UPDATE: Dr. Janeen DeMarte is on the stand for the prosecution. Updates to follow.
Testimony in the Jodi Arias murder trial began on January 2, 2013, but it seems like a lifetime ago. The defense took center stage after the State of Arizona presented their case in chief and rested on January 17th. The prosecution's witnesses consisted of lead detective Esteban Flores, various forensic personnel, latent fingerprint experts, the medical examiner, representatives of cellphone providers, a rental car representative, as well as the friends who discovered Travis Alexander's lifeless body in the shower stall of his Mesa home on June 9, 2008. Prosecutor Juan Martinez's case was straight forward and consisted of testimony about the evidence collected at the crime scene, crime scene photos and arguably one of the most compelling pieces of evidence collected were the recovered photos showing Jodi Arias was in fact in Mesa with Travis on June 4, 2008.
Juan Martinez methodically took us through the key pieces of evidence that ties Arias to the murder, including Arias's bloody palm print and hair recovered in the home. He took the jurors through Jodi Arias's fatal road trip that began on June 2, 2008 with Arias renting a car in Redding, CA and proceeding through Northern and Southern California before detouring to Mesa Arizona. This appears to have been a carefully planned trip, and Arias went to great lengths to avoid being detected in Mesa. She told no one she was in Arizona, rather her trip centered around a visit with new love interest Ryan Burns in Utah. The state's case was swift and no-nonsense. The timing seems to make sense to me now. Juan Martinez would let the defendant help him to convict her through her own testimony. The state will have the last word via their rebuttal case, and after Arias spent weeks on the stand Martinez effectively cross examined her and pointed out many inconsistencies in her testimony and her version of the events leading up to the murder.
Arias's defense team has had an uphill battle from the start. What do you do with a client who has lied so frequently and publicly by giving media interviews and telling very different versions of this murder? How would they get over the obvious credibility problems Arias would have when she took the stand to explain her self-defense claim? They kept her on the stand for as long as they could and began with a 6 or 7 year old Jodi Arias suffering from abusive parents and described her being hit with a wooden spoon her mother carried in her purse. Her father was described as an imposing man who disciplined Jodi often and at times violently. They took the jury though every relationship Arias had with another man, and tried to show a pattern of Arias being cheated on and lied to by the men in her life. They took a long time to get to her relationship with Travis Alexander, but when they finally did - they didn't waste time attacking Travis's character and his treatment of Jodi.
The centerpiece of the defense case was to portray Jodi Arias as a victim of emotional, psychological and physical abuse at the hands of Travis Alexander. There were a mountain of text messages, IMs, e-mails and journal entries submitted into evidence but not one of them backed up any of Arias's allegations of physical violence. With the lack of corroboration of her abuse claims and her credibility issues being confirmed by the questions posed to Arias from the jury, the defense relied heavily on two expert witnesses testimony to convince the jury that Arias was an abused woman. The first expert, Dr. Richard Samuels testified that Arias's memory loss during key points during and after the murder were attributed to PTSD. In addition he claimed Arias suffered from dissociative amnesia. The defense team hoped Samuel's experience in his field would bolster their client's stories of abuse and memory loss (aka "the fog"). Samuels testimony and his diagnosis of PTSD was called into question after the jury discovered that at the time the Samuels gave Arias the PTSD test, she was still claiming Travis Alexander was killed by two armed intruders. When he was informed of the lie by Arias's defense attorney, instead of re-testing Arias he decided not to. His reason for that critical error was that "trauma is trauma", meaning it didn't matter to him that Arias lied to him because he didn't believe the test results were effected as a result. The jury questions to Samuels were highly skeptical in nature and in the end, it was probably his simple failure to re-test Arias that outweighed his credentials.
The next expert witness for the defense was Alyce LaViolette from Long Beach California. The defense reportedly sought out local domestic violence experts, but when they were unable to retain one locally they presented the case to LaViolette who agreed the case merited her consideration. Alyce LaViolette potentially could have been a very effective witness for the defense. She has the experience in the field of domestic abuse and had been working in that field since the 70's-80's before the battered women's syndrome was accepted in courtrooms for self-defense claims. She was friendly when questioned by defense attorney Jennifer Willmott and gave the entire courtroom a lesson on domestic abuse via her "Continuum of Aggression and Abuse" piece. She told the jury that she spent a total of 44 hours interviewing Jodi Arias and read thousands of "collateral pieces" of evidence in the form of Arias's journals, text message between Arias and Alexander, e-mails and IM's. She ultimately told the jury that she believed Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander were in a domestically abusive relationship. But when Juan Martinez began to cross examine LaViolette, her tone changed and she became combative in answering nearly every question posed to her.
