Arias defense attorney Jennifer Willmott spent the morning with expert witness Alyce LaViolette discussing her widely used "The Continuum of Aggression and Abuse". This document was projected in the courtroom and had 5 columns that seemed to represent a sliding scale of abusive situations/relationships - beginning with the least abusive to the worst. These were: "Common Couple Aggression", "High Conflict", "Abuse", "Battering" and "Terrorism/Stalking". Hey, this would have been a good witness for the State, because I feel I recognized many Jodi Arias traits in each of these columns!
LaViolette has a much better presence on the stand than Dr. Richard Samuels did, she speaks openly and freely and presents the information in a manner that people can relate to and understand. She clearly knows what she is presenting to the jury and more importantly she knows how to convey the data more effectively than the last witness. Willmott walked her through each of these escalating levels of dysfunctional relationships, and LaViolette gave explanations and examples. I can see where Kirk Nurmi may have flavored his questions to Arias around some of the data on this "Continuum" - the language and some of the examples that were given seemed vaguely familiar.
"Common Couple Aggression" is described as a situation where an unusual act in an otherwise healthy relationship. This may be an isolated incident such as throwing something or yelling, but there are normally no injuries inflicted. This type of aggression could happen in any normal family and there is usually a balance of power within the relationship.
The "High Conflict" relationships are described as unhealthy and mutually disrespectful relationships where anger may be an issue, conflicts are not resolved and there may be emotional abuse, name calling or a balance of power. The Arias defense has tried to show that Travis Alexander had the power and was the driver of their dysfunctional relationship.
"Abuse" - characteristics of this type of relationship are sporadic physical aggression, verbal abuse, name calling, threats of abandonment, and the aggression normally takes place without witnesses.
"Battering" - more frequent physical violence, jealousy, controlling behavior, more public physical aggression, name calling/attacks character, sexual abuse, isolation, change in victim's personality, putting down friends and family, destruction of property, threatens to kill self or others, self-absorbed, generally more violent.
"Terrorism/Stalking" - insidious psychological abuse, well thought out and specific threats to kill, extreme isolation, torturing pets, sexual humiliation and degradation, generally more regular physical abuse (but may occur without any physical abuse).
Can we see where the defense is driving this bus? The defense allocated a lot of their time to the sexual relationship between Arias and Alexander - it's clear why they did so, but will the jury buy that Jodi Arias wasn't an equally enthusiastic partner? LaViolette finished the discussion by describing some of the other factors that could effect a person's ability to handle things in a healthy way: Family of origin issues, previously abusive relationships, substance abuse and psychological issues.
It seems like in addition to blaming Travis Alexander for Jodi Arias's behavior, the defense is going to throw her family under that bus as well. I can see the family of origin issue being used, as Arias has testified to her troubled relationship with her mother (the wooden spoon) and her father who disciplined her by slapping her down.
All in all, there was little interruption during the morning presentation aside from the early objections and three sidebars within the first 15 minutes of court. After that, it was smooth sailing. Martinez is letting LaViolette talk. Earlier this morning, Willmott asked this expert about her previous court experience, how much she is being paid and if she ever turns down cases that are presented to her.
LaViolette disclosed that she is being paid $250.00 an hour for research and $300.00 per hour for court appearances. She has testified in 18 trials. She said that in the cases that she turned down, it was either a case where she didn't feel there was enough evidence to merit her participation, or she simply didn't have enough time in her schedule to commit the amount of time necessary. She was interviewed and retained by the Arias defense team in late September or early October of 2011. She seems genuine, honest and prepared.
It appears that LaViolette provided expert witness testimony for Brenda Clubine, a woman who was convicted of 2nd degree murder for killing her abusive husband, Robert. Clubine served 26 years of a 16 year to life sentence but in 2008, Clubine was released due to a successful "habeus" petition. Her conviction was vacated and she instead was allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 7 years - she was released for time served.
At the time of her trial in 1984, the "battered women's syndrome" wasn't legally accepted in self defense arguments in the state of California. Clubine suffered a great deal of physical injuries at the hands of her husband, including a fractured skull,shattered jaw, broken collarbone and cracked ribs. Brenda Clubine filed more than 42 police reports against her husband for battery, and was seeking a divorce at the time of the killing. Clubine wasn't able to introduce her medical records of police reports during her trial, because the abuser wasn't there to defend himself. Any witnesses to the violence were not allowed to testify due to "hearsay" issues.
During her time in prison, Clubine co-founded "Convicted Women Against Abuse", and teamed with Olivia Klaus and filmed a documentary called "Sin by Silence", which tells Clubine's story and the story of countless others who remain behind bars. Clubine continues to be an advocate for abused women.
Clearly that case differs from the Jodi Arias case. I had been searching for information on the other cases where LaViolette contributed and stumbled onto this one, so I hastily put this together while listening to the courtroom testimony. My apologies that the information isn't more detailed - more on this to come!