(PHOENIX) — Jodi Arias will not be put to death — at least not yet.
A judge declared a mistrial in the sentencing phase of her murder trial Thursday, after the jury could not agree on whether to sentence Arias to death or to life in prison for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008.
Under state law, in a capital case, if the jury can’t reach a unanimous decision, the Maricopa County, Ariz., District Attorney’s Office must weigh whether to spend time and resources to find a new jury, schedule new court dates, and re-present its evidence to try to reach a death sentence, which could take months, according to Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.
Arias, 32, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Alexander in a gruesome attack in 2008.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez has argued that because the murder was especially cruel, involving 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to Alexander’s head, Arias deserves the death penalty.
But the jury was unable to return a verdict on which they agree.
On Wednesday, the jury stopped deliberations and sent Judge Sherry Stephens a note about their indecision. She responded by sending them back to the jury room to continue deliberating, with instructions on how to ask questions of her or attorneys if they felt they could not come to an agreement.
“Each juror has a duty to consult with one another, (and) to try to reach agreement without violence to individual judgment. You may want to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. If you still disagree, you may wish to tell the attorneys and me what issues, questions or law or facts on which we can possibly help,” Stephens told the jurors.
“At this time please go back to the jury room and continue deliberating,” she said.
Now a second jury in a new penalty trial will deliberate whether to give Arias the death penalty or life in prison. That trial is set for July 18. If they also reach an impasse, and cannot agree, then Arias’s life could be saved.
Stephens would then sentence her to either life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years, or natural life, without the possibility of parole.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Camille Verdier, Steve Visser and Margot Haddad, CNN
Lisa France, CNN
Jeff Wuorio, Deseret News