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Arias Verdict Comes Down To Defendant's Credibility

It's been the battle of the experts in the Phoenix courtroom where the Jodi Arias murder trial has been ongoing since January 2, 2013. The defense put on 38 days of testimony, much of from the 32 year old woman who stands accused of the first degree murder of her ex boyfriend, 30 year old Travis Alexander.

The case is not a "whodunit", as it originally was. After being confronted with a mountain of physical evidence against her, Jodi Arias eventually conceded her involvement, although she gave three distinctively different versions of events since the June 4, 2008 killing occurred. She took the stand and testified for nearly four weeks. She is alleging that she killed Travis Alexander in self defense after being battered and abused by him during their brief yet stormy relationship.

The trial has been sensational in that Arias has made some stunning allegations against the man that most friends and family knew as a funny and charismatic man with deep religious beliefs. He was known as a motivation speaker, through his work at Pre Paid Legal but he was more than that. He motivated friends and complete strangers to live the best life they could. He came from a humble background, raised by his grandparents and was a self-made success story. He genuinely seemed to be loved and admired by many who knew and miss him.

During the four month trial, the packed court room has heard a shocking phone sex call, recorded by Arias. They've seen graphic crime scene photos and autopsy report. The jury has seen photos taken in the minutes before Travis Alexander was killed. They have read countless e-mails, text messages, IM's, journal entries and other materials entered into evidence. There have been tears, sadness and frustration shown on the faces of Travis Alexander's family and friends sitting in the gallery. Jodi Arias's mother Sandy and her twin sister have been a constant presence in the court room, supporting a daughter who has testified that she beat her with a wooden spoon. I've seen sadness on the face of her father, who can't attend court often due to his health. It's been a long and exhausting trial for the jury and everyone involved in the daily minutia.

The "battle of the expert witnesses" has been ongoing since the first defense expert, Dr. Richard Samuels took the stand and discussed his PTSD diagnosis of Arias. Alyce LaViolette followed, and gave the court room and trial watchers her version of "Domestic Abuse 101", talking at great length about what a battered woman goes through, why they remain in abusive relationships and why they often don't report their abusers. There have been hundreds of jury questions for witnesses to answer. Each and every point is dissected in non-stop trial coverage and debated on social media. Here we are, four and a half months later and the State is now in their rebuttal case. Another expert witness is on the stand, this time for the prosecution and she has a much different diagnosis of the defendant than the defense's experts.

The jury will be in information-overload when it's time to deliberate. What will ultimately be the deciding factors in coming to a verdict? After everything is said and done, I still believe it will come down to whether or not they believed Jodi Arias's testimony. The way she has presented her allegations against the man she murdered, they may take an all or nothing approach. If she lied about the abuse, she likely lied about everything. Or there may be a few key pieces of the evidence that are so strong, the experts testimony would be rendered a wash. Who knows what will ultimately be the key that locks or unlocks the door. It's not often that a jury gets to hear from a murder defendant, in their own words - from the stand. This defendant not only took the stand, she stayed there a very long time.

Was the lengthy testimony of Jodi Arias part of the defense plan to make it more difficult to put her to death? Did they hope she would make some kind of connection with just one juror? I don't know. It's difficult to know when we can't see the reactions on the faces of the jury, but we have been able to tell some things via the jury questions. The jury's questions of Jodi Arias, Dr. Richard Samuels and of Alyce LaViolette seemed highly skeptical in nature. We will see how the jury viewed Dr. DeMarte's diagnosis and testimony when it comes time for her to answer the jury questions. But at this point the defense has got to be nervous. They didn't quite go out with the bang they were hoping to get from Alyce LaViolette. She was THE witness they were relying heavily on to sell the abuse story to this jury.  

