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The Arias Trial and Jury Unanimity

Brian Skoloff and Josh Hoffner report for AP:

Jurors in Jodi Arias' murder trial resume deliberations Thursday after they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether she should be sentenced to life in prison or death for killing her one-time boyfriend, prompting the judge to instruct them to keep trying.
In the wake of Ring v. Arizona, the Arizona Legislature had the good sense to enact a true penalty-phase unanimity rule.  Just like in the guilt phase, the jury must be unanimous one way or the other.  If they are truly deadlocked, that is a mistrial.  A new jury will be impaneled to retry the penalty phase unless the prosecution gives up and accepts a life sentence.

In many jurisdictions, there is a false unanimity rule, more aptly described as a single-juror veto rule.  If eleven jurors believe the death penalty is the just sentence and one disagrees, the one can simply hold out and impose his will on the eleven.  Jurisdictions that have such a rule need to fix it.  Congress needs to fix it immediately for the federal system, before the trial of the Marathon Bomber.


I don't see Arias as one of the "worst-of-the-worst" murderers deserving of capital punishment.

I know the victim's loved ones would strongly disagree, as evidenced by their victim-impact statements. And, some, perhaps most, of the jurors disagree, given the vicious nature of the (overkill) murder, her seeming lack of remorse, and her outrageous, lying, statements.

I would, however, be interested to know how Kent and Bill feel about the appropriateness of the DP in this case. I could understand how neither might want to express their personal opinion. But, given their extensive knowledge about capital punishment and criminal law and procedure, I believe many readers of this blog would appreciate hearing from them on this issue, and would respect their opinion.

I don't intend by this post to put Kent or Bill on the spot or to make any particular point with the audience. I am truly interested in their viewpoint and their reasoning.

Unlike millions of other people, I have not immersed myself in all the details of the case. It does not fall into a category where the death penalty is obviously right or obviously wrong, so I will not be taking a position on the correct sentence.

I never object to being put on the spot. I argued many cases in federal court, have appeared before Congress, have to answer students in class, and have debated in many public forums. If I disliked being put on the spot, I would have lived a different life.

Now to the somewhat weasel answer: I have never believed that the DP should be reserved for the "worst of the worst" simply because there is not, and can't be, any sensible, much less agreed-upon, definition of that phrase. Is Tsarnaev "worse" than Clarence Ray Allen? Is a lifer inmate who kills one guard "worse" than a multiple murderer on the outside?

There is no way to answer these questions -- which tells you that they're not the right questions.

The right questions are: Are we sure we have the right guy? Is the crime sufficiently horrible, in one or more ways, that it has earned the DP? Is there any legitimate mitigation? ("Legitimate" means someone other than that the defendant has a mother).

I agree that Arias is not the "worst of the worst," to the extent that phrase is capable of a definition. But since that is not the correct question, I look elsewhere.

We know we have the right person. She killed him in a jealous fit, with 27 knife plunges, a gunshot, and then slitting his throat ear-to-ear. She proceeded to lie about it repeatedly to everyone within earshot. It's perfectly obvious she has no remorse or anything that even resembles remorse, and is a thoroughly devious, self-centered person.

And where's the mitigation? She was an adult of sound mind, not on drugs, and not under anyone's influence.

A life sentence would not give me major heartburn, but, from what I know only watching TV, I would vote for death. This woman shows nothing that could even be mistaken for morals. The next time she gets mad, she'll do it again in a New York minute.

Exclusively from the prior post...

---> 1. "We know we have the right person."
---> 2. "She killed him...with 27 knife plunges, a gunshot, and then slitting his throat ear-to-ear."
---> 3. "She proceeded to lie about it repeatedly to everyone within earshot."
---> 4. "It's perfectly obvious she has no remorse...The next time she gets mad, she'll do it again in a New York minute"
---> 5. "And where's the mitigation?"

. . .with 1.surety, 2.severity, 3.obstructionism, 4.remorseless/propensity to repeat, but 5.no palliatives, there is no ostensible reason for a non-capital sentence, is there?


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