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Jodi Arias is on trial for the 2008 murder of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Arias says she stabbed Alexander multiple times, shot him in the face and slit his throat from ear to ear in self-defense. This week, a domestic violence expert attempted to convince the jury that Arias was a battered woman.
After a long weekend, court got off to a dramatic start Tuesday as Judge Sherry Stephens denied a defense request for a mistrial based on alleged misconduct by one of the jurors.
In the motion for mistrial, Jodi Arias’ defense attorneys wrote that Juror 5 had made statements in front of other jurors that made it “beyond legitimate dispute” that she was “not fair and impartial making her unfit to continue as a juror.”
Although Stephens denied the mistrial, she did dismiss the juror.
Once that issue was resolved, defense domestic violence expert Alyce LaViolette returned to the witness stand.
LaViolette testified about emails between Travis Alexander and his friends that she said indicated they were concerned about his mistreatment of women.
Much of LaViolette’s testimony dealt with hundreds of pages of journal entries written by Arias during her relationship with Alexander. In the journals, Arias wrote often of her deep love for Alexander and how special he made her feel, but she also wrote about conflicted emotions.
LaViolette testified about journal entries from the period in mid-2007 when Arias and Alexander officially broke up but continued seeing each other. She said the writings that followed depict a relationship where Alexander had much more power than Arias because she cared more than he did.
Other entries addressed Arias catching Alexander making out with another woman in August 2007. Arias claimed Alexander repeatedly banged his head against a wall when she confronted him about that.
LaViolette said Arias wrote in her journal that she had started becoming suspicious when Alexander was nice to her and she was growing numb to his angry behavior, but she was not ready to leave him.
LaViolette also discussed journal entries dealing with the first time Arias and Alexander had vaginal sex. Arias had written that she felt guilty, