The Arizona Republic/AP
Howard Breuer
May 23, 2013 07:55 PM

A Phoenix jury on Thursday declared that it could not agree on whether to recommend death or life in prison for Jodi Arias for the 2008 slaying her lover, Travis Alexander.

Arias, dressed in black, tearfully held her hand to her face as the jury’s decision was read and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens set a June 20 hearing to prepare for a penalty-phase retrial that could start July 18.

The mistrial does not undermine the jury’s first-degree murder conviction. But a new jury, very possibly in a different city, will be asked to hear testimony only on the issue of penalty – unless the prosecution decides to offer Arias a plea deal of life. The prosecution announced after the verdict that it will weigh its options.

Although juries typically reach a verdict or deadlock, this jury took it both ways, announcing its verdict was that it couldn’t agree.

Before the non-verdict verdict, prosecutor Juan Martinez, in closing penalty phase arguments, urged jurors to do what was right, even though it may be hard.

He reminded them of the brutal murder, in which Arias stabbed Alexander 27 times, slashed his throat and shot him, then tried to cover up the crime by erasing photos from Alexander’s camera and throwing it in his laundry machine.

“Do the honest, right thing, even though it may be difficult,” Martinez said. “The only thing that you can do is to return a verdict of death.”

Jennifer Wilmott, Arias’s co-defense counsel, told jurors they could find all kinds of reasons to show Arias mercy, and that she was “begging” them to recommend life in prison.

“You have convicted her of first-degree murder. She does not need to be sentenced to death because of her lies,” Willmott said. “Jodi’s life, despite what she has done, is worth saving.”

After court on Tuesday, Arias gave several media interviews, saying that her attorneys should have called more witnesses to bolster her domestic violence claims.

She said she changed her mind about wanting the death penalty after meeting with family members and realizing that her execution would cause them more pain. And she said she blames the nonstop media coverage for what she considers an unfair trial (Arias told the jury that a friend was unable to testify in the penalty phase due to death threats).

Although the trial spanned nearly five months, Arias was the only person to testify or speak in her defense in the penalty phase.

“The prosecutor has accused me of wanting to be famous, which is not true,” said Arias, who removed the heavy glasses she has worn throughout the trial and put on makeup for the TV interviews.

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