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LaViolette's "The Continuum Of Aggression & Abuse" Explained

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!







A Look At Alyce LaViolette And More Strange Video Footage of Arias Arrest

Yesterday, as Dr. Richard Samuels finished up his testimony the Jodi Arias defense team called their next expert witness to the stand, Alyce LaViolette. LaViolette is a very legitimate expert on the subject of domestic violence, having been one of the early leaders back in the 1970's when this was not a topic that was spoke of often. Jennifer Willmott had LaViolette introduce herself and her educational background, and list her many accomplishments helping battered women and even helping the men who battered them, hoping to return these women to a safer environment. She is likable, and she is a legitimate voice on this topic. The prosecution should not expect this witness to be as sloppy in the trial casework and reporting as Dr. Samuels was. 

While it's unknown exactly how far out on a limb LaViolette will go for Jodi Arias, she is expected to testify about some of the characteristics of battered women, why they return to their abusers - and what some of characteristics are of an abuser. LaViolette's credentials and accomplishments are too many to list - her website has a 20 page PDF document listing it all . From her expert witness/trial experience, I picked out what I thought appeared similar in nature - unfortunately, it doesn't have the case names, but I think it's safe to say the 2011-13 Expert Witness & Consultant, Death-Penalty Murder Trial in Phoenix, Arizona is AZ vs. Jodi Arias:

2011-13 Expert Witness and Consultant. Death-Penalty Murder Trial. Phoenix, Arizona 1998 Consultant, Murder Trial. Interviewed defendant, assisted in developing strategy for defense
1997 Expert Witness/Consultant, First Degree Murder Case. Father who killed daughter’s alleged batterer. Dealing with issues of Battered Woman Syndrome; Vicarious (secondary) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; Batterers.
1996 Consultant, Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Interviewed defendant to determine whether she suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome. Consulted with attorney, wrote report.  
1989 Consultant. Penalty phase, capital punishment case. Consulted with attorneys.
1987-88 Consultant/Expert Witness. First degree murder with special circumstances. Interviewed battered woman who allegedly hired a hit man to kill her husband. Advised attorney of symptoms of battered wife syndrome and testified for defense.
1984-85 Expert Witness. 1st degree murder case (battered woman who allegedly killed her husband). Consulted with defense attorney on jury selection and development of questions to develop battered women syndrome.

It appears she has done a fair amount of work in this area, as an expert witness or consultant. I'm trying to find out the cases attached to these entries, just because I'm curious of the outcome and circumstances of those cases.

In other Arias news, unseen video footage from the Arias arrest in Northern California was played last night - it's a shame the jury isn't seeing this in it's entirety. In a conversation about anger with Detective Flores, Arias recounts a time when she was a teenager when she kicked the family dog, and the dog ended up running away. She said she felt bad about that, and she wanted to apologize to the dog "because dogs have souls too". Detective Flores said "you need to apologize to Travis, for what you did to him". Arias was still in full denial mode, as her voice shifted to almost a childlike tone as she seemingly flirted with the officer, asking him what type of gun he had. Another example of Arias trying to use the one weapon that has always worked for her in the past.

In another clip, she is talking to the detective about Travis - she tells him that Travis had found the woman he wanted to spend his life with, but she still hadn't found the man she wanted to share her life with. She said "I'm happy for him", and "I want him to be happy" - she mentions the name Mimi Hall, and tells him that she doesn't personally know Mimi Hall, but has talked to her at church events. Right there - that strongly suggests that Jodi Arias believed that Travis Alexander was very serious about pursuing Marie Hall! She knew it, she said those words - it's on video, why isn't the jury seeing this? If she's telling the detective these things, you can only imagine how amplified this thought was in Arias's head as she drove to Mesa, to make one last ditch effort to win Travis back. She only had 6 days before he's be on a plane to Cancun with the other woman, the woman she believed Travis was very serious about! How is this NOT relevant to motive? How can Arias accuse him of being a sexual deviant, with nothing to corroborate her claims yet this video evidence is not being seen by the people who are in charge of deciding her fate?

Each time they release more video of Arias's strange behavior, I am more convinced that she went to Mesa with a plan in mind. She is being given so much latitude in her defense that it feels like the trial has lost sight of who the true victim is, and it's Travis Alexander - not Jodi Arias.  While it will be difficult to hear LaViolette refer to Arias as a battered or abused woman, we have to keep the faith that there are going to be 12 reasonable people sitting on that jury, and they are taking their job very seriously. Arias's defense team can't seriously believe Arias will escape justice for this brutal ans senseless murder, but what they are doing is setting up their mitigating factors for the punishment phase of the trial. "Jodi was abused by her mother, Jodi was cheated on and lied to by her boyfriends, Jodi was controlled and manipulated by Travis Alexander", and so on.  She needs to take some responsibility for her actions, and if she HAS a soul, she needs to tell the truth about what happened.

Does anybody have any doubt that she remembers exactly what she did to him on June 4, 2008? I'm willing to bet that she WISHES she could forget the details, but this is a woman who wanted to view the crime scene photos out of "a morbid curiosity"? 

Judging by the 6 days Dr. Samuels was on the stand, I'd expect no less for this expert witness. This may be the defense's last shot at making some points with the jury towards Arias's claims of self defense and being in mortal fear at the time of the murder.  I'd expect they will take as much time as they feel is necessary, since their last expert failed in such an epic fashion.  I will patiently wait until Juan Martinez is able to put on the State's rebuttal case, where I believe he will pull out some of the best evidence against Jodi Arias, and her house of cards will fall. 

How did Willmott & Nurmi get Alyce LaViolette to testify on behalf of Jodi Arias with little to no real evidence to corroborate her allegations against Travis? This concerns me, because this witness IS actually well respected and she is likable. This will be some interesting testimony.

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