By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona woman accused of brutally murdering her boyfriend testified in court on Tuesday that she continued to have a physical relationship with her lover even though he had choked her until she blacked out and struck her with a backhanded blow.
Lawyers for Jodi Arias, whose testimony has riveted viewers across the United States, argue she acted in self-defense when she killed Travis Alexander, who was found in the shower of his suburban Phoenix home in 2008 shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and with his throat slit.
Prosecutors say she killed her 30-year-old lover in a jealous rage.
"He threw me on the ground, got on top of me and started choking me ... He squeezed my neck and I couldn't breathe," the slender 32-year-old testified, describing how she blacked out after Alexander went into a violent rage during a fight about two months before he was killed in June 2008.
Her vivid testimony on her fifth day on the stand appeared to be continuing groundwork for a defense centered on a pattern of abuse she and her lawyer say she experienced in the relationship.
Arias, who moved to the Phoenix valley from California in 2007, described another clash a month earlier. That time the couple began fighting about her plans to leave Arizona and "he reached over his right hand and hit me."
She said the blow was "like a backhand" that grazed her jaw and neck. After a hysterical telephone call to her mother, Arias said, things calmed between the two and she later went over to his house and engaged in sex.
Lawyers for Arias also played an explicit sex talk tape in court for jurors as she sobbed throughout the more than hour-long recording.
Asked why she continued the physical relationship with her lover, she said she still cared for Alexander. "I was making a string of bad choices at that time in my life," Arias said.
In five days of testimony, Arias has told jurors that she felt like a prostitute at times in her sexual relationship with Alexander, describing the encounters in gritty detail.
On Tuesday, Arias said she obliged Alexander by fulfilling some of his sexual fantasies during their relationship, and agreed to be videotaped having sex with him.
Alexander was found some five days after he was killed. Authorities pinned the death on Arias after sexually explicit photos were discovered in his camera's memory card.
Arias is scheduled to resume her testimony on Wednesday.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Cynthia Johnston)