Jan. 29, 2013— -- Alleged killer Jodi Arias is expected to take the stand this week and will try to convince an Arizona jury that her third version of how her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander died -- that she killed him in self defense -- is what really happened when she stabbed and shot him in his bathroom.
Her attorneys will also try to paint a sympathetic picture of Arias as a soft-spoken aspiring artist and photographer who was a recent and devout convert to Mormonism.
It won't be easy. Her lawyers will have to overcome the prosecution's image of a woman who can glibly lie to friends as well as police, about things as mundane as where she worked to how she killed Alexander.
"I don't know how she can not take the stand, getting her up there you can have her crying and sobbing, saying she loved him, how horrible it was. I can't conceive how you wouldn't," said Melvin McDonald, a criminal defense attorney and former judge and prosecutor. McDonald has opposed Arias' prosecutor Juan Martinez in the past.
"She has got be likeable, tearful, show remorse for what happened. She has got to talk about the great times they had, talk about how he turned on her, how he was mean and ugly and demeaning, and the pictures he took and the pressure he would put on her, that sort of stuff," McDonald said.
Arias, now 32, has been in jail since admitting to killing Alexander, 29, in 2008. She dated Alexander for a year and continued to have a sexual relationship with for a year after they broke up. Her attorneys claim she killed him in self-defense, and that he was a controlling, abusive boyfriend who took advantage of a nice girl who fell in love.
Alexander's friends, however, have depicted Arias as a jealous woman and a stalker. Prosecutors argue that her jealousy drove her to plot Alexander's murder, driving from California to his house in Mesa, Ariz., to have sex with him, luring him into a vulnerable position, and then stabbing him 27 times and shooting him in the head.
The jury in the case will have to sort through the divergent portraits of Arias, who sits in court each day in conservative blouses and large glasses and who cries each time prosecutors discuss Alexander's death.
See Jodi Arias Trial VideosArias grew up in the sleepy northern California town of Yreka with four siblings, her parents, and her grandparents close by. She told the TV program "48 Hours" that her childhood was "almost ideal. I have a big family. We're all very close."
Her mother attends court every day and Arias sells prison portraits on eBay to help pay her mother's expenses.
As a teenager, Arias dropped out of Yreka High School, but in her twenties grew ambitious when she began working for a company called Pre-Paid Legal, where at a conference in 2006 she met Alexander, a Pre-Paid Legal success story and a Mormon.
Arias' lawyer, Jennifer Willmott, has said that Arias was captivated by Alexander, who talked about marriage, children and leading a pious life. In just two months after they met, Alexander convinced Arias to convert to Mormonism, according to Willmott.
"Jodi wanted nothing but to please Travis," Wilmott said in her opening statements.
"She would often tell me about how she felt about her religious beliefs, the Book of Mormon," said Ryan Burns, another Mormon whom Arias dated after Alexander. "She was a convert, by Travis... She mentioned reading the scriptures."
She even cited the 10 commandments during her grilling over Alexander's death, telling Detective Esteban Flores, "If I did that I'd be fully ready to the consequences. I'm all for the 10 commandments, thou shall not kill."
What Jodi Arias Must Do When She Takes the Stand
But those taped police interrogations also show Arias lying easily and determinedly, denying that she was even in Arizona when Alexander was killed. She drew a map for Flores to show how she got lost on her way to Utah -- not Arizona -- to see Burns. She said the reason why her phone was off during the time of Alexander's death was because she lost it and its battery died. She later found the phone, she said, under the passenger seat of her car.
When Arias was cornered by evidence that she was at Alexander's house -- including dated photos of them nude on Alexander's bed -- she curled up in her chair and told police that a masked couple, a man and a woman, killed Alexander and took down information from her driver's license on where she and her parents lived.
In yet another example of what could be perceived as her ability to lie and lack of remorse, Arias drove straight from Alexander's house to Burns' home in Utah where they chastely kissed and cuddled. When Burns asked about cuts on her hands, Arias said she broke a glass at a bartending job.
"Jodi is not a sympathethic person," McDonald said. "It was an act of savagery. Look at the description of how she left him dead in the bathtub for days and within 24 hours was in bed with another guy in Utah."
McDonald said he expects the defense to try to convince the jury that Arias must have been faced with extraordinary and threatening circumstances to kill Alexander.
"How can we create an excuse for her? I think the best way is to have jurors look at her and say she is incapable of it, that something must have happened to provoke that violent outburst," he said.
"It's my understanding that they have some evidence that this guy was using her, so the challenege I think is one, to focus on personality, show likeability. And two, to show this guy a jerk," McDonald said. "Tough with his family loading into the courtroom every day, riveted with emotion. That will be hard."