In the spring of 2013, as the Jodi Arias jury deliberated on whether she should face death for the brutal slaying of Travis Alexander or life in prison, there was the smell of blood in the air.
These were the same jurors who earlier had unanimously proclaimed the defendant guilty of premeditated murder. The same ones too that then declared her eligible to be executed.
They'd been swift and unequivocal in that latter finding -- the crime Jodi Arias had committed in 2008 was "exceptionally cruel," they all agreed -- so, understandably, eager throngs of Arias haters were clamoring to have her head handed over to them on a silver platter.
The last thing anybody expected was an announcement that the Arias jury had deadlocked. Yet in retrospect that was inevitable and a valuable lesson for the future. Here's what hung them up:
1. Cameras in the courtroom: From perps to prosecutors, everyone behaves differently in front of the camera than they do in real life. Being in the spotlight changes things, and not necessarily for the better.
Add to film's potential for transforming everyday occurrences into major cinematic events one bullish grandstander like Juan Martinez and a natural-born poser like Arias, together with a "supporting cast" of otherwise ordinary people, and you've got a soap opera, not a trial.
It was knowing that those cameras would be rolling 24/7, and the whole universe watching transfixed, that undoubtedly prompted the defense to put their showy client on the witness stand for 18 solid days.
An unusually risky and terribly misguided strategy which, in the end, only proved she had a lively sexual appetite and a flair for fabricating stories.
2. Jurors not sequestered: Arias' shocking courtroom candor, juxtaposed with her flagrant lies and half-truths, earned the pretty perpetrator gazillions of gawkers worldwide. Most of who, in shrill voices, made it plain they hated her guts.
For jurors, this bare-all testimony she furnished was challenging on many levels, and therefore had to be thoroughly discussed amongst themselves in order to properly weigh its factual and legal significance.
Surprisingly, these men and women were not sequestered though, so they'd be flat out lying too if they said they were unaware of, and unaffected by, public bias against the defendant. Ditto for asserting with any integrity that they never once debated her case with, or sought out the advice of, anyone but each other.
Like it or not, it's possible to picture a sequestered jury, ignorant of the uproar it would cause, upholding Arias' substantiated claims of abuse, and even perhaps her self-defense plea as well.
3. Defendant's lack of criminal past or history of violence: There will always be doubt in any reasonable, unbiased person's mind about sentencing someone to death for one solitary murder who has never before exhibited violence or even one smidgeon of criminality.
In short, jurors realized that Arias was no serial murderer such as Ted Bundy, no mass murderer like Charlie Manson, and no career criminal on some escalating crime spree, either. They saw instead a scorned woman who, in a jealous rage, viciously slew the man who'd done her wrong…
4. Victim's inherently abusive nature: To his family, friends, coworkers, and various love interests, the 30-year-old seemingly mild mannered Travis Alexander had represented himself as a devout and chaste Mormon who was saving himself for marriage.
But nothing could be further from the truth, the jury learned, as mountains of hardcore letters, e-mails, text messages, audio recordings and photographs disclosed the victim's deceptiveness and perversions.
So too, the vulgar weeks' long kiss-and-tell, delivered by Alexander's soft spoken mistress-turned-murderess, while not serving her own cause well, did him no favors either.
Jurors' inability to fully sympathize with the slain man because of his perceived dishonesty and callousness automatically transferred a measure of that sympathy to his alluring killer.
5. Media circus: The sound and fury of certain blustery media personalities, while probably good for ratings, is a troubling new development in the world of criminal justice.
Their nonstop rants and specious pontifications aren't intended to enlighten audiences so much as to incite and polarize bloodthirsty mobs. In so doing they create an atmosphere similar to the lynching picnics of the Old South, infamous outdoor executions once attended by thousands.
It all is just entertainment, of course. However, jurists who aren't kept completely isolated can access these inane and hateful dialogues, tainting the process owed to a defendant by embracing views and opinions that may seem popular, as opposed to ones based solely on testimony and evidence.
In Arias' case, this apparently influenced the jury to hastily decide she was an ideal candidate for the death penalty. Yet, when it then came to actually sentencing her to die, they couldn't agree to do it, prompting a mistrial ... and their immediate dismissal ... and death threats.
Those former jurors are now adding their own bitter diatribes to the already potent mix of media babble concerning the Arias/Alexander tragedy, so, at this stage, it's become questionable whether a new and truly impartial jury can be assembled to do the task for which the first one dismally failed.
Or if it's even worth trying.
What do you think ? Should Arias be sentenced to life in prison for killing her ex-boyfriend, or put to death? Cast an anonymous vote today in Killing Killers crime poll. And then read the latest OpEd on Alexander's murder by Eponymous Rox on Crime Magazine.