PHOENIX (AP) – Officials say taxpayers shelled out around $3 million to prosecute and defend convicted murderer Jodi Arias at a series of trials that have finally concluded with jurors deadlocked on whether she should be executed or sent to prison for life for killing her lover.
Thursday’s impasse at the sentencing retrial ensures that Arias will get a life sentence, possibly with the chance at parole.
Some criticized prosecutors’ decision to hold a second sentencing trial after a 2013 jury deadlocked on Arias’ punishment, arguing the drawn-out trial achieved little beyond rehashing the crime’s gruesome and sometimes tawdry details.
The mistrial marked a disappointment for prosecutors leading the nearly seven-year legal battle. But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he had no qualms about pursuing the death penalty again. “Regret is a place in the past I can’t afford to live in,” Montgomery said, adding that arbitrary limits can’t be set on the costs of trials.
Arias was convicted in 2013 of killing her lover, Travis Alexander, but that jury also deadlocked on her punishment, prompting the sentencing retrial that began in October. She faces an April 13 hearing at which a judge will decide whether to sentence her to life in prison or to life with the possibility of release after 25 years.
Members of the second jury said they were 11-1 in favor of the death penalty and tried unsuccessfully to get the lone holdout kicked off the panel. The holdout juror did not speak to the media on Thursday. But other jurors said they thought Arias lacked remorse and that her attorneys had presented an inaccurate portrait of Alexander.
The jurors did not elaborate, but during the trial, defense lawyers said Alexander had used Arias to quench his sexual urges, called her demeaning names and told her she was soulless.
Most of the jurors said they believed the holdout was biased and opposed to giving the death penalty. The other jurors asked the judge on Tuesday if the woman could be replaced with an alternate, but the request was denied, and the jury was told to keep deliberating.
One male juror said Thursday that he became angry when the holdout indicated the death penalty would be a form of revenge. Jurors also noted that the woman had acknowledged seeing a cable TV movie about the Arias case.
Jurors apologized to the Alexander family for the deadlock and said they felt Arias was trying to manipulate the jury.
None of the jurors would give their names. The identities of jurors are kept secret in Arizona.
Arias’ attorneys billed the county for about $2.7 million for her defense, according to the latest figures available in December. Prosecutors say they have spent nearly $133,000 on expert witnesses, travel expenses and other costs. That figure doesn’t include the salary of the case’s prosecutors.
Arias will begin serving her sentence in a 12-by-7 foot cell in a maximum-security unit at the Perryville prison for women, west of downtown Phoenix.
If officials deem her behavior is good over time, she could be moved to a medium-security unit.
Alexander’s family members wept when the judge announced the deadlock. His brothers and sisters said in a statement that they “are saddened by the jury’s inability to reach a decision on the death penalty, however, we understand the difficulty of the decision, and have nothing but respect for the jury’s time.”
Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi said the killing was a tragedy, and “no verdict ultimately could repair that sadness.”
Prosecutors say Arias killed Alexander as revenge because he wanted to date other women and was planning a trip to Mexico with his latest love interest.
Authorities said Arias shot him in the head and stabbed and slashed him nearly 30 times, then left his body in his shower at his suburban Phoenix home, where friends found him about five days later.
During closing arguments in the penalty retrial, prosecutor Juan Martinez repeatedly showed jurors gruesome crime-scene photos of the victim’s slit throat.
The images were a counterpoint to the happy photos of Arias that her attorney displayed in arguing there was more to her life than her actions in the killing.
Nurmi told jurors that Arias deserved a second chance because she was the victim of verbal and physical abuse throughout her life.
Arias initially courted the spotlight after her arrest, granting interviews to “48 Hours” and “Inside Edition.”
She testified for 18 days at her first trial, describing her abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, relationship with Alexander and her contention that he was physically abusive. But during the second penalty trial, cameras were prohibited from publishing coverage of the trial until it was over, and the media was blocked from witnessing Arias’ testimony to the jury.