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Legally Speaking: Why are the deliberations in the Jodi Arias case taking so long?

The State v. Jodi Arias jurors finished Day 3 of their deliberations with no verdict.

This brings their deliberating time to approximately 16 hours.

Let’s put this into perspective. The first jury deliberated approximately 15 hours in the guilt phase where they had to decide whether Jodi Arias was guilty of first degree pre-meditated murder.

That same jury deliberated only an hour-and-a-half (approximately) in reaching its decision that there was an aggravating factor which put the option of death on the table.

Finally, they deliberated approximately just under 14 hours in the mitigation phase of the penalty phase, which resulted in no decision at all — a hung jury.

Hope still exists that this jury will in fact reach a unanimous decision. However, it could be argued that for every minute that passes, the more entrenched they become in their individual position and there will be no decision.

After all, if they were all in agreement wouldn’t they have stopped deliberating by now?

Maybe, or maybe they have made their decision and just want more evidence to support their decision.

What’s different this go-around that is causing this jury to deliberate even longer than the last one?

Granted, I can’t read the jurors’ minds and I haven’t been standing outside the deliberation room with a glass to the door, but I’m going to throw a couple of guesses out there.

First, the amount of time the jury was confronted with evidence of the murder itself. I think this is a very big issue. In the first phase back in 2013, the jurors heard months of testimony in regard to the actual killing of Travis Alexander and the events leading up to June 4, 2008. They also heard days of testimony about Arias’ actions after she killed Alexander. This came through the state’s witnesses but also through Juan Martinez’s cross examination of Arias herself. One would think there was no doubt or questions in the jurors’ minds of what happened before, during and after the killing in the first phase. The phrase “beat a dead horse” comes to mind.

In this re-trial of the penalty phase the jurors only heard about the killing itself for five days. That was the time Martinez took to present evidence of the underlying murder. That’s a far cry from the amount of time the previous jury experienced. This reduction in time as a possible factor that’s increasing deliberation time is supported by the fact the jurors asked for an exhibit list from the trial. This tells me they’re probably going through evidence the first jury was privy to that they were not — that they may be piecing exhibits together to get more of the story and to answer the lingering questions they have about the crime itself. If this is true, then the deliberations just might take a Very. Long. Time.

And you have to ask, did the state do an adequate job laying the facts out there?

Second, the mitigating factors put forth by the Arias defense are different this time. In 2013 the mitigating factors presented to the jury were:

1. Arias was 27 years old at the time of the offense.
2. Arias has no prior criminal history.
3. Arias was a good friend.
4. Arias lacked support from her family.
5. Arias suffered abuse and neglect as a child and as an adult.
6. Arias tried to make the best of her life.
7. Arias consistently tried to improve herself.
8. Arias is a talented artist.

I think most would agree that the majority of those factors don’t seem to be strong mitigating factors. With that being said, the jury did hang, so perhaps the list is stronger than I think.

Now let’s look at the mitigating factors that were presented by Kirk Nurmi just last week:

1. Arias has no prior criminal history.
2. Arias was just 27 years old at the time she killed Travis Alexander.
3. Arias is remorseful.
4. Arias suffered both physical and emotional abuse as a child.
5. Arias suffered both physical and emotional abuse during her relationship with Travis Alexander.
6. The abusive nature of Arias’ relationship with Travis Alexander caused her to suffer extreme emotional distress.
7. Arias has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
8. Arias has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
9. Arias’ psychological makeup impaired her ability to cope with the tumultuous relationship she had with Alexander.

Although some of the factors are the same, it’s clear that the most recent list is stronger than the first. The change in the mitigating factors could be what is keeping one or all of the jurors confident in their positions.

What’s not clear is what the jurors are doing back in the deliberation room. We will continue to speculate based on the length of the deliberation time, the questions the jury asks, the looks on their faces when they take breaks, who it is that takes breaks together, and any other little thing that comes up.

What’s clear is the interest in this trial and in justice (regardless of what your idea of justice is) is still very strong and people all around the globe are waiting and waiting and waiting on the decision of these eight women and four men.

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