Her refusal to answer in a yes or no format, her sarcasm towards the prosecutor, her frequent glances to the defense table and her unwavering belief that Jodi Arias had no pattern of lying before murdering Travis Alexander may have lost the jury support that she had. Even when faced with specific instances where Arias lied before the killing, LaViolette's refusal to even entertain the idea that she could have been duped by this defendant seems to have struck a nerve with jurors and trial watchers. Another thing that worked against LaViolette was her very negative portrayal of Travis Alexander. Martinez was effective in pointing out the double standards LaViolette seemingly applied by showing her a text message in which Travis wrote of his fear of Jodi Arias due to her stalking behavior.
LaViolette made a conscious choice to disregard the comment, implying that Travis Alexander was lying to the woman he was texting. Martinez was effective in bringing many such instances to the surface, pointing to Jodi Arias as the person who moved to Mesa after she and Travis had broken up. Arias's stalking behavior included peeping into Travis's window while he was involved in an intimate moment with another woman and reading his social media pages and e-mail without his permission. In the end, LaViolette was highly criticized for not doing more to gain perspective on Travis Alexander's side of the relationship. LaViolette did not seek out Travis's friends or family members for interviews, instead she seems to have keyed in on a single negative e-mail sent to Travis by Chris and Sky Hughes where they told Travis he was mistreating Jodi Arias. That seems to be all the verification LaViolette needed to come to the conclusion that Travis Alexander was not a very good boyfriend to Arias. Jury questions to LaViolette had the same tone of skepticism as the questions to Samuels.
Was the defense effective in giving Arias any credibility at all? I think the only thing they really showed was that Travis Alexander and Jodi Arias had a highly charged back and forth relationship. Travis sent Jodi some scathing text messages or e-mails, but the defense failed to prove to me that Travis abused Jodi physically - and any emotional or verbal abuse didn't rise to the point to where a reasonable person would fear for their life. There are just a few hurdles I can't get over in this case:
The alleged choking incident - if you were choked to the point of being unconscious, I believe you would tell somebody - anybody. Arias didn't hesitate to talk to her father when she was upset about seeing Travis making out with another woman on his couch. She called her mother to ask for financial help moving back to Yreka. She did reach out for family support.
The second thing about the alleged choking incident - she clearly remembers the event. When confronted with the lack of evidence/documentation about the event, the defense pounded that point home saying that it was a traumatic event that she would have remembered. So, she remembers that, because it was traumatic. Yet she doesn't remember sticking a knife into Travis's body 29 times? She doesn't remember slitting his throat? Wouldn't the defense call those traumatic events? Why does Arias have selective memory when it comes to the traumatic events in her life?
The stolen gun - The defense has done little to convince me that the gun used to shoot Travis Alexander was owned by him and kept in a closet. The fact that a .25 caliber gun was reported as stolen from the place Arias lived a week before Travis was killed is just too much of coincidence to swallow. Further, nobody has come into the court room to testify that Travis owned a .25 caliber gun, or any gun for that matter. Nobody has seen a gun in his home with the exception of Arias. The defense wants the jury to take Jodi Arias's word that the gun used was not her grandfather's.
The camera & linebacker lunge - The defense has not convinced me that Travis Alexander would have gotten so angry because his camera was dropped that he would threaten Arias's life. She ruined his BMW, and that seemingly was taken in stride. I also don't see how it's physically possible to have all of the events Arias described as happening to have happened in 62 seconds. It's not something a reasonable person would believe. The closet photos are key, nothing was disturbed.
The child pornography - I think the defense made a critical miscalculation in presenting this piece of testimony. I don't believe any part of Arias's story about walking in on Travis on January 21, 2008. It's not believable that he would like little boys, young "pigtail" aged girls and have such a huge appetite for age-appropriate women at the same time. If the jury doesn't believe Arias on this one, they may find it so offensive that she pays dearly for making it.
The coded magazines - I don't even remember the defense addressing this issue during the trial. An innocent person has no need to ask another person to alter or change their testimony. This wasn't given much time during the trial, but to me it's a huge red flag against Arias.
The memory loss - aka "the fog" Arias has testified that due to the gravity of the events, she has no memory of stabbing Travis or slicing his throat. Arias has not regained any memory of the events, even in the form of "flashbacks". Yet there is much she does remember, immediately before the murder and she had enough brain function to know to delete those incriminating photos and clean up the murder scene, leave phone messages for Travis and complete other tasks one could not complete if in some kind of altered state of mind. She seems to not remember the very things that could convict her. That's troublesome to me.
These are just a few of the hurdles I feel the defense failed to clear in presenting their case. They are the simple things, yet they are important. They spent so much time dragging Travis Alexander through the mud and failed to produce any real viable evidence of Arias's credibility. They obviously haven't convinced me that she killed him in self defense. What do you think of the defense's overall case?
What will happen in the court room today? Will the State finally get to present their rebuttal case? Will Alyce LaViolette return to the stand with PTSD? Will the IRS audit Arias for the unreported income from her online art auctions? Will Judge Stephens hair ever move? Anything is possible!
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