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Jodi Arias prosecutors still plan to pursue death penalty

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A top Arizona prosecutor said on Wednesday that the state still plans to seek the death penalty for convicted murderer Jodi Arias for killing her ex-boyfriend, after a jury deadlocked last month on whether she should be executed.

Arias, a former waitress from California, was found guilty last month of killing Travis Alexander, whose body was found slumped in the shower of his Phoenix-area home in June 2008. He had been stabbed 27 times, had his throat slashed and was shot in the face.

But the same eight-man, four-woman jury that convicted Arias of murder and quickly ruled her eligible for the death penalty subsequently failed to reach a consensus as to whether Arias should be executed, prompting a penalty phase mistrial.

The state of Arizona now has the option of retrying the sentencing phase of the trial, which would require a new jury be empanelled. If there is another deadlock, a judge would sentence Arias to natural life in prison, or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery told reporters prosecutors would ask a new sentencing jury to do what the previous one could not - put Arias to death.

"At this point, we are still preparing to move forward to retry the penalty phase," Montgomery told a news conference.

After the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on May 23, Montgomery said that his office would assess its next steps, but was proceeding "with the intent to retry the penalty phase."

A status hearing has been scheduled for June 20. A July 18 court date was set to select a new jury in the case.

The sensational trial began in January, becoming a staple with U.S. cable television viewers with its tale of a soft-spoken young women charged with such a brutal crime. The trial was punctuated with graphic testimony and bloody photographs.

Arias, 32, took the stand for a marathon 18 days and maintained throughout that the killing was in self-defense despite fierce cross-examination by prosecutors.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor, Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)

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