By Tim Gaynor
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A woman accused of murdering her Arizona lover broke down and wept on the witness stand on Thursday when presented with a photograph of his lifeless body, and admitted to lying about the killing.
Jodi Arias, 32, could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering 30-year-old Travis Alexander, whose body was found in the shower of his Phoenix valley home in June 2008. He was shot in the face, stabbed 27 times, and had his throat slit.
Arias, who is from California, has admitted to killing him but said it was in self-defense after he attacked her when she dropped his camera while taking pictures of him in the shower. The prosecution has said she killed him in a jealous rage.
During combative cross-examination on Thursday about Arias' actions on the day of killing, prosecutor Juan Martinez suddenly produced a photograph of Alexander's body in the shower, asking her, "Where were you when this happened?" Arias broke down in tears.
"Were you crying when you were shooting him?" Martinez asked, to which she replied: "I can't remember."
"Were you crying when you were stabbing him?" he asked. "What about when you cut his throat? Were you crying then?"
"I don't know," Arias replied between sobs.
Martinez did not relent. "So take a look. ... You're the one who did this, right?" he asked. Arias answered affirmatively.
"And you are the same individual that lied about all this, right?" he asked. "So take a look at it."
Martinez later ripped into Arias' argument that she killed Alexander in self-defense, confronting her with forensic evidence that showed that, after shooting her lover, she repeatedly stabbed him from behind.
"You would acknowledge that a lot of the stab wounds, and if you want we can count them together ... were to the back of the head and to the back of the torso, correct?"
"OK," she wailed, declining to count the injuries.
"So if he is being stabbed in the back, would you acknowledge at that point he's not a threat to you?"
"I don't know," she sobbed.
In five days of tough cross-examination, Martinez has poked holes in Arias' testimony, pointing out to the jury conflicting accounts she gave to friends, family and police of her relationship with Alexander and his death.
On Thursday afternoon, Martinez tore into Arias' previous testimony that, after he attacked her in the shower, she ran to Alexander's walk-in closet, scrambled up shelving packed with clothing and grabbed a gun she said he kept on the top shelf.
Showing the court a photograph later taken of the closet, capturing shoes lying in neat, undisturbed rows on shelves, Martinez turned to Arias and accused her of bringing the gun from her family home in Yreka, California.
"You brought the gun from Yreka, didn't' you?" he asked. "No," she replied.
Martinez later questioned Arias about concerted efforts she made to cover her tracks following the killing, which left blood sprayed around the bathroom and pooled on the floor as well as in the carpet of Alexander's bedroom.
Arias admitted she had attempted to erase a potentially incriminating photograph from Alexander's camera showing her foot beside his bloody corpse, and had then placed the camera in a washing machine at her lover's home.
She also admitted removing the gun from the crime scene and tossing it in the desert as she fled, as well as leaving affectionate cell phone and email messages to her then-deceased lover.
"That was your ... attempt to again stage the scene, so to speak?" "Yes," she replied tearfully.
The trial resumes on Monday.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Richard Chang and Eric Walsh)
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