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Jodi Arias pleads for jury to spare her life, says, 'I want everyone's pain to stop'

Convicted killer Jodi Arias asked a jury to spare her from the death penalty and sentence her to life in prison.

Asking the jury that convicted her of murder to let her live, Jodi Arias said in a Phoenix courtroom Tuesday that she never meant to cause her victim’s family so much pain — and that if she was given a life sentence she would contribute to society.

“This is the worst mistake of my life. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” Arias said of the brutal killing of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. “To this day, I can hardly believe I was capable of such violence.”

Arias, 32, was found guilty earlier this month of the 2008 murder of Alexander, whose body was found in the shower of his Phoenix-area home. He was stabbed 27 times, was shot in the face and had his throat slashed.

Jurors, after hearing tearful statements from Alexander’s brother and sister, have already ruled that Arias had been “especially cruel,” a finding that made her eligible for the death penalty under Arizona law.

On Tuesday, Arias told the jury that during the sentencing phase she had contemplated suicide, saying, “I saw it as taking myself off of life support.” But she said thoughts of her own family kept her from following through.

Similarly, she noted that she had made public statements that she preferred the death penalty to a life sentence. But she said that at the time she had "lost perspective" and now realized the pain her death would cause her family.

“I’m asking you, please, please don’t do that to them,” she told the jurors.

"I’ve already hurt them so badly, along with so many other people. I want everyone’s healing to begin, and I want everyone’s pain to stop."

Before Arias gave her statement, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens noted that it was not made under oath and not subject to cross-examination.

A glimpse inside the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, Ariz., where convicted murderer Jodi Arias has lived for the past four years. Arias spends 23 hours a day in her jail cell, which is located in a maximum security area of the facility. NBC's Diana Alvear reports.

Arias told jurors that if they gave her a life sentence, she could still make a contribution to society, something she didn’t realize when she thought of suicide.

“I didn’t know then that if I got life instead of death, I could become employed and self-reliant,” Arias said.

She said she also would like to participate in volunteer programs in prison. Arias said that since her arrest she had made three donations of her hair to Locks of Love, a program that provides wigs to cancer patients, and would like to continue donations. She also spoke of starting a recycling program in prison. 

She said she also would like to teach Spanish and American Sign Language to other prisoners and to help other women to learn to read.

"Along the lines of literacy, I’d like to start a book club or a reading group, something that brings people together in a positive and constructive way," she said.

Holding up a white v-neck T-shirt that had the word “Survivor” across the front, Arias said she had designed it with the idea that 100 percent of the proceeds from sales would go to nonprofit groups helping victims of domestic violence. Arias had argued during the trial that she killed Alexander in response to abuse by him.

“Some people may not believe that I am a survivor of domestic violence. They’re entitled to their opinion,” she told jurors. “I’m supporting this cause because it is very, very important to me.”

Rob Schumacher / AP file

Jodi Arias, seen in court on May 15, told the jury: "I want everyone's pain to stop."

After Arias finished her statement, the judge gave the jury instructions for making their decision on the penalty.

Tuesday afternoon, Arias' defense attorney Jennifer Willmott told jurors that Arias' life should be spared because of several mitigating factors, including the abuse that Arias says she suffered, a borderline personality disorder that a doctor described, and a lack of criminal record. Willmott also said that Arias could still be a productive person in prison.

But prosecutor Juan Martinez said Arias' lies and actions should disqualify many of the defense's assertions from counting as mitigating factors. He asked jurors to remember that Travis Alexander would remain frozen in time at age 30. 

Jurors began deliberating at about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Their verdict must be unanimous; if they can't agree on a sentence, a new jury will be impaneled, Reuters reported.

The Arias case, with its lurid details, has been widely followed. Arias and Alexander had broken up after an affair. Arias testified that she had acted out Alexander’s every fantasy and even converted to his Mormon faith, but he nonetheless broke up with her and began dating — chastely, he told her — other women.

According to testimony by some of Alexander’s friends, Arias began stalking her former beau and slashed his tires. Her extreme jealousy culminated in Alexander’s gruesome murder on June 4, 2008, the prosecutor argued.

Arias dyed her hair, turned off her phone and drove 1,000 miles from California to Alexander’s home in Arizona, then killed him after having sex with him.

NBC News' Diana Alvear and Erin McClam contributed to this report.