Arias was found guilty May 8 in the grisly premeditated first-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in June 2008. (Photo : MySpace: Jodi Arias)
Besieged by blatantly skeptical jury questions, the expert witness for Jodi Arias' defense was clearly flustered Friday, scrambling to prove her professional opinion of the case was accurate.
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Arias' lawyers are currently trying to establish her inherent need for self-defense against her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander through a series of paid expert witnesses. In an attempt to prove he fractured her mental state so badly that's she's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and is a victim of domestic abuse, the defense has brought in psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette. The defense's assertion that Arias is the real victim here is the crux of its argument at this point in the trial. If they can convince the jury she was physically and mentally abused, she could beat the murder charge against her. Meanwhile, prosecuting attorney Juan Martinez is determined to prove Arias' premeditation to sustain a first-degree murder charge in Alexander's killing.
A 32-year-old photographer from California, Arias is charged with the grisly first-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Alexander in June 2008, when she stabbed the 30-year-old man 27 times, primarily in the back, shot him in the face, slit his throat from ear to ear with so much force it almost decapitated him, and left his bloodied corpse crumpled over in the bathroom shower of his home - all in the course of 106 seconds. Arias' guilt is not up for debate - but her mental state at the time of the killing is. Arias' future depends on whether the jury believes she killed Alexander in self-defense, or was actually a jilted lover exacting jealous revenge.
Earlier in the week, jurors submitted a wealth of questions to be asked to LaViolette by Judge Sherry Stephens. Arizona is one of three states that allow jurors to ask witnesses questions once prosecuting and defense attorneys have completed their questioning. So far, the jury's questions for LaViolette have provided some of the most illuminating moments of the trial yet. One thing has been made abundantly clear: many of the jurors do not buy LaViolette's diagnosis of Arias as a victim of domestic abuse. Her professional opinion was scrutinized in many of the questions.
LaViolette: "It sounds like a really foolish statement to me."
Juror: "Do you have any evidence other than Arias' word that Alexander made her remove pages from her journal?"
LaViolette: "No I don't."
The defense's expert witness might not have revealed much in her evasive, cryptic responses, but the jury's questions spoke volumes of how the jury perceives Arias and LaViolette, suggesting many jurors haven't believed a word of the psychologist's testimony. One member of the jury outright asked: "Is not the perpetrator of the greatest domestic violence Arias?" To which LaViolette curtly replied, "No."
LaViolette seemed surprised by many of the jury's questions. She was noticeably taken aback by the explicit skepticism of her professional opinion, and fumbled throughout many of her answers of Friday, trying to maintain her composure.
Juror: "How can she remember physical abuse so clearly when she never wrote about it in her journal?"
LaViolette: "I know that people remember things that they don't write down."
Juror: "Do you believe Arias was a victim of sexual degradation?"
LaViolette: "I believe she participated ... went along with things ... and I believe she wanted to be in that relationship and went further than she should."
Many of the jury's questions focussed on the likelihood that Arias had manipulated LaViolette into believing she was a victim of domestic abuse, with some openly doubting her ability to realize Arias was manipulating her.
Juror: "Why don't you feel Arias is manipulative?"
LaViolette: "I don't see a pattern of manipulation the way I would define it."
Juror: "Other than what Arias has told you, what evidence have you seen that Alexander was physically abusive?"
LaViolette: "I actually didn't see other evidences of physical violence by Travis."
Arias has already admitted to lying about Alexander's death to just about everyone. She first claimed she was never at Alexander's home the day he was killed. Then, when a bloody handprint on the wall confirmed she was there through DNA evidence, she admitted she was there, but said masked intruders killed him. Finally, years later she backtracked to admit she killed the victim, but now claims it was in self-defense, saying he attacked her in the shower, forcing her to fight for her life. She claims she lied so often because she was "ashamed" she killed Alexander in self-defense and because she was afraid of revealing the details of their sexual relationship.
Arias faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial resumes Monday at 4:30 p.m. EST with the debut of the defense's next expert witness.