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Arias jury mentally, emotionally exhausted, foreman says

10:01 PM, May 24, 2013   |    comments
“Whatever they come back with, I will have to deal with it,” Jodi Arias said Tuesday while awaiting jurors’ decision. (Photo: Rob Schumacher, The Republic)
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PHOENIX (USA TODAY) -- The Jodi Arias jurors were mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of the nearly five-month murder trial and felt like they failed by not reaching a decision on her sentence, the jury's foreman said Friday.

But it wasn't clear to them that when they returned to the courtroom without a verdict that a mistrial would be declared, he said.

Jury members knew they had gone as far as they were going to go, according to William Zervakos, Juror No. 18, when Judge Sherry Stephens called them back into courtroom 5C late Thursday afternoon.

"We just didn't know it was going to be called a mistrial," Zervakos, 69, said outside his Phoenix home. Whether the jury just had another question for the judge or a verdict, he added, "was a confusing issue."

The penalty phase of the lengthy trial, which drew international attention, ended quickly. The first-degree murder conviction and the aggravation finding that the murder was especially cruel will stand, making Arias still eligible for the death penalty. A new jury may be selected by July 18 to reconsider the penalty phase of the trial. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office also could decide not to pursue the death penalty any longer and let the judge sentence Arias to life in prison.

Arias, 32, was found guilty of first-degree murder May 8 in the 2008 murder of her lover, Travis Alexander.

Eight of the jurors wanted the death penalty. The other four held fast for life.

Zervakos wouldn't say which way he voted, but an alternate juror told The Arizona Republic that she would have gone with the majority on the death penalty. Carol Gosselink of Scottsdale said Arias showed a lack of remorse. Arias' claims about being emotionally abused also didn't ring true.

"I don't doubt she was in a situation where she shouldn't have put up with some of that stuff. But she had a choice," Gosselink said. "She's a pretty girl. Why did she continue in a relationship that caused that much negativity for her?"

Gosselink said jurors and the three alternates agreed not to disclose which of the four were against sentencing Arias to death. She said the gender of the jurors "didn't make a difference" in how they voted. But she was disappointed that they couldn't come to an agreement.

Zervakos described the jury's deliberations behind closed doors as "very, very difficult" and "very emotional." The 12 jurors didn't try to coerce each other, he said. They respected each others' positions.

"And that was huge because it could have been very difficult otherwise," he said. "It was difficult anyway, but it could have been a whole lot more difficult."

Zervakos said he won't disclose how he voted because "it's a huge decision, and it's a very personal one. So it's kind of like my vote for president."

Arias' 18 days on the stand was too long, he said, and "I don't think she proved to be a very good witness." In a separate interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Zervakos said he believes Arias was mentally and verbally abused by Alexander, but that's no excuse for murder.

Zervakos told KPNX-TV, Phoenix, he found out "after that fact" about the public vitriol leveled at Arias. Her crime was "horrendous," he said. She has to be held accountable.

"But for people to be yelling and screaming and some of the horrible things we've heard, when they don't know what's going on, is ridiculous," he said.

As for the Arias and Alexander families, he said he feels sorry they have to deal with the tragedy.

"With Travis' family, who can say anything? Who can say enough? It's horrific," he said. "If they feel like we've disappointed them, I'm incredibly sorry about that. But we had to deal with what we had to deal with."

He described the case as a tragedy of epic proportions.

"You have two families destroyed," he said.

As for jurors, they left the courtroom not really knowing how they felt, he said. A bus took the jury from the courthouse to a county parking lot where their cars were parked late Thursday afternoon. They refused to talk with reporters.

"We spent five months detaching ourselves from emotion and dealing with facts, and I don't think it's something you can just unwind," Zervakos said. "I'm really grateful that this is a long weekend because we're going to go see our grandkids so I think that will help."

Contributing: Michael Kiefer

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