Arias was found guilty May 8 in the grisly premeditated first-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend, 30-year-old Travis Alexander, in June 2008. (Photo : myspace.com/jodiarias)
Despite the deafening public outrage following the hung jury in the Jodi Arias trial, no one outside of the jurors themselves has "the right to be angry" about the jury's inability to reach a unanimous agreement in the convicted murderer's sentencing, one juror is insisting.
A 32-year-old waitress and aspiring photographer from California, Arias was found guilty May 8 in the gruesome premeditated first-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend, 30-year-old Travis Alexander, in June 2008. Arias confessed to killing her former lover, so her guilt wasn't up for debate—but her intent was. Arias' defense revolved around the beliefs that she could not premeditate murder, or fully comprehend or take responsibility for her actions because Alexander abused her so intensely that it fractured her psyche, and Arias was forced to kill Alexander in self-defense because she feared for her life due to his alleged habitual physical and emotional abuse.
Following more than 13 hours of deliberation, the same eight men and four women who convicted Arias of premeditated first-degree murder informed Judge Sherry Stephens last week that they were stuck, and would have to choose a "non-unanimous agreement" as a final sentencing verdict. After the jury announced it could not agree whether Arias deserved the death penalty or life in prison, Judge Stephens declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial, and dismissed jurors from proceedings.
News of the mistrial set off a flurry of mob-like indignation, with virtually everyone seemingly in disbelief. Perhaps in response to that overwhelming wave of exasperation, Marilou Allen-Coogan, better known as Juror No. 16, has come out in the jury's defense. Speaking to KPHO, Allen-Coogan described the situation facing jurors during deliberations, and attempted to explain why the jury was left deadlocked in its decision if Arias deserved the death penalty or life in prison.
Allen-Coogan said it didn't take jurors long to form bonds once the trial began, and said the jury began considering evidence in a "methodical manner" the moment they entered into deliberations.
"What we did is list out whatever phase we were on and we went through each piece individually, as a group, discussed it, kicked it around, took a preliminary vote, kicked it around again for several more hours, took another vote," Allen-Coogan told KPHO.
The jury determined Arias was eligible for the death penalty during the "aggravation phase" of the trial; and it only took jurors three hours of deliberation to decide Arias had killed Travis Alexander in a "cruel, heinous, or depraved" manner that would warrant the death penalty; but in a trial that personified the interminable convoluted despair of the American legal system, a clean end may have been nothing more than wishful thinking.
Medical examiners found that Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times, primarily in the back, as well as the torso and the heart, slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear with so much force it almost decapitated him, shot him in the face, and dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower where she left him crumpled over - all in 106 seconds.
Allen-Coogan admitted that emotions were running high among jurors during deliberations, but said that everyone was always respectful. Similar to jury foreman William Zervakos, she suggested that mitigating factors may have ben the cause of the deadlock, but maintained that no one had the right to be upset with the jury for the trial's outcome.
"I don't think anybody has the right to be angry with them or spew hatred on them because they voted their conscience," Allen-Coogan said. "Mitigating circumstances are very personal. It's not something that has to be proven by the defendant. It's something you feel based on your past, your conscience, your thought process and your heart that could warrant leniency and mercy."
Mitigating factors in the case include: Arias' "young" age at the time of the killing; Arias' capacity to comprehend the inherent "wrongfulness" of her actions or ability to act within the confines of the law was "significantly impaired; Arias could not possibly have "reasonably" understood ahead of time that her behavior during the act of killing Alexander "would cause, or would create a grave risk of causing, death to another person; While Arias was "legally accountable" for the deeds of another, her involvement was "relatively minor; Arias was suffering "unusual and substantial duress; Arias' alleged rough childhood/family background, and history of domestic abuse as a young girl, and at the hands of Alexander.
With the jury deadlocked on Arias' fate, prosecutors must now decide whether to continue their pursuit of the death penalty for Arias. State's attorney Martinez could possibly offer Arias a plea bargain that wouldn't require a new jury, but that likely depends on just how confident he is in his ability to once again argue for Arias' execution. Prosecutors have not yet announced their plans for the case. Both sides are scheduled to announce their plans at a June 20 status conference.
If Martinez demands the death penalty, the trial will enter jury selection all over again for the sentencing phase, which would reportedly begin July 18. If the second batch similarly can't come to a unanimous decision, Judge Stephens would then have two options. Either sentence Arias to life in prison with no possibility of parole, or sentence her to life in prison with parole possible after at least 25 years behind bars. The judge does not possess the authority to sentence Arias to death.