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Jodi Arias pleads for life term as jury considers death penalty

As a jury deliberates whether Jodi Arias will spend her entire life behind bars or die for killing her one-time boyfriend, the convicted murderer says asking for the death penalty is like "asking for assisted suicide."

Arias told KSAZ reporter Troy Hayden Wednesday she changed her mind about favoring the death penalty over life after a tearful meeting with family members on the day she was convicted of first-degree murder, realizing that her death would only cause them more pain.

Following her conviction, she said she preferred the death penalty to spending the rest of her life in jail in her first post-verdict TV interview last week with KSAZ's Hayden. 

"I felt like by asking for death, it's like asking for assisted suicide and I didn't want to do that to my family," she said.

Judge Sherry Stephens allowed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office to set up media interviews late Tuesday. Within minutes, Arias agreed to talk to several media outlets while in jail, even while the jury deliberates her fate.

Arias told The Associated Press she fought from the beginning to keep cameras out of the courtroom to limit the media spectacle, and believes that the jury should have been sequestered. She stated flatly that she did not receive a fair trial.

"The prosecutor has accused me of wanting to be famous, which is not true," she told the news agency.

However, Arias has sought the spotlight at every turn, providing TV interviews and even using a third-party to Tweet throughout the trial.

Arias repeated her claims that she never wanted to go to trial in the first place but instead wanted to reach a deal with prosecutors on a second-degree murder count that would have carried a maximum of 22 years in prison. However, she said, "no deal was offered."

 

A shackled Arias wore makeup for the interviews and showed up in a jail classroom with a comb in hand as she fixed her hair for the cameras. When pressed for details on some of her conflicting stories, she was mostly evasive, citing advice from her attorneys and possible pending appeals.

She was also asked about the conflicts she had had with her two court-appointed lawyers, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott.

Arias said she wanted at least three people called as witnesses who could have testified to having seen bruises on her neck "when I was choked out" by Alexander but she said she was rebuffed by her lawyers. The prosecutor insisted her claims of self-defense were exaggerated in attempt to avoid being convicted.

She said her lawyers "felt a little betrayed" and blindsided by her post-conviction interview but that they gave their blessings for Tuesday night's interviews, warning her to be cautious.

Arias said she sometimes wishes she'd never met Alexander, "just because of how ultimately everything ended and I say that for his sake and mine — not just a selfish thing."

She said if the attack never occurred and she never crossed paths with the victim, she would likely now be a happily married 32-year-old with children, good finances and a successful wedding photography business.

The jury was set to resume deliberations on Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Arias told jurors she planned to use her time in prison to bring about positive changes, including donating her hair to be made into wigs for cancer victims, helping establish prison recycling programs and designing T-shirts to raise money for domestic abuse victims.

Arias became emotional as she displayed for jurors photos of her friends, boyfriends and family members, including newborn relatives she has met only from behind bars.

She asked jurors to reject the death penalty for the sake of her family.

"I'm asking you to please, please don't do that to them. I've already hurt them so badly, along with so many other people," she said. "I want everyone's healing to begin, and I want everyone's pain to stop."

Arias stabbed and slashed Alexander nearly 30 times, shot in him in the forehead and slit his throat, nearly decapitating him, before leaving his body in his shower to be found by friends about five days later.

"To this day, I can hardly believe I was capable of such violence. But I know that I was," Arias told jurors. "And for that, I'm going to be sorry for the rest of my life."

Her speech to jurors came a day after her attorneys asked to be removed from the case, saying the five-month trial had become a witch hunt that prompted death threats against a key witness in the penalty phase. They also argued for a mistrial. The judge denied both requests.

Alexander's family showed little emotion as Arias' mother, father and sister looked on from the other side of the gallery and cried. Arias said in her interview that her mother lost her job at the Northern California dental office where she has worked for several years after spending the entire year in Phoenix for the trial.

After Arias finished speaking, Judge Sherry Stephens explained to jurors that their finding would be final, emphasizing the fact that Arias' life is literally in their hands.

"You will determine whether the defendant will be sentenced to life in prison or death," Stephens told the panel. "Your decision is not a recommendation."

The jury heard closing arguments later Tuesday, with defense attorney Jennifer Willmott citing Arias' mental health problems and lack of a criminal record among the reasons to spare her life.

"The question now before you is: Do you kill her? Do you kill her for the one act that she did, the one horrible act, or can you see that there is a reason to let her live? Can you see that there is value in her life?" she said.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez said that despite Arias' claims, there were no factors in the case that would warrant a sentence other than death.

He implored jurors to look at the "whole panorama" of the case, not just Arias' statement Tuesday, and explained how Alexander's family will live the pain of their loss for the rest of their lives.

"They can't forget that what happened on that afternoon, Travis Victor Alexander suffered immense physical pain," Martinez said. "They can't forget that."

