By Brian Skoloff
PHOENIX — Jodi Arias asked jurors Tuesday to give her life in prison, arguing she "lacked perspective" when she told a local reporter in an interview after she was convicted of murder that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail.
Standing confidently but at times her voice breaking, she told the same eight men and four women who found her guilty of first-degree murder 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 recycle trash and designing T-shirts that would raise money for victims of domestic abuse.
Arias admitted killing boyfriend 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 Alexander more than 30 times, shooting him in the head and nearly decapitating him — was her defense against abuse.
Her testimony came a day after her attorneys asked to be removed from the case because the five-month trial had become a witch hunt that prompted death threats against a key witness in the penalty phase of the trial. 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 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, but didn't kill herself after Alexander's death because of her love for her own family. She displayed dozens of pictures from her childhood, including photos of her family and former boyfriends. She described the relationship she had with the son of one her boyfriends, and said she hadn't seen him since the day before she killed Alexander but was told he was taller than she now.
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.
After she finished speaking, the judge told jurors they can consider a handful of factors when deciding what sentence to recommend, including the fact that Arias has no previous criminal record. They also can weigh defense assertions that Arias is a good friend and a talented artist.
The jury will hear closing arguments, then begin deliberating whether to recommend that Arias be sentenced to life in prison or face the ultimate punishment for the June 2008 killing of Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home.
Arias initially claimed she knew nothing about the slaying. Then she 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 post-conviction TV interview.
"Longevity runs in my family, and I don't want to spend the rest of my natural life in one place," Arias told Fox affiliate KSAZ 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."
Last week, Alexander's brother and sister tearfully described for the jury how Alexander's death has torn apart their lives.