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Arias convicted in boyfriend's slaying

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 8:54 p.m.
REUTERS
Jodi Arias reacts as a guilty verdict is read in her first-degree murder trial in Phoenix, Arizona, May 8, 2013. Arias was convicted of first degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower of his Phoenix valley home in June 2008. REUTERS/Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

PHOENIX — Jodi Arias spent 18 days on the stand sharing intimate, emotional and oftentimes X-rated details of her life before a rapt television and online audience. She had hoped it all might convince a jury that she killed her one-time boyfriend in self-defense.

But the eight men and four women on the panel didn't buy it, convicting Arias on Wednesday of first-degree murder after about 15 hours of deliberations. Jurors will return to court Thursday to begin the next phase of the trial that could set the stage for Arias receiving a death sentence.

Arias said in a post-conviction interview with a TV station that she prefers the death penalty over life in prison.

Arias talked to Fox affiliate KSAZ in the courthouse minutes after she was convicted. With tears in her eyes, she said she feels overwhelmed and that she was surprised because she didn't believe she committed first-degree murder.

She said in the interview that she would “prefer to die sooner than later” and that “death is the ultimate freedom.”

Arias previously said she considered suicide after killing lover Travis Alexander. The county said Arias was placed under suicide watch.

The case elevated the unknown waitress and aspiring photographer to a household name, with a real-life story of love, betrayal and murder far more alluring than any made-for-TV movie. The crime itself was enough to grab headlines: Arias, a 32-year-old high school dropout, shot Alexander in the forehead, stabbed him nearly 30 times and slit his throat from ear to ear, leaving the motivational speaker and businessman nearly decapitated.

She claimed he attacked her and she fought for her life. Prosecutors said she killed out of jealous rage because Alexander wanted to end their affair and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.

Arias' four-month trial quickly became a media sensation — ratings gold for cable networks that could broadcast from inside the courtroom and feed an insatiable public appetite for true-crime drama delivered live and up-close. It was, for many, the horrible train wreck they just can't turn away from, even though they know they should.

Arias fought back tears as the verdict was announced in the hushed, packed courtroom, while Alexander's family members wept and hugged each other. They wore blue ribbons and wristbands with the words “Justice For Travis.” The family thanked prosecutor Juan Martinez and a key witness and said it appreciated the outpouring of support from the public.

Outside, a huge crowd that had gathered on the courthouse steps screamed, whistled and cheered the news in a case that has attracted followers from across the country who traveled to Phoenix to be close to the proceedings. Some chanted, “USA, USA, USA!”

Alexander's friend Chris Hughes said he was happy with the verdict, pointing out a bold proclamation that Arias made in one of her jailhouse interviews that she wouldn't be found guilty.

“She said, ‘No jury would convict me. Mark my words.' This jury convicted her,” Hughes said. “Luckily we had 12 smart jurors. They nailed it.”

Jurors got the case Friday afternoon.

The trial moves into the so-called aggravation phase during which prosecutors will argue the killing was committed in an especially cruel, heinous and depraved manner that should allow jurors to consider the death penalty. Both sides may call witnesses and show evidence. If the panel finds the aggravating factors exist, the trial moves into the final penalty phase during which jurors will recommend either life in prison or death.

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