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Jodi Arias is on trial for the 2008 murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Arias claims she stabbed her ex-boyfriend 29 times, shot him in the face, and slit his throat from ear to ear in self-defense. This week, Arias’ psychologist testified on behalf on the defense.
Monday, defense psychologist Richard Samuels testified Arias’ inability to recall the most violent part of Travis killing was due to the fact that she suffered from Dissociative Amnesia, a memory loss linked with an Acute Stress Disorder caused by severe trauma.
According to Samuels, a sufferer of Dissociative Amnesia typically complains about foggy memory just after the start of the traumatic event and just before their ability to remember is restored.
LOOK: 180 evidence photos
The psychologist also testified he diagnosed Arias with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), explaining much of Arias’ behavior following the attack, including her admitted lies, can be linked to that diagnosis.
In a heated cross-examination, Prosecutor Juan Martinez suggested Samuels’ PTSD diagnosis of Arias was flawed.
Samuels admitted he reached that diagnosis through a test Arias took in January of 2010, when she was still insisting that Travis was killed by two masked intruders.
Samuels eventually agreed that he should have re-administered the test after Arias changed her story, and admitted to the killing.
The prosecutor also suggested Samuels violated a code of ethics by gifting Arias a $9 self-help book.
Samuels denied the book was intended as a gift, and insisted that he never gave Arias therapy, as Martinez had suggested.
Tuesday, Martinez continued to attack Samuels’ opinion that Arias suffered from amnesia and PTSD, by pointing out the mistakes he made.
“If we just look at your report, and just what you have listed, that does not fit the diagnosis for PTSD, right?” asked Martinez.
Samuels agreed, admitting that parts of his report contained errors, lacking the sufficient number of criteria to reach a PTSD diagnosis.
The psychologist stated he later fixed the report in December of 2012, just before the start of Arias’ trial, to reflect what he says were the complete and accurate results of Arias' testing, which met the requirements for the PTSD diagnosis.
The prosecutor noted that Arias scored a 69, short of the 75 to 85 range, required to diagnose a clinical disorder such as PTSD on the MCMI test.
Samuels fought back, saying Martinez’ analysis of the score was incorrect and that he was misinterpreting the meaning of the scores.
The prosecutor also questioned whether Arias was indeed suffering from amnesia during the killing.
Martinez questioned Samuels as to how Arias could remember where Travis kept his gun during the frenzy leading up to the killing while not being able to recall the most violent part of the attack.
On re-direct, Samuels explained that trauma-associated amnesia would have repressed Arias’ long term but not her short term memory.
On cross-examination, Martinez also suggested that Arias lied to Samuels when she recounted her version of the alleged attack by Travis on the day of the killing.
In a recorded interview with the prosecutor that was subsequently played in court, Samuels revealed Arias told him that Travis was “pulling at her sweater while chasing her into the closet,” before she stepped back into the bathroom and ultimately fired the gun.
On re-direct, Arias' attorney Jennifer Willmott pointed out that Arias was consistent when she spoke to Samuels on three different occasions, telling her psychologist each time that she had retrieved the gun from the closet and pointed it at Travis to stop him.
During his testimony Wednesday, Samuels maintained that Arias suffered from PTSD, despite admitting that he made errors in his psychological testing of Arias.
The prosecutor continued to attack Samuels’ conclusions, pointing out that Arias lied on the Post-traumatic Traumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS) test.
On that test, Arias claimed she was most severely traumatized by a “non-sexual assault by a stranger,” referring to her story that two masked intruders had killed Travis.
On re-direct, the psychologist revealed that Arias’ brother had reported that Arias, at the age of 13, had been accosted by a stranger who held a knife to her throat.
While Arias’ answer on the PDS test referred to the intruders story and not the attack on her at age 13, the defense expert pointed out that the question had no bearing on her diagnostic score.
Samuels testified that the nature of the traumatic event was not as important as simply identifying the presence of a traumatic event, whatever that may be.
Willmott suggested that if Arias had been tested after she confessed to killing Travis, she would have given the same “yes” answer to the question related to the trauma, and Samuels agreed.
At the end of the day, Samuels testified that Arias indicated she thought the world of Travis and she put him on a pedestal.
While Arias told Samuels she experienced some discomfort in her sexual activities with Travis, she felt it was necessary to keep up with his sexual wants in order to maintain their relationship.
Court was called into recess sooner than expected Wednesday after a trial observer in the public gallery vomited in her seat.
Thursday, Samuels was required to answer over 100 questions posed by the jurors. Some of the questions included:
Jury: How can we be certain that your assessment of Ms. Arias is not based on the lies that she had admittedly made over the years?
Samuels: The diagnosis of PTSD is a function of an evaluation based upon, in my case, 35 years of experience and working with individuals with PTSD. You look at the fact pattern, you look at the circumstances that occurred at the time of the trauma, you look to see from the diagnostic list, which of these characteristics are presented by the client, and it is on that you make your diagnosis. I can say that within all reasonable psychological probability she does meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jury: Can you be sure Arias is not lying to you about the events on June 4, 2008?
Samuels: Not with 100% certainty. I can say that. However, when you look at the repeated stories, several different times I asked the same question. The story was no 100% the same, but the basic aspects of the story were sufficient, and it seemed to, at least with certain elements, be consistent with the description of the crime scene. So I would say there’s a very story probability that once she finally told the right store, the second story, that she was being truthful at the time.
Jury: Is there a diagnosis for selective amnesia?
Samuels: No, there is not. It is not a DSM diagnosis.
Jury: You seem to have several issues with omitting or forgetting to include information. Do you think that it is important to have an accurate and complete report for a trial like this?
Jury: Do you always develop such a fond relationship with the individuals you evaluate?
Samuels: I wouldn’t characterize our relationship as being font. I’m an impartial evaluator.
Following the jurors’ questions, the defense attempted to reestablish Samuels’ credibility as a witness, explaining how and why he came to the conclusion that Arias suffered from PTSD.
However, Samuels’ credibility went under attack when Prosecutor Martinez began another grueling line of questioning on his follow-up to the jury questions, picking apart Samuels’ statements and pointing out some of his mistakes.