(PHOENIX) — Accused murderer Jodi Arias believes she should be punished, but hopes she will not be sentenced to death, two of her closest friends told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
Ann Campbell and Donavan Bering have been a constant presence for Arias, with at least one of them sitting in the Phoenix courtroom along with Arias’ family for almost every day of her murder trial. They befriended Arias after she first arrived in jail and believe in her innocence.
Arias admits killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander and lying for nearly two years about it, but insists she killed Alexander in self defense. She could face the death penalty if convicted of murder. Nevertheless, she is aware of the seriousness of her lies and deceitful behavior.
The women told ABC News that they understand that Arias needs to be punished and Arias understands that too.
“She does know that, you know, she does need to pay for the crime,” Campbell said. “But I don’t want her to die, and I know that she has so much to give back.”
The lies that Arias admits she told to police and her family have been devastating to her, Bering said.
“She said to me, ‘I wish I didn’t have to have lied. That destroyed me,'” Donovan said earlier this week. “Because now when it’s so important for her to be believed, she has that doubt. But as she told me on the phone yesterday, she goes, ‘I have nothing to lose.’ So all she can do is go out there and tell the truth.”
During Arias’ nine days on the stand, she has described in detail the oral, anal and phone sex that she and Alexander allegedly engaged in, despite being Mormons and trying to practice chastity. She also spelled out in excruciating detail what she claimed was Alexander’s growing demands for sex, loyalty and subservience along with an increasingly violent temper.
Besides her two friends, Arias’ mother and sometimes her father have been sitting in the front row of the courtroom during the testimony. It’s been humiliating, Bering said.
“She’s horrified. There’s not one ounce of her life that’s not out there, that’s not open to the public. She’s ashamed,” she said.
The two Phoenix women say they have been supporting Arias since 2008 when she first arrived at the Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Bering got to know Arias well while incarcerated on an accessory to arson charge. She asked her friend Campbell to visit Arias, too, because Arias’ family was out of state.
Campbell said, “We hit it off right away. She’s very nice and funny. And really articulate.”
Their growing friendship continued after Bering was released from jail. Now, they say, they speak to Arias by phone daily and visit often.
They told ABC News that they were initially reluctant to speak out, but felt it was important for people to hear about the Jodi Arias they have come to know and love — a woman, they say, who is not the murderous monster she’s been portrayed as over the last two months.
“I find it really hard to believe what happened, knowing her,” Bering said. “Never, ever have I seen her raise her voice, seen her yell, seen her do anything. So when I’m sitting there in court, it blows me away because I’m sitting there knowing the person that I know, seeing her and talking to her and see how much compassion she has.”
Campbell says she believes Arias’ story of self-defense and that, “It had to be something terrible for her to snap because in the four and a half years that I visited her, I’ve never seen her get angry, lose her temper.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ivaylo Vezenkov, CNN
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Eli Watkins, CNN
Miranda Green, CNN