PHOENIX (USA Today) -- Jodi Arias, convicted of first-degree murder of her on-and-off lover, says she was surprised by the jury's verdict Wednesday and hopes for the death penalty over life in prison.
The jury that found her guilty of killing Travis Alexander now faces a decision on whether she deserves execution or a life term in prison.
Arias, who choked back tears as the jury's decision was read, told KSAZ-TV in a courthouse interview after the verdict was announced that she was surprised the jury found her guilty of premeditation in the death of Alexander.
"It was unexpected for me, yes, because there was no premeditation on my part,'' she said.
She said she would "prefer to die sooner than later'' and that "death is the ultimate freedom.''
The Maricopa County sheriff's office said in a statement that Arias was being put on a suicide watch because of her interview comments.
The 12 jurors deliberated reached a verdict after deliberating less than three full days. The televised trial, which began Jan. 2, gained notoriety for its accounts of gore and sex.
Jodi Arias has been found guilty of murdering her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. He was shot in the head and stabbed and slashed more than two dozen times in 2008. Tears rolled down Arias' face as the verdict was read.
Alexander's brothers and sisters issued a statement saying they "are in agreement with the jury's verdict of guilty." They said they plan to file a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against Arias.
Arias spoke to Fox affiliate KSAZ in an exclusive courtroom interview about 20 minutes after the verdict was read. Arias was mostly calm and chose her words carefully during the 45-minute interview, appearing to hold back tears a few times, much as she did during the trial, according to the interview.
She said she hoped her sentence would be the death penalty.
"The worst outcome for me would be natural life (in prison). I would much rather die sooner rather than later," she said.
Arias said she is healthy, doesn't smoke and that longevity runs in her family. That means she would expect to live in prison for a long time.
"I said years ago I'd rather get death than life," she said. "I believe death is the ultimate freedom."
Arias added that she hopes the family of victim Travis Alexander can find peace now that the verdict has been rendered. She said she prayed for members of the jury every day and was shocked that they decided the killing was pre-meditated.
Arias said she could "see how it could look that way" but that "there was no premeditation on my part."
The 12 jurors reached the verdict after deliberating less than three full days. The trial, which began Jan. 2, gained notoriety for its accounts of gore and sex.
Alexander's brothers and sisters issued a statement saying they "are in agreement with the jury's verdict of guilty.'' They said they plan to file a wrongful death civil suit against Arias.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery issued a statement after the verdict was read, saying, "We look forward to the next phase of the proceedings, where the state will present evidence to prove the murder was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.''
Prosecutor Juan Martinez argued that the murder on June 4, 2008, was premeditated.
Martinez offered circumstantial evidence to try to convince the jury:
• Arias dyed her hair to disguise herself before she drove to Mesa. Her attorneys said she did so long before the trip.
• Arias rented a car to avoid detection and didn't want to drive her own car, which was red, because it might attract police attention. She and her attorneys claimed she drove a rental because her own car couldn't make the trip.
• She removed the front license plate of the rental car and attached the rear plate upside down to avoid detection.
• She took two or three gas cans in her car to avoid a paper trail of gas receipts in Arizona. Arias claimed she was afraid of running out of gas in remote areas, such as the national parks she said she planned to visit to add to her photographer's portfolio.
• A gun stolen from her grandfather was the same caliber as the gun that killed Alexander. Arias claimed she pulled Alexander's own gun from the top shelf of his closet. Martinez pointed out that none of Alexander's friends knew him to have a gun.
• That there were three potentially fatal wounds - one stab wound, the gunshot and a slit throat - could indicate that Arias had time to reflect on what she was doing.
Spectators in the courtroom gasped when the verdict was read. Family members of both the victim and the defendant shed tears.
Outside the courthouse, crowds cheered.
Defense attorneys contended that Arias killed Alexander in June 2008 in an unplanned fit of rage as she reacted to what attorneys portrayed as his pattern of emotional and physical abuse.
It had cost Maricopa County taxpayers at least $1.7 million as of late April to defend Arias.
Lesley Webster hosts USA NOW for May 8, 2013, covering the Joday Arias trial. The jury found Arias guilty of first-degree murder of her on-and-off lover, Travis Alexander.
Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand testifying in her defense. She and her lawyers contended it was the culmination of a relationship in which she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by Alexander.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Tuesday that she believes Arias is guilty, but she did not cite first-degree murder or a lesser charge. A first-degree murder conviction and death sentence could one day put a commutation request on the desk of an Arizona governor.
Contributing: John Bacon, William M. Welch, USA TODAY; Rebekah L. Sanders, The Arizona Republic; The Associated Press