Just because the jury questions seemed skeptical, that doesn't necessarily believe everybody on the jury is skeptical. It simply means that at least one juror is. We don't know how many jurors are submitting the questions, although we have some information that Juror #5 was a big note taker and likely one of the jurors who regularly submitted questions. It would be dangerous to assume all of the jurors feel the same way, so I hope that Juan Martinez takes the time that he needs to put on an effective rebuttal case. There may be some time pressure, since the jury was not anticipating the trial to last this long - the defense took their time, as they should. But the State should have the same opportunity to present the rebuttal evidence in kind. They owe it to Travis Alexander and to his family. 

We keep hearing about Jodi Arias's right to a fair trial, regardless of how much time it takes and that's true. But conversely, Travis Alexander is also entitled to justice and a fair trial, and the person who took his life needs to be held accountable. I feel like Juan Martinez may be rushing to the finish line, and I'd like him to slow down and really focus on the rebuttal case. Well, another shortened day in court. After the afternoon break, the Judge announced that something had come up and she excused the jury for the day. What now? Let me guess, another motion for a mistrial? Jennifer Willmott was accusing Dr. DeMarte of practicing without a license earlier today! Who knows why testimony was cut short.

What will tomorrow bring? Will Juan Martinez get his own likeness in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum?  Will Jodi Arias become her own court room sketch artist? Will the state of Arizona need to raise their state tax to pay for this trial ($1.4MM and growing)? Will Jodi, Jennifer and Janeen quit their day jobs and form a girl band with bangs? Anything is possible!

Hypocritical Cross Examination of Dr. Janeen DeMarte - Jodi Arias Murder Trial

The Jodi Arias murder trial continues this morning with Jennifer Willmott continuing her cross examination of the State's expert witness Dr. Janeen DeMarte. My jaw has dropped several times during the first hour of testimony, as Willmott tries to highlight DeMarte's lack of experience, publications and the fees she charges in her personal practice and for forensic testing and trial testimony.

Jennifer Willmott came out swinging this morning, and after challenging DeMarte's relatively short career as a licensed psychologist, she began to ask questions about how much DeMarte charges clients in her personal practice and what she is being paid by the State of Arizona for her testimony in this trail. Willmott quizzed DeMarte on her private practice, what insurance companies she accepts and if she has a "sliding scale" for low income clients.

DeMarte disclosed she charges $125/hour or session, it wasn't clear to me if this was her hourly rate or per session rate. DeMarte said she did not have a "sliding scale". Willmott defined what a sliding scale was for the jury (as if they don't know), saying "so if somebody who doesn't make a lot of money wants to see you, you don't adjust your rates"? She then moved on to what DeMarte is being paid for her evaluation and court testimony in this trial. DeMarte disclosed she is being paid $300.00 per hour for court testimony and $250.00 an hour for research and testing. This is exactly what Alyce LaViolette was being paid, albeit I'm willing to bet LaViolette billed for 2-3 times the number of hours that DeMarte did. The obvious ploy to make DeMarte look greedy was highlighted by her comment "so $300.00 an hour is considerably more than $125.00 per hour". That was more of a statement by Willmott than a question.

The hypocrisy in that line of questioning is almost laughable. Willmott attempted to get DeMarte to disclose the number of hours she billed for, DeMarte said she didn't know the exact number. "Was it more than 100 hours?" Willmott asked. "No".  "Was it more than 50 hours"? DeMarte believes it was somewhere in the middle. OK, isn't this the same defense team who sought a protective order from the court to seal "any and all billing records submitted by any member of Ms. Arias's defense team"? Are you kidding me? DeMarte spent a total of 12 1/2 hours talking with Jodi Arias. As with the defense experts, she reviewed all documents and heard the media interviews, police interrogations etc. Yet I'm willing to bet LaViolette and Samuels billed for at least twice as many hours as DeMarte will.

I'm trying to find the exact number of days Alyce LaViolette was on the stand but I know it was at least 8 days. That's likely another 48 hours (using 6 hours per day) to add to the 44 hours of interview time. It's impossible to estimate how many hours any expert spent researching the case and reviewing all "collateral" information so I'm leaving that piece out of the estimate. That will be the piece that will likely be the most costly. 

