May 21, 2013

Arias pleads for life in prison

The Associated Press

PHOENIX —  Jodi Arias begged jurors Tuesday to give her life in prison, saying she "lacked perspective" when she told a local reporter in an interview that she preferred execution to spending the rest of her days in jail.

click image to enlarge

Jodi Arias listens to prosecutor Juan Martinez address the jury on May 15, 2013, during the sentencing phase of her trial. She is set to speak to the jury Tuesday morning.

AP

Standing confidently but with her voice breaking at times, Arias 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 establish prison recycling programs and designing T-shirts that would raise money for victims of domestic abuse.

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

Arias became emotional as she played a slideshow of pictures from her photo album for the jury. The images included family portraits, pictures of her and friends and boyfriends and young relatives she has met only from behind bars.

Arias concluded her statement by pleading that, for the sake of her family, jurors not give her the death penalty.

"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 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 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 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.

The judge told jurors they can consider a handful of factors when deciding her sentence. Judge Sherry Stephens also explained to jurors that their finding would be final, emphasizing the fact that Arias' life is literally in their hands.

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