POSTED: 1:45 a.m. HST, May 22, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 4:21 a.m. HST, May 22, 2013
PHOENIX » In a surprise jailhouse interview just hours after a jury began deliberating her fate, Jodi Arias spoke out Tuesday about her murder trial, her many fights with her legal team and her belief that she "deserves a second chance at freedom someday."
Arias spoke to The Associated Press as part of a series of interviews with media outlets. She repeated many of her claims from previous interviews, testimony on the witness stand and her statements to the jury earlier Tuesday as she pleaded for mercy.
But she provided some new information about her case and how she believed her lawyers let her down by not calling more witnesses who could have bolstered her claims that she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Travis Alexander.
Arias was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the June 2008 stabbing and shooting death of her one-time lover in what prosecutors described as a cold, calculated killing carried out in a jealous rage. Arias has maintained all along it was self-defense.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday as they worked to determine whether she should live or die for her crime. If the jury opts for a life sentence, the judge will have the option of determining whether she spends the rest of her days behind bars or is eligible for release after 25 years. Arias acknowledged it was unlikely she would ever be released, but believed she deserves a second chance.
Following her conviction last week, she told a local TV station that she preferred the death penalty. She said Tuesday night that she changed her mind after a tearful meeting with family members that same day, realizing that her death would only cause them more pain.
"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 told the AP.
Arias said 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 said.
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."
She gave the interviews Tuesday after the judge lifted an order barring jail officials from arranging any media requests. The judge did not elaborate on the reason for the ruling, but Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office quickly began making the media arrangements that lasted late into the night.
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 an exaggerated 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.
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.
After Arias finished speaking, Judge Sherry Stephens explained to jurors that their finding would be final.
The jury heard closing arguments later Tuesday, with 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 with 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."