48 trial hours @ $300.00                         = $13,200.00
44 interview hours w/Jodi Arias @ $250.00 = $11,000.00
Trial & interview costs for Alyce LaViolette =  $24,200.00

Dr. Samuels wasn't on the stand for nearly as long as LaViolette was, and he was paid $250.00 an hour. I'm not trying to calculate what he was paid. Juan Martinez questioned DeMarte for roughly one day under direct examination. DeMarte has no control over how long the defense will take for the cross examination, but let's say she spend three days testifying. DeMarte spent 12 1/2 hours with Arias, 30 minutes interviewing Steven Alexander (Travis' brother) and an undetermined number of hours researching the same documents, interviews, police interrogations and written materials the other experts reviewed. I'm willing to bet DeMarte's bill will be for much less than LaViolette, but we may never know because the defense is trying to block this information from the public.!

If DeMarte spends 3 days under direct, cross examination, jury questions and redirect, she will have spent approximately 18 hours in court (using 6 hr. court days) at $300.00 per hour. This may be inaccurate since DeMarte is still on the stand, and she has no control over how long the defense will keep her there!

18 trial hours @ $300.00                         = $5,400.00
12 interview hours w/Jodi Arias @ $250.00 = $3,000.00
Trial & interview cost for Dr. Demarte:       = $8,400.00

In addition to the notable difference in the compensation between Alyce LaViolette and DeMarte, LaViolette shamelessly plugged her book that is coming out later this month during the trial. Talk about free advertising? That could have been invaluable for her, had her testimony been seen as more credible by the viewing public. My point here is that for Willmott to suggest that DeMarte was in this for the money was a ridiculous argument to make. I'm sure the jury agrees the experts were well paid. The difference here is DeMarte didn't spent an excessive amount of time talking to build a rapport with Arias, like the defense experts claimed was necessary. DeMarte didn't bring Arias gifts or self help books, and DeMarte didn't continue to visit Arias in jail once her testing and clinical evaluation was completed.

In another hypocritical line of questioning, Willmott questioned why DeMarte spent such little time talking to people relating to this case! Did I hear you right Ms. Willmott? At least DeMarte talked to somebody other than Jodi Arias. Yesterday I thought DeMarte mentioned speaking to Jodi's parents because of something she said about Arias's mom saying Jodi was "happy as hell" they visited her in jail. "So you only spent 30-45 minutes talking to Steven Alexander and 12 hours with Jodi Arias and you didn't talk to anybody else regarding this case?" Willmott's questions seemed more like statements in many cases, and this was one of those moments. Does anybody else see the raging hypocrisy? 

Jennifer Willmott attacked DeMarte frequently and fiercely today. She spent a considerable amount of time questioning DeMarte's knowledge and experience in the area of domestic violence and abuse. DeMarte is obviously not an "expert" in domestic abuse as LaViolette was. Willmott seemed to sense she found a point she could capitalize on, and she ran with it for much of the last hour of testimony. DeMarte held her own for the most part, but Willmott exposed some areas where DeMarte may have some weaknesses - for example, in the area of battered woman's syndrome and domestic violence, Willmott picked up on DeMarte's lack of publications and other experts in that area and she drove that point home to the jury. 

Court is taking their afternoon lunch break now.  The defense managed to make some points today, although Willmott's aggressive and sarcastic style doesn't suit her. 

What will the afternoon session bring? Will Jennifer Willmott ask Dr. DeMarte if she still gets carded when she buys booze? Will Kirk Nurmi ever appear to be interested in what's happening around him? Will Jodi Arias apply to law school in an attempt to be more Willmott? Will the jury get to deliberate this case before it's time to carve our pumpkins and go trick or treating? Will DeMarte send Jodi Arias a subscription to "Highlights" magazine? Anything is possible in this trial.

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