What if the Jodi Arias jury remains deadlocked on death sentence?

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Judge Sherry Stephens sent the jury in the Jodi Arias murder trial back to the deliberating room after they said they were not able to come to a unanimous decision about Arias' fate.

In Arizona, only a jury can impose the death penalty and their verdict must be unanimous.

Stephens offered the jury some suggestions in an effort to help them come to a consensus.

If the jury, the same eight men and five women who convicted Arias of first-degree murder and then found her eligible for the death penalty, remains deadlocked, a second jury will be brought in and the penalty phase will be repeated.

Neither first-degree murder conviction nor Arias' eligibility for the death penalty will change. The new jury will deal strictly with sentencing Arias.

"It will be a long process because it will be assumed that the new jury hasn't heard any of the testimony from the actual trial," explained criminal attorney Brent Kleinman.

If the new jury cannot come up with a unanimous decision regarding Arias' sentence, execution will be taken off the table and it will be up to Stephens to decide whether to sentence Arias to life or natural life.

All of this is laid out in Arizona's Criminal Code.

"At the penalty phase, if the trier of fact is a jury and the jury is unable to reach a verdict, the court shall dismiss the jury and shall impanel a new jury," reads A.R.S. § 13-752 K. "The new jury shall not retry the issue of the defendant's guilt or the issue regarding any of the aggravating circumstances that the first jury found by unanimous verdict to be proved or not proved. If the new jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the court shall impose a sentence of life or natural life on the defendant."

In another scenario, prosecutor Juan Martinez can go to County Attorney Bill Montgomery and ask that the death penalty be taken off the table. In that case, no new jury would be impaneled and sentencing would be scheduled for a later date. At that time, Stephens would sentence Arias to either natural life or life.

The difference between a sentence of life and natural life is the possibility of parole or work release.

"A defendant who is sentenced to natural life is not eligible for commutation, parole, work furlough, work release or release from confinement on any basis," reads A.R.S. § 13-751 A1.

Right now, though, it's still a question of life or death for Arias.

"At this point, there is nothing for us to do -- the jury is still out," said Jerry Cobb, the public information officer for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in and email to 3TV Wednesday afternoon. "If they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the State can choose to retry the penalty phase of the case with a newly impaneled jury…or not, in which case the judge will impose a sentence of natural life, or life with the possibility of release after 25 years.

If a jury, either the current one or a new one, sentences Arias to death, her case will be automatically sent to the Arizona Supreme Court for review, per A.R.S. § 13-755.

"The supreme court shall review all death sentences," the statute reads "On review, the supreme court shall independently review the trial court's findings of aggravation and mitigation and the propriety of the death sentence."