Jodi Arias took the stand today and quickly told the jury that she killed her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in a bloody attack in 2008.
And in a surprise, Arias told the jury that she also planned to kill herself.
"Did you kill Travis Alexander?" defense attorney Kirk Nurmi asked Arias immediately after she took the stand.
"Yes," Arias said softly, turning to look at the jury.
"The simple answer is that he attacked me and I defended myself," she said.
Arias, 32, also explained why she said in a news interview, "No jury would ever convict" her of murdering Alexander. At the time, she said it was because she was innocent, but on the stand today she said she made that statement because she had plans to commit suicide after the interview. The interview took place in September 2008, three months after the killing.
"I was very confident that no jury would convict me because I was sure I'd be dead," she said. "Those are probably the most bitter words I'll ever eat."
Arias is on trial for murdering Alexander by stabbing him 27 times, slashing his throat, and shooting him in the head twice. She could face the death penalty if convicted.
Nurmi questioned Arias extensively about her early childhood. She said that she was subjected to frequent, violent beatings by her mother and father, who used belts, a wooden spoon, and their hands to discipline her and her siblings.
See Jodi Arias Trial Videos"My brother and I, we didn't like being hit," Arias said. "We'd squirm around a little, but the more we did, the more we'd get hit. At one point, I don't think she meant to, my mother broke my brother's wrist. As I became a teenager my dad would get rougher and rougher." She said the beating happened at times as often as four times a week.
"I felt betrayed and abused, and as I got a little bit older it would really make me mad," she said. "But I loved my mom. It put a strain on our relationship, but I still love her, of course."
Arias' mother was in court listening to her daughter's testimony.
Arias said her father was 5-foot-11 and could bench press more than 500 pounds, and that he would sometimes throw her against walls and door frames when he was angry. She said that he knocked her out once.
She said that her childhood before the age of 7 was "idyllic," but became progressively violent as she grew older. She described her father as "sarcastic, negative, critical, and gossipy."
Arias' bid to gain sympathy with the jury and convince them that she was forced to kill Alexander to save her own lifely will likely continue when she is on the stand again Tuesday.
During today's testimony, she also described how she dropped out of high school after her junior year after getting "mostly D's and F's" because she had moved out of her parents' house and in with her boyfriend. She said she had to get a full-time job at a restaurant to pay bills and support herself and her boyfriend, a man who was three years older than her and did not have a job.
That boyfriend, whom she dated for three years, cheated on Arias and was physically abusive toward her twice, but she continued to date him, she testified.
"He approached me and spun me around, had me in some kind of hold, I guess it was called a stranglehold, he was strangling me, just for a few seconds, and I almost passed out. I fell to my knees, and it made me kind of upset 'cause he had never done that before. I said my family would be very upset if they knew what he did. Then he began to describe how he would kill each member of my family," Arias testified.
Arias worked full-time at Denny's to support them as a couple, buying groceries and clothes for her boyfriend and helping to pay the bills while he struggled to find work, she said.
Finally, the boyfriend moved away to Oregon and got a job; Arias then moved in with her grandparents.
At Nurmi's questioning, Arias also described her love of coloring and art growing up, but said her parents were "indifferent" to her artistic interests.
Earlier in the day, the defense continued their attempt to show that Alexander was controlling and abusive toward Arias during their yearlong relationship and the year after, during which they continued a sexual relationship.
A woman's T-shirt emblazoned with the possessive "Travis Alexander's" and a pair of pink panties with the word "Travis'" on the front hint at the controlling nature and abusive attitude that existed between Alexander and Jodi Arias in the months before she killed him, defense attorneys said today.
Defense attorneys also questioned porn on Travis Alexander's computer during today's testimony.
The photo of the T-shirt and panties were found on Arias' camera in July 2008, more than a month after Arias killed Alexander on June 4.
"The photo of 'Travis Alexander's' and 'Travis', both written in the possessive form, will be relied on by our experts discussing the controlling nature of the relationship (between Alexander and Arias), the possessive nature of the relationship, and what that does to a woman," defense attorney Jennifer Willmott said today after the prosecution objected to the photos.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez asked Dworkin whether he knew when the words were put on the shirt and panties. When Dworkin said he could not determine when they were created, Martinez suggested that could have been done after Alexander was killed.
The defense also showed items from Alexander's internet search history from the early morning hours before he was killed, showing that he watched YouTube videos of scantily-clad women dancing to pop music and visited a proxy server, which covers one's IP address while surfing the internet. The defense will try to prove that Alexander was obsessed with looking at sexual content on his computer.
Jodi Arias Takes the Stand
"I recall there was some pornography on the computer," Lonnie Dworkin, the computer forensic analyst testifying for the defense, told the court. "I don't recall specifically if there were women's breasts or other content."
Dworkin combed the hard drives and memory cards of computers and cameras owned by Arias and Alexander. He found images including the T-shirt and underwear, pictures of Arias hugging friends and a dog, and pictures of a penis that Alexander sent Arias on the internet, according to his testimony.
The defense has spent the past week presenting evidence that Alexander kept up appearances of being a devout Mormon and a virgin in his social life, but had an erotic sex life with Arias that included sending her a lewd picture of himself, phone sex, anal sex, oral sex, and taking nude photos of one another in sexual positions.
Arias could face the death penalty if convicted of murder, which prosecutors say was premeditated and extremely cruel in that she stabbed him 27 times, slashed his throat, and shot him twice in the head. They have also argued that she lied to investigators and friends about killing Alexander until she was cornered with a mountain of evidence proving that she did. She then said she killed him in self-defense, they argue.
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