By Tim Gaynor
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A woman charged in Arizona with capital murder for stabbing and shooting her lover to death laid out in graphic detail on Monday what she said was the first time she had sex with him, an experience she said began while she was still asleep and left her concerned about her spiritual health.
Lawyers for Jodi Arias, whose testimony has gripped viewers across the United States, argue she acted in self-defense when she killed Travis Alexander, who was found in the shower of his Phoenix valley home in 2008, shot in the face, stabbed 27 times and with his throat slit.
Prosecutors say Arias killed Alexander in a fit of jealous rage.
"We fell asleep, and I woke up and he was on top of me. He had already ... started having sex," Arias, a petite woman with long brown hair, said in a fourth day of testimony in an Arizona courtroom where she is on trial accused of murdering Alexander months after that encounter.
Arias could face the death penalty if convicted, and in questioning her about the pair's sexual experiences, her lawyer appeared to be continuing groundwork for a defense centered on a pattern of abuse she and her lawyer say she experienced in the relationship.
Describing the 2007 encounter which occurred several months after they had begun dating, she told the court she did not feel unsafe when she woke up to find Alexander having sex with her. But Arias, who said she converted to Mormonism at Alexander's behest, said she was worried about the "spiritual consequences" of the act.
"I wanted to comport with the law of chastity because I believed that our relationship would be blessed if we did that," she testified, dressed in a light wool blouse and eyeglasses.
Her counsel says Arias killed Alexander, whom she met at a legal insurance convention in Las Vegas in 2006, in self-defense after their relationship turned abusive.
She also testified on Monday that her lover had been physically abusive to her on three occasions, the last in 2008 following an argument over money. She described how Alexander threw her to the floor and kicked her in the ribs, breaking her ring finger.
"It reminds me of the incident," Arias said, holding up the crooked digit to the court. "I try not to think about it. Because it's unpleasant."
She described how, after she moved to the Phoenix valley in 2007 from California, her lover offered her $200 a month to clean his home, and asked her to dress provocatively in a black-and-white French maid's outfit.
Arias said she had once walked in on her lover looking at a picture of a scantily clad young boy for sexual gratification, and said that had made her feel physically sick.
"I was frozen there for a minute ... and I didn't know how to react. It kind of seemed like one of those dreams where something is really off," she said of the incident in 2008.
Alexander, 30, had been dead for five days when he was found. His death was connected to Arias after sexually explicit photos were found on the memory card of his camera. Arias is due to resume her testimony on Tuesday.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Steve Orlofsky and Mohammad Zargham)