(USA TODAY) -- Jodi Arias, who said after her murder conviction she would prefer death to life imprisonment, stood before the jury Tuesday and pleaded for her life instead, asking them not to punish her family for her actions.
Speaking as the only witness on her behalf in the penalty phase of her trial, also referred to the family of her victim, onetime lover Travis Alexander, saying, "I never meant to cause them pain."
Arias, 32, was found guilty May 8 of first-degree murder for the 2008 slaying of Alexander, 30, who was found dead in his suburban Mesa, Ariz., home. He had been shot in the head and stabbed nearly 30 times, and his throat was slit.
Arias said she killed Alexander, her secret lover, in self-defense; the jury thought otherwise.
Last week, the jury determined that the murder was committed in an "especially cruel manner," making Arias eligible for the death penalty.
They heard tearful comments from Alexander's brother and sister as they described how his killing has torn their lives apart.
Arias acknowledged that her plea for life was a reversal of remarks she made to a TV reporter shortly after her conviction, when she said she preferred the death penalty.
"Each time I said that, I meant it, but I lacked perspective," the former waitress said. "Until very recently, I could not imagine standing before you and asking you to give me life."
She changed her mind, Arias said, to avoid bringing more pain to members of her family, who were in the courtroom.
"I cannot in good conscience ask you to sentence me to death, because of them," Arias said, pointing to her family. "I think death is tantamount to suicide. Either way, I will spend the rest of my life in prison. It will either be shortened, or not. If it is shortened, the people who will be hurt is my family. I am asking, please, please, don't do that to them."
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.
Arias, wearing glasses, looked at the jury from time to time, but largely read from notes on a sheaf of papers she clutched in her hand. At other times, she referred to photos on a screen to her left, mainly of family members.
At one point, she held up a white T-shirt with the word "survivor" written across it, telling the jurors that she would sell the clothing and donate all proceeds to victims of domestic abuse. She also said she would sell her hair to charity while in prison, and had already done so three times while in jail.
At one point in her remarks, Arias said she regretted how her trial, which drew national attention, had become a spectacle. She said she especially regretted testifying to the "darker elements" of her relationship with Alexander and how the "graphic, mortifying, horrific details" got into the public arena.
She said she had tried, instead, to avoid a trial. "I got on TV and lied about what I did and lied about the nature of my relationship with Travis," she said. "It has never been my intention to malign his name or character. In fact, it was a goal of mine to protect his reputation."
She also seemed to reflect on the grim ordeal and how it changed her life.
"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.
"To this day, I can hardly believe that I was capable of such violence, but I know that I was," Arias said. "And for that, I am going to be sorry for the rest of my life. Probably longer."
Contributing: Associated Press
Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY