Jodi Arias is back for her death penalty trial. The 34-year-old Arizona artist is facing a new jury who will decide whether or not she deserves the death penalty — something the original jury couldn't agree on. Lawyers are expected to make their opening statements on the case on Tuesday.
To be clear, Arias is not on trial over the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was stabbed 29 times and suffered a gunshot wound to the face at his home in Mesa, Arizona, in 2008. Arias contended that she killed Alexander in self-defense. The previous jury, however, rejected that claim. Arias was convicted of first-degree murder in May 2013, and that conviction still stands.
However, the previous jury became deadlocked during the sentencing period, torn between the death penalty and life in prison. According to CNN, a source close to the previous jury said the vote was 8-4 in favor of the death penalty. A death penalty sentence needs an unanimous vote from a 12-person jury, so Judge Sherry Stephens declared a mistrial.
What We'll See This Time Around
Arias' retrial will only focus on what's called the "penalty phase." A new jury was carefully picked from a pool of about 400 applicants, with the court making sure prospective jurors were impartial on both Arias' case and the death penalty.
What happens if this new jury can't decide if Arias deserves the death penalty? Reuters reports that in the case of a second hung jury, Stephens will take the death penalty off the table altogether and hand down either sentence to Arias: Life in prison, or life without parole for 25 years.
In July, Arias' legal team tried getting the death penalty off the table, but Stephens dismissed the motion. The Maricopa County judge also rejected a motion from the defense last February that argued the penalty phase retrial was unconstitutional under Arizona law. As the law currently stands, prosecutors can go after a second penalty phase if they're set on the death penalty. If the prosecutors decided not to pursue the death penalty when Arias was convicted last year, then Stephens would've handed her life in prison or life without parole for 25 years.
Will She Receive The Death Penalty?
So will Arias be handed down the death penalty? Some legal analysts seem skeptical. CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said in 2013:
The likelihood is that a jury is not going to come to a unanimous death verdict because there are just too many factors that mitigate in favor of a life verdict for someone like Jodi Arias, who is clearly quite disturbed.
Beside the facts in the case — which are gruesome and bizarre, but not so clear-cut — some legal analysts believe Arias' being female also works in her favor. Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told NBC News following Arias' 2013 conviction:
It’s rarer and rarer that a woman gets executed for murder, but it could be, as I say, the extenuating circumstances rather than the gender. There’s the crime, and then there’s the whole life history of a person that a skillful lawyer will make sure gets into the jury’s consideration.