The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher, Pool, Associated Press
Defendant Jodi Arias looks to her family during closing arguments during her trial on Friday, May 3, 2013 at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. Arias is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing and shooting death of Travis Alexander, 30, in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008.
PHOENIX — They were 12 ordinary citizens who didn't oppose the death penalty. But unlike spectators outside the courthouse who followed the case like a daytime soap opera and jumped to demand Jodi Arias' execution, the jurors faced a decision that was wrenching and real, with implications that could haunt them forever.
In an interview Friday, jury foreman William Zervakos provided a glimpse into the private deliberations, describing four women and eight men who struggled with the question: How heinous of a killing deserves a similar fate?
"The system we think is flawed in that sense because this was not a case of a Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson," Zervakos told The Associated Press.
"It was a brutal no-win situation. ... I think that's kind of unfair," the 69-year-old added. "We're not lawyers. We can't interpret the law. We're mere mortals. And I will tell you I've never felt more mere as a mortal than I felt for the last five months."
Zervakos said the most difficult time of the entire trial was hearing directly from victim Travis Alexander's family as his brother and sister tearfully explained how his killing has shattered their lives.
"There was no sound in that jury room for a long time after that because you hurt so bad for these people," he said. "But that wasn't evidence. That's what made it so hard. ... This wasn't about them. This was a decision whether we're going to tell somebody they were going to be put to death or spend the rest of their life in prison."
Zervakos described a deliberations room full of tears and spinning moral compasses as each juror struggled to come to grips with their own beliefs about what factors — including Arias' young age at the time of the killing and her lack of criminal history — should cause them to show mercy and spare her life.
"You've got Travis Alexander's family devastated, that he was killed, that he was brutally killed. You've got Jodi Arias' family sitting in there, both families sitting and seeing these humiliating images and listening to unbelievably lurid private details of their lives, and you've got a woman whose life is over, too," Zervakos said. "I mean, who's winning in this situation? And we were stuck in the middle."