On May 23, 206, the Supreme Court decided Foster v. Chatman, No. 14-8349 (U.S. 2016), a thirty-year old death penalty case raising Batson claims of racial selection of the trial jury. The court remanded the case, presumably for a new trial. You can read an analysis by Professor Bennett Gershman in his latest titled How Prosecutors Get Rid of Black Jurors.
In the Arias murder trial, the jury deadlocked eight to four in favor of the death penalty. Arizona is just one of two states that permit a retrial where a jury deadlocks on punishment in a death penalty case. The other states provide that a post-deadlock sentence be one of life imprisonment.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that a hung jury in a typical criminal case does not prohibit retrial. Briefly, the theory behind that holding is that the first, initial jeopardy does not terminate with a hung jury, so the prosecution can simply continue. Presumably, although the situation is a bit ghoulish, the same theory would likely apply to permit the Arias prosecutor to retry the penalty phase of the trial.
Still, does it make sense to retry the death penalty case? Aside from the time, expense, and anguish associated with a retrial, a new jury would have to be selected and some of the evidence the original jury heard during the guilt phase of the first trial would have to be presented to the second sentencing jury, which would never have heard it. The judge has the option of sentencing Arias to life without parole or 25 years to life in place of a retrial.
For further information about the jury’s deliberations, read here.