 

 

 

Jodi Arias begged jurors at at Tuesday's sentencing hearing to give her life in prison, saying she "lacked perspective" when she told KSAZ's Hayden in her first post-conviction TV interview that she preferred the death penalty to spending the rest of her life in jail.

Arias told the same eight men and four women who found her guilty of murdering her one-time boyfriend that she planned to use her time in prison to bring about positive changes, including donating her hair to be made into wigs for cancer victims, helping establish prison recycling programs and designing T-shirts to raise money for domestic abuse victims.

She also said  that she could run book clubs and teach classes to prisoners to "stimulate conversations of a higher nature."

Arias became emotional as she displayed for jurors photos of her friends, boyfriends and family members, including newborn relatives she has met only from behind bars.

She pleaded with jurors to reject the death penalty for the sake of her family.

"I'm asking you to please, please don't do that to them. I've already hurt them so badly, along with so many other people," she said. "I want everyone's healing to begin, and I want everyone's pain to stop."

Arias admitted killing Travis Alexander and said it was the "worst thing" she had ever done. But she stuck to her story that the brutal attack -- which included stabbing and slashing Alexander nearly 30 times, shooting him in the head and nearly decapitating him -- was her defense against abuse.

"To this day, I can hardly believe I was capable of such violence. But I know that I was," she said. "And for that, I'm going to be sorry for the rest of my life."

Her testimony came a day after her attorneys asked to be removed from the case, saying the five-month trial had become a witch hunt that prompted death threats against a key witness in the penalty phase. They also argued for a mistrial. The judge denied both requests.

Arias acknowledged the pain and suffering she caused Alexander's family, and said she hoped her conviction for first-degree murder brought them peace.

"I loved Travis, and I looked up to him," Arias said. "At one point, he was the world to me. This is the worst mistake of my life. It's the worst thing I've ever done."

She said she considered suicide after Alexander's death but didn't kill herself because of her love for her own family.

Arias said she regretted that details of her sex life with Alexander came out during the trial, and described a recorded phone sex call played in open court as "that awful tape."

"It's never been my intention to throw mud on Travis' name," she said, adding she had hoped to reach a deal with prosecutors before the case ever went to trial.

"I was willing to go quietly into the night," Arias said.

The jury paid close attention to Arias as she spoke, their gaze turning to the large screen behind her as she ticked through family photos and explained the stories behind each image. Arias retained her composure throughout much of her statement, pausing occasionally as she apparently cried, but no tears were visible.

Alexander's family showed little emotion as Arias' mother, father and sister looked on from the other side of the gallery and cried.

After Arias finished speaking, the judge told jurors they could consider a handful of factors when deciding her sentence, including assertions from the defense that Arias is a good friend and a talented artist. Arias displayed her drawings and paintings for the jury during her slideshow.

Stephens also explained to jurors that their finding would be final, emphasizing the fact that Arias' life is literally in their hands.

"You will determine whether the defendant will be sentenced to life in prison or death," Stephens told the panel. "Your decision is not a recommendation."

However, if the jury decides on a life sentence, it will be up to the judge to determine whether Arias should spend her entire life behind bars or have a chance at release after 25 years.

The jury heard closing arguments later Tuesday, with defense attorney Jennifer Willmott citing Arias' mental health problems and lack of a criminal record among the reasons to spare her life.

"The question now before you is: Do you kill her? Do you kill her for the one act that she did, the one horrible act, or can you see that there is a reason to let her live? Can you see that there is value in her life?" Willmott told jurors.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez said that despite Arias' claims, there were no factors in the case that would warrant a sentence other than death.

He implored jurors to look at the "whole panorama" of the case, not just Arias' statement Tuesday. And he asked them to "do the right thing, even though it may be difficult."

After closing arguments, the jury was sent to start deliberations. They adjourned for the day less than two hours later, and were scheduled to begin again Wednesday morning.

Arias initially claimed she knew nothing about Alexander's June 2008 killing at his suburban Phoenix home. She then blamed masked intruders before eventually arguing self-defense. Prosecutors contend she killed Alexander in a jealous rage because he wanted to end their relationship and go to Mexico with another woman.

Arias' attorneys also tried without success to withdraw from the case after Arias gave her first post-conviction TV interview to KSAZ.

"Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place," Arias told KSAZ reporter Troy Hayden from a holding cell inside the courthouse. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, and I'd rather have my freedom as soon as I can get it."

Arias directly addressed those comments Tuesday, telling jurors she wanted to live.

"Though I meant it, I lacked perspective. To me, life in prison was the most unappealing outcome. ... But as I stand here now, I cannot in good conscience ask you to sentence me to death because of them," she said, pointing to her family members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from MyFoxPhoenix.com.

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