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Jodi Arias - Battered or Scorned Woman?

32 year old murder defendant Jodi Arias broke down in tears in court on Thursday - her hands shook as they covered her face. She was at the end of a grueling cross examination by veteran Arizona prosecutor Juan Martinez and  has spent several weeks on the witness stand.  People are skeptical whether the tears she cried in court were for herself and the possibility of a death sentence or lengthy prison term, or if she is feeling remorse for savagely killing ex boyfriend Travis Alexander.

The trial has been headline grabbing because of the scandalous nature of the testimony heard in the courtroom and the unusual circumstances and evidence uncovered by law enforcement.  It's not often that the prosecutor has photographic evidence depicting a crime in progress, time & date stamped to boot. Without the photos, it would have been more difficult to pinpoint when the victim was killed and prove Arias was there.  The defendant has also drawn further attention to the case by holding a number of media interviews during her time in the Estrella jail where she has been held since shortly after her arrest on July 15, 2008. In the interviews, Arias appears almost giddy at times, applying makeup and primping her hair before the camera.

Arias has been charged with first degree murder with special circumstances that could get her the death penalty if convicted. Arias and her attorneys claim Arias killed Alexander in self-defense, but this was the third story she has given since the murder. During her time on the stand, her testimony was filled with the intimate details of their sex life and included a "sex tape" - an audio recording between Arias and Alexander where the jury first hears the voice of murder victim Travis Alexander.  Arias insists that she recorded the call at the request of Travis, yet it doesn't seem to me that he knew he was being recorded. If he had wanted her to record one of their "phone sex" calls, why would there be several minutes of unrelated chit chat before turning sexual? It sounded more like Arias was the one who turned the tone of the call, and I seriously doubt he would have wanted her to have this recording since he seemed to be keeping their relationship under wraps.

Arias and her attorney attempted to paint Travis Alexander as a controlling and abusive man with an abnormal appetite for kinky sex.  They even went as far as to allege he was attracted to very young boys - an allegation that lacks any evidence other than the words of the defendant who has much to gain by lying. Prosecutor Juan Martinez cross examined Arias and discredited nearly every event in which Arias claims she was physically or sexually abused and since she provided specific dates for several of the alleged attacks, Martinez was able to discredit Arias by using her own words against her.

He used Jodi Arias's media and police interviews to show she was a well documented liar - he used her own dated journal entries to suggest these things never happened to Arias.  In one entry during a crucial period in January of 2008, Arias wrote "haven't written in a while because there is nothing noteworthy to report".  This was written just two days following one of the most outrageous allegations she made about Travis Alexander, telling the jury she walked in on Travis "pleasuring himself" while viewing photos of young boys. Much of her defense is built around this event, which she claims occurred on January 21, 2008. Arias testified that on January 22, 2008 she and Travis had an argument that turned violent. She described being "body slammed" to the floor, being kicked in the ribs and hand - resulting in a broken left ring finger. She would go on to use the body slammed term several times under direct and cross examination - sounded a little too rehearsed in my opinion.  As did the "linebacker pose" she described him taking on June 4, 2008 before she killed him.

Next week as the defense case continues, they are expected to bring forth an expert witness in the area of" Battered Woman Syndrome". I'm not sure if this is a psychologist or a psychiatrist but it's expected they will argue Arias suffered from something that caused her to snap. I wanted to review the origin of the "battered woman syndrome" to see how they may try to use this to help Arias.

I was surprised to find that "battered woman's syndrome" was a term coined by a Dr. Lenore Walker in the 1970's and is only based on her own clinical observations to which she wrote and published her hypothesis on.  It was never validated based on scientific research or accepted as a bona fide condition. Still, the concept caught on in courtrooms across America as a way to explain and justify the murder of a woman's spouse. 

While domestic violence is a real and growing epidemic in this country, unfortunately there is no way to differentiate women who truly are battered from those who just claim they are in order to escape punishment for their criminal acts. Battered woman's syndrome has been used in criminal trials by women for justification or self defense, for temporary insanity claims, for diminished capacity claims and to mitigate circumstances to reduce their punishment if found guilty. While the idea of battered woman's syndrome was originally proposed as a theory sympathetic to women who were battered and only killed to stop the battering, it has been misused by many who simply present false symptoms and false testimony in an attempt to avoid punishment. 

