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Jodi Arias jury remains deadlocked over death sentence

Jodi Arias reacts as a guilty verdict is read in her first-degree murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Rob Schumacher/Arizo
Jodi Arias reacts as a guilty verdict is read in her first-degree murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Rob Schumacher/Arizo

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Convicted killer Jodi Arias feels betrayed by an Arizona jury that found her guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend, according to an interview aired on Wednesday shortly before that same jury became deadlocked over whether to sentence her to death.

The jury, which has already ruled Arias eligible for the death penalty, told the presiding judge early on the second day of deliberations to decide Arias' fate that it was unable to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens then directed the jurors, eight men and four women, to resume deliberations. They later adjourned for the day without reaching a consensus and will resume their efforts on Thursday.

Arias, 32, was found guilty this month of murdering Travis Alexander, whose body was found in his Phoenix-area home in June 2008. He had been stabbed 27 times, his throat had been slashed and he had been shot in the face.

The trial, which featured graphic testimony and photographs, captured the attention of U.S. television audiences with its tale of a soft-spoken woman charged with an unspeakable crime. She has said the killing was in self-defense.

Arias, who has characterized her relationship with Alexander as abusive, said in an interview with ABC that aired on its "Good Morning America" program on Wednesday, that she felt somewhat betrayed by the jury.

"I feel a little betrayed by them. I don't dislike them; I was just really hoping they would see things for what they are, and I don't feel that they did," she said.

On Tuesday, Arias pleaded with jurors to spare her the death penalty for the sake of her family and to sentence her instead to life in prison, reversing a prior public statement that she preferred to die.

In an attempt to help jurors struggling to reach a consensus on Wednesday, Stephens suggested they might identify areas of agreement and disagreement and discuss the law and evidence as they relate to those disagreements.

"If you still disagree, you may want to tell the attorneys and me which issues, questions, law or facts you would like us to assist you with," she said.

If the jury remains unable to reach a decision, a penalty-phase mistrial could be declared. The state then has the option to retry that phase, and a new jury can be impaneled to determine whether to impose a death sentence.

PAROLE POSSIBLE?

Shortly before the jury said on Wednesday that it was deadlocked, it was given clarification on whether a life sentence meant Arias would spend the rest of her life in prison or would ever face the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott told jurors that if they sentenced Arias to life in prison, they were "sentencing her to die in prison," and there was no procedure in place to grant parole after 25 years.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez countered that just because there was no mechanism now did not mean there never would be.

"It doesn't say that automatically if you say life, it's going to be a natural life sentence," he said.

Arias told the Arizona Republic newspaper late on Tuesday that she was not going to "think too much" about the looming sentencing ruling, but would just "take what's coming to me."

Should the jury impose a death sentence, she said she would wait for the mandatory appeals process, "just taking it day by day."

During her trial, Arias said she had killed Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her in a rage because she dropped his camera while taking snapshots of him in the shower. She said she did not remember stabbing him.

"To this day, I can hardly believe I was capable of such violence, but I know that I was, and for that I'm going to be sorry for the rest of my life ... I was horrified by what I had done, and I am horrified still," Arias told jurors on Tuesday.

She told them she could lead a productive life in prison, and that she had already donated her long hair to a charity that provides wigs to children, including cancer patients, who have lost their hair.

Martinez said Arias had repeatedly stabbed Alexander for two minutes as he tried to escape from the bathroom. She then followed the bleeding victim down a hallway and slashed his throat when he was too weak to get away.

Alexander, a 30-year-old businessman and motivational speaker, knew he was going to die and was unable to resist his attacker at that point, Martinez said.

A small number of women are on death row in the United States. While women account for about one in eight U.S. murder arrests, less than 2 percent of death row inmates are women, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of the more than 1,300 murderers executed nationwide since 1976, only 12, or fewer than 1 percent, were women.

Only one woman - convicted killer Eva Dugan - has ever been executed in Arizona. Dugan was hanged in 1930.

(Additional reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Toni Reinhold)

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