Approximately 30% of the 200 potential jurors called on the first day of jury selection in the Arizona death penalty case were dismissed Monday. They all saw too much media coverage causing them to lack the ability to be objective and many admitted to already making up their minds on what they thought the punishment should be. A few of the jurors were let go because of work conflicts or language issues. Wednesday’s proceedings were a mirror image of the previous days, 50% of prospective jurors were dismissed. 25% of those people said they had already made up their mind about the case based upon the media coverage and could not be impartial. Many of them spoke to the media after being dismissed, complaining about Arias “deserving” the death penalty and the cost to taxpayers.
Arias, 34, has acknowledged that she killed her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, but she unsuccessfully argued self-defense to an Arizona jury last year. Jurors agreed with prosecutors that Arias killed Alexander in a premeditated fashion. Prosecutors had said that her motive was jealousy. Those same jurors could not agree on whether Arias should be sentenced to life or death.
There are 176 more jurors remaining in the pool and 16 to 18 need to be selected before jury selection is completed. Arias’ sentencing phase is expected to last until December. These proceedings, unlike Arias’ trial, which has been described as a “circus”, will not be televised. Judge Sherry Stephens has ruled that video footage of the trial can only be broadcast after a sentence is announced. Under Arizona law, if the second jury also deadlocks then Arias will be sentenced by the judge to either 25 years to life or life without parole.
Arias’ 5 month long trial was broadcast live and provided endless fodder for television personalities and tabloids. Dwane Cates, a Pheonix criminal defense lawyer who has commentated on the Arias case in the past, said that this is the biggest problem the court faces; weeding out “stealth jurors” or those people with an agenda who just “want their 15 minutes of fame”.
Opening statements in the retrial are scheduled to start Oct. 20.