In 2003, Susan Wright was arrested and charged with killing her husband Jeff Wright in Houston, Texas.  Jeff Wright was stabbed 193 times with two different knives. Susan Wright pleaded "not guilty by reason of self-defense", and claimed she suffered years of abuse at the hands of a violent husband who abused drugs. In 2004, Wright was convicted of second degree murder  and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Wright won an appeal after a new witness came forward to help substantiate Wright's claims that Jeff was abusive. The witness was a former fiancee of Jeff Wrights, and she testified about the abuse and violence she endured during a 4 year relationship with him.

Based on the new information, Susan Wright's sentence was reduced to 20 years. She will be eligible for parole in February of 2014 when she is 38 years old. Did I tell you she stabbed him 193 times???? I don't know if I'll ever agree that 193 stab wounds = self defense. I have the same problem with Jodi Arias's defense.  One look at those crime scene photos makes any type of justification defense seem ludicrous. Had she shot him once, stabbed him once, perhaps she could make a case that she did so to defend herself.  Comparing Travis's wounds to Jodi's tells the story of a one-sided fight that he may not have even seen coming. After all, she was telling him how to pose for the shower pictures, even photographing him with his back turned to her and sitting in the shower. That must have left him completely vulnerable and defenseless against her.

It's cases like these that truly damage the real victims of abuse in this country.  Reports of abuse against women has been rising at an alarming rate, and that doesn't take into account the many many cases that are never reported because the victim is truly afraid and may have nowhere to go. These women are often times financially dependent on the abuser, may have children with them and for whatever reason they can't seem to break free. The most dangerous time in the life of a battered woman is when they attempt to leave. There are women out there who end up injuring or killing an abusive boyfriend or husband in self defense, it's almost always their last resort after enduring and suffering over a long period of time. At that point, they likely are not concerned with the consequences of their actions, they have just had enough and are afraid they will end up being killed if they fail to act.

Each and every case is unique with it's own set of circumstances. Putting Jodi Arias is a category with these other victims of domestic violence, based only on her word is an injustice to battered women everywhere. I'm afraid that domestic violence and battered women's syndrome and the like are being over used by defense attorneys in an attempt to escape or minimize punishment for criminal behavior. How can we trust the opinion of the expert witnesses, if their opinions are based on deception and lies by a defendant?  How does a doctor measure whether or not the person they are examining is being truthful? Science has come a long way in assisting law enforcement in bringing criminals to justice, unfortunately science has not come up with a way to validate abuse allegations.  

It will be interesting to see how Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott attempt to clear the wreckage left behind by Juan Martinez's very effective cross examination of their client. Speaking of expert witnesses, another interesting twist to this case was reported on February 6, 2013 when a key rebuttal witness for the prosecution reported a burglary at her home in which her laptop was stolen!  Dr. Janeen Demarte is a clinical psychologist who examined Jodi Arias and is expected to be called as a rebuttal witness for the State.

The laptop contained a psychological profile of Jodi Arias. Demarte has been called a "key witness" for the State, so the theft of her laptop seems untimely and highly suspicious. It was not reported if anything else of value was taken, but it's just another one of those things that have made this case a media circus. Demarte has been reportedly listed as a witness for the State for the last 2 years in "publicly filed documents". Could this be a random burglary, or did somebody target the home for the content of the laptop? Could Demarte's report on Arias give the defense a hand up during their expert's testimony? Only time will tell. Arias has been in jail for nearly 5 years waiting for her day in court. I'm sure she has developed many relationships with people on the outside. Prosecutor Juan Martinez demonstrated the lengths Arias is willing to go to in order to escape or minimize her punishment when he entered the magazines into evidence that contained a coded message that Arias attempted to give to Ann Campbell during a jailhouse visit. The magazines were intercepted by the guards at the jail, but the coded message suggested that Arias was attempting to get somebody to change their testimony to match her own.

So we have seen the deception Jodi Arias is capable of. The trial resumes tomorrow.  Stay tuned! Have a great weekend -

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