TODAY   |  May 09, 2013

Jodi Arias: I prefer death penalty to life sentence

After 15 hours of deliberation, an Arizona jury convicted Jodi Arias of first degree murder in the death of her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander. NBC’s Diana Alvear reports and attorney Star Jones and legal analyst Lisa Bloom discuss the case.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are hearing from jodi arias this morning following her conviction for the murder of her former boyfriend. that trial attracting attention worldwide. and now, the penalty phase begins. dia diana, good morning to you.

>> reporter: savannah, good morning. just before the verdict was read outloud, jodi arias turned to her family and smiled. well, that all changed after she heard the jury's decision when she says she did not deserve.

>> i believe death is sealed with freedom, so i'd rather have my freedom as soon as i can get it.

>> jodi arias just after hearing the guilty verdict against her tells local station ksav she'd prefer a death sentence to life in prison .

>> as to count one first-degree murder, guilty.

>> it took just over 15 hours for the jury to find arias guilty of killing her former boyfriend travis alexander , stabbing him 27 times, slitting his throat, and shooting him in the head. crowds gathered outside the courtroom reacted with wild cheers and applause. while arias called the verdict unexpected. she did not agree the killing was premeditated. the jury's decision brought visible relief to the family of travis alexander who have endured four months of evidence and testimony, much of it often graphic. his brothers and sisters hugging and crying in the courtroom.

>> justice for travis !

>> reporter: alexander 's best friend screaming with joy as he left the courthouse.

>> relief, relief. after three days of waiting not knowing if there was maybe a holdout or a hung jury or something like that, it feels just so good to hear those charges.

>> the now convicted killer said she hopes the verdict brings alexander 's family some sense of peace. but for arias ' family seen just after visiting her in jail. they fear she'll face the ultimate punishment.

>> reporter: and now the trial moves into the penalty phase . the state must attempt to prove to the jury that she deserves a death sentence .

>> thank you.

>>> star jones is a former prosecutor and veteran legal commentator lisa bloom . good morning to both of you.

>> good morning.

>> good morning.

>> star, let me start with you and what jodi arias says. she prefers the death penalty . do you buy it? or do you think like some commentators do she's playing games with the jury some kind of reverse psychology thing?

>> well, if that's her attempt, i think it's not a good one. she'll end up with an issue of ineffectiveness of counsel.

>> you assume the lawyers let them because she didn't just do it?

>> i can't imagine why a defendant in the middle of the case. the case is far from over, would give an interview saying anything that can be used against her.

>> lisa, let's say we take her at her word and she wants the death penalty . could she instruct her attorneys not to offer evidence in this penalty phase basically not make a plea for leniency?

>> well, she could, but i don't think that's going to happen as far as i know, everyone's going forward with the death penalty phase and the prosecution still has to prove up several steps before we get to the death penalty . they have to show this crime was heinous, that it was cruel or that it was especially brutal. that's the first step if the jury finds that, they go to the next step and weigh aggravating factors against mitigating factors and that's where we're going to hear about her childhood. we're going to hear about any lack of criminal record, her age and any mental disorders she has. all of that has to be proved up before a jury can sentence her to death.

>> and in the penalty phase of the trial, we start to hear the life story of the defendant and the attempt is made to humanize her. i want to know what you think of this quick verdict. given a four-month trial, four days of deliberations, this was a quick verdict. in your mind, since all the jurors agreed this was a premeditated, planned murder, do you think that makes them more inclined to the death penalty ?

>> absolutely. they are not believing jodi arias . i think that was very clear from their verdict. and what's going to happen is they have to look for mitigation from a defense perspective. the mitigation has to be some genuine sign of remorse. she's not shown that throughout the trial and certainly hasn't shown it afterwards.

>> let me put that to you, lisa. she has the opportunity to testify again in this phase of the trial. and what do you do when she says she did the killing but tried to argue in the first phase it was justified. how does she get up there? stick to the battered woman theory? does she offer remorse?

>> she has to stick to the same theory to preserve her rights on appeal. how can she express remorse when her theory all along has been self-defense. and she has automatic rights of appeal. i would expect her to say she's very sorry that travis alexander is gone, sorry for her role in it but cannot come out and look the jury in the eye and say i'm sorry i murdered him.

>> well, actually, she can because jodi arias has changed her story so many times throughout this case, we're not sure what she'll say.

>> well, one thing that did come out is she is definitely a liar and had to admit that many times on the stand. star jones and lisa bloom , thank you very much. we should mention, there'll be much more on the jodi arias case tomorrow night on "dateline" at 9:00/8:00 central time .