Phoenix — [Breaking news update at 6:10 p.m. Tuesday ]
Jurors in Arizona began deliberating Tuesday whether Jodi Arias will receive the death penalty or life in prison for killing ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. The jury convicted Arias of first-degree murder earlier this month.
[Original story, posted at 5:06 p.m. Tuesday]
Jodi Arias asks jurors to spare her life
(CNN) -- Jodi Arias, after indicating she would ask a jury to sentence her to death after her murder conviction, instead pleaded that her life be spared Tuesday, saying she could teach people to read in prison and make a positive impact on inmates.
She also called the murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander "the worst mistake" she'd ever made, but she never apologized during the 19-minute plea to the jury that found her guilty of first-degree murder.
When jurors reached their verdict earlier this month, they said Arias had been "exceptionally cruel" when she murdered Alexander in 2008. Arias stabbed Alexander 29 times, slit his neck from ear to ear and shot him in the face.
In Tuesday's statement, she told jurors that she had been a victim of abuse as an adult and as a child, she showed several family photos from holidays and vacations, and she claimed she was a gentle person who caught spiders in cups and took them outside rather than kill them.
"I'm not going to become a mother because of my own terrible choices," she said, adding that she would no longer be able to paint with oil, either. She showed the jurors several pieces of her artwork.
Explaining her decision not to request the death penalty, she said her family -- to whom she pointed in the courtroom -- gave her the strength to continue living.
"Each time I said that, though I meant it, I lacked perspective," she said.
She noted she could bring "people together in a constructive and positive way" by participating in various programs, including prisoner literacy initiatives, her "Survivor" T-shirts, which would benefit victims of domestic violence, and by donating her hair so it could be used to make wigs for sick children.
Wearing black and starting about 90 minutes later than scheduled, Arias, 32, said she never wanted the "graphic, mortifying, horrific details (of her and Alexander's relationship) paraded out into the public arena."
"It's never been an intention of mine to malign his name or character," she said.
During the trial, Arias claimed she killed Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her. After the guilty verdict, she told a local television station that she had no interest in life in prison.
"I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life, and that still is true today," she told Phoenix television station KSAZ. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it."
The penalty phase of the trial took a sudden break Monday, when the judge said that proceedings could not continue and that Arias would make the statement to the jury.
The adjournment followed Judge Sherry Stephens' dismissal of a defense motion for a mistrial and ended a session in which the defense called no witnesses on Arias' behalf. Also denied was a second request by Arias' lawyers to withdraw from the case.
Arias, who testified for 18 days during the trial, was not cross-examined after her Tuesday statement, which Stephens said was not under oath.
For Arias to be sentenced to death, the jury's decision must be unanimous. In the case of a deadlock, a new jury would be chosen for this phase only.
If Arias is given a sentence of death, she would be the fourth woman on death row in the state.
-- HLN's Graham Winch contributed to this report.