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 Wednesday of first-degree murder after only about 15 hours of deliberations. They return to court today to begin the next phase of the trial that could set the stage for Arias receiving a death sentence - a penalty she said she now desires in a stunning interview after her conviction.
Arias said she was overwhelmed and surprised because she didn't believe she committed first-degree murder.
"It was unexpected for me, yes, because there was no premeditation on my part," she told Fox affiliate KSAZ in the courthouse. Arias added she would "prefer to die," rather than spending the rest of her life in prison. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom."
The case made Arias, a waitress and aspiring photographer, to a household name. The 2008 crime itself was enough to grab headlines: Arias, a 32-year-old high school dropout, shot Travis 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 after Alexander wanted to end their affair and planned to take a trip to Mexico with another woman.
Arias' four-month trial became a media sensation - ratings gold for cable networks that could broadcast from inside the courtroom and feed a public appetite for true-crime drama delivered live and up-close.
Arias fought back tears as the verdict was announced.
Alexander's family members wept and hugged each other as they heard the verdict. They wore blue ribbons and wristbands with the words "Justice For Travis." The family thanked prosecutor Juan Martinez and a key witness and said they appreciated the outpouring of support from the public.
Outside, a crowd that had gathered on the courthouse steps screamed, whistled and cheered the news in a case that has attracted fans 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."
When asked about Alexander's family, Arias said in her TV interview, "I just hope that now that a verdict has been rendered, that they'll be able to find peace."