"I want everyone's healing to begin," Arias told the jury as she changed her mind about requesting the death penalty

By Howard Breuer
Updated May 21, 2013 02:45 PM
Charlie Leight/The Arizona Republic/AP

In a complete reversal, Jodi Arias addressed the jury on Tuesday and urged them to sentence her to life in prison so her family doesn’t have to suffer any more.

“I’ve made public statements that preferred the death penalty. I lacked perspective,” Arias, dressed in black, said in the Phoenix courtroom.

“I can’t in good conscience ask you to send me to death because of them,” Arias said as she pointed to her parents and her baby sister, Angela, who now has a daughter of her own (Arias says she has only met the child from behind heavy glass). “That would be tantamount to suicide … Please, please don’t do that to them. I want everyone’s healing to begin and for their pain to stop.”

During her 19-minute presentation, Arias, 32, used an overhead projector to show family images along with photos of her artwork, including drawings of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor.

If the jury decides she should be spared the death penalty for murdering Travis Alexander in 2008, Arias said she will be in general population in a prison, where she can teach sign language, Spanish and literacy. She says she’ll also donate hair to Locks of Love, which she says she’s already done three times since her arrest.

She also said she was devastated to have caused so much pain to her family and Alexander’s, and that she fears she also is somewhat responsible for last year’s death of Alexander’s grandmother, to whom Arias sent 13 white irises and a lengthy letter after Alexander was found dead. Arias denied causing Alexander’s death for three years after her arrest.

“To know both are gone, and I may have inadvertently caused her passing, destroys me,” Arias told the jury.

Although the trial spanned nearly five months, Arias was the only person to testify or speak in her defense during the trial’s penalty phase.

Arias complained that Patricia Womack, her best childhood friend, couldn’t testify because she and her daughter received death threats. Defense attorney Kirk Nurmi cited the alleged death threat on Monday and requested a mistrial, saying he was not able to present the jury with a full picture of who Jodi Arias is and why her life should be spared.

“A partial picture is not good enough for this jury,” said Nurmi. “A mistrial at this stage of the proceedings is the only lawful remedy.”

Judge Sherry Stephens denied the request for a mistrial, saying it was unclear why Womack wouldn’t testify or why any other potential defense witnesses might not be able to testify.

This prompted Nurmi to ask to be removed from the case – a request Nurmi has made many times. The judge denied that motion as well.

The jury was expected to commence its penalty phase deliberations Tuesday afternoon after closing arguments.