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Legally Speaking: Q&A after a mistrial in the Jodi Arias retrial leads to many questions

LISTEN: Monica Lindstrom - Jodi Arias Retrial - hung jury

On Thursday, Jodi Arias’ life was spared after a jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision in the penalty phrase of her retrial.

The jury was split 11-1 in favor of the death penalty.

Yes, 11-1, with the one being what ultimately saved Arias’ life.

That led to a lot of questions.

KTAR Legal Analyst Monica Lindstrom gathered a majority of those questions — or the main themes — and gives her answers below.

Did Juror 17 disclose that she had seen the Lifetime movie about Jodi Arias’ life before she was selected to be on the jury?

Monica Lindstrom: I looked back at my notes and I had written down that she had some previous experience with domestic violence and sometimes she would hit back and that she has two daughters. She was called into the courtroom individually to be questioned by the judge and the attorneys, though the questions seemed to focus on her domestic violence experience. I did not find that she disclosed she had seen “bits and pieces” of the movie, although, if she did, as long as she said she could be fair and impartial and follow the instructions and the law, she likely would not have been dismissed for cause.

I assume the judge had untouchable discretion not to excuse this juror?

Lindstrom: I wouldn’t say “untouchable” discretion but yes, discretion. Had Judge Stephens dismissed and replaced her without enough cause or evidence, then Arias could easily argue an abuse of discretion by the judge and use that for an appeal issue. Judges have to be very careful about dismissing and/or replacing jurors.

Can you explain the sentencing guidelines the judge had to follow? What are her options?

Lindstrom: Arias’ final sentence is now up to Judge Stephens. Since the jury hung the death penalty is taken off the table. Now Judge Stephens has to decide between sentencing Arias to natural life or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. She will look at, and take into consideration, the aggravating factor that was found by the first jury and the mitigating factors proposed by Arias’ defense. I find it likely she will sentence her to natural life, although the mitigating factors of no criminal record and the diagnoses could “mitigate” that and cause her to give the possibility of parole. I imagine there will be significant and substantial public outcry if she sentences her to life with the possibility of parole.

Do you feel this juror should have been removed for not participating in deliberations?

Lindstrom: I was in the room when we interviewed the 11 deliberating jurors, the two alternates and the one released juror. Their comments do not paint a clear-cut picture, much to the chagrin of social media. Although comments were made that she had an agenda, that her mind was made up, and she could not give a reason for her steadfastness.

They also stated they did not believe she violated her oath, there were minimal deliberations and she did tell them she didn’t believe Arias was the monster that was portrayed in the Lifetime movie and she had psychological issues. So, playing the devil’s advocate, she appeared — based on their comments — to have participated, at least to some degree. Based on that, it is arguable there was not enough to remove and replace her. Regardless of whether there was, the fact of the matter is that she was not and the judge made that call.

Is there any possibility that the #jodiarias verdict can be thrown out if juror misconduct is found?

Lindstrom: Let’s look at reality — juror misconduct is difficult, though not impossible, to prove. I doubt very much the non-verdict would be thrown out. The guilty verdict will stand, the aggravating factor verdict will stand. There was no other verdict in this case. You cannot throw out a hung jury decision and then sentence her to death; it doesn’t work that way in our system. The reality is that the state only gets two bites at the apple and both bites resulted in a hung jury.

Will Judge Stephens be able address Jodi Arias sentencing?

Lindstrom: Judge Stephens will be able to address anyone and everyone at sentencing. It is her time to say what she bases her decision on. Arias will have the opportunity to address Stephens, if she so chooses. When I am pro-temming (sitting on the bench as a substitute judge) I always give the defendant an opportunity to address the court before sentencing. Typically, the victims and the defendant’s family and friends can also address the judge in a sentencing hearing. Will this happen here? I am not sure. The Alexanders have given their impact statements twice, though this is a different situation since we are only dealing with life sentences. If they would like to address Judge Stephens, I believe she will allow it. Additionally, should Arias’ family choose to address Judge Stephens I believe she will allow it — that is not out of the ordinary.

Do you think Juror 17 will be investigated? If misconduct is proven how would that affect the verdict? Should Stephens have taken action?

Lindstrom: I do not think that there will be an investigation into Juror 17 — not unless the other 11 jurors give further explanations. And, realistically, does anyone really want to go through an investigation? I don’t think anyone wants to see the sentence put off or the Alexanders having to endure further pain while this happens.

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