DAYTON, Ohio – A woman convicted of murdering her infant daughter by microwaving her was spared the death penalty Wednesday by a jury that couldn't reach a unanimous decision.
China Arnold showed no immediate reaction, but she smiled and waved to family members as deputies led her from the courtroom. Her relatives told her they loved her.
"I love you all, too," said Arnold, 28.
The defense had argued that Arnold was drunk when the offense occurred and had no motive, while prosecutors had called the crime "heinous" as they argued for the death penalty.
After about five hours of deliberation, the jury told Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Wiseman that it couldn't decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison, and that it wouldn't be able to make such a decision even if it deliberated through Thursday.
Wiseman is now limited to sentencing Arnold to life in prison without parole, life without parole for at least 30 years, or life without parole for at least 25 years. She plans to impose her sentence Monday.
Arnold was accused of killing month-old Paris Talley in 2005. A judge declared a mistrial in February, and the retrial began Aug. 18. The jury found Arnold guilty Friday of aggravated murder.
"It's not about achieving the death penalty," Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor David Franceschelli said after the jury's announcement. "The judge is going to figure out the appropriate penalty. The jurors in this case took a shot at sentencing, and for whatever reason 12 people couldn't come to the same conclusion."
Outside the courthouse, Arnold's relatives hugged one another.
"We're relieved that an innocent person didn't receive the death penalty," said defense attorney Jon Paul Rion. "It doesn't make sense that a person who has had no real problems in their life can even be accused of something like this."
Rion had asked Tuesday for a new trial, saying a former cellmate who said Arnold confessed to the crime has changed her story. Wiseman has not ruled on the motion and said she would schedule a hearing.
Rion said he plans to present witnesses that point to another person being responsible for the baby's death.
During the trial, an 8-year-old boy said he saw another boy walk into the kitchen of a nearby apartment with the baby, heard the microwave go on and then later saw the burned baby in the microwave.
Attorneys for both sides addressed the jury before deliberations on Wednesday. The fact that Arnold had been a Girl Scout, that her father died when she was young and that she comes from a close family does not outweigh the seriousness of the crime, Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Daniel Brandt said.
"That tells us she has no excuses for her actions," he said.
Defense attorney Kevin Lennen urged the jury not to recommend the death penalty, saying Arnold was drunk at the time and that she had no motive to kill her child.
Franceschelli had the last word, calling the crime "heinous." He pulled out a wristwatch and waved it at jurors.
"If this is not the time for the death penalty, when is the time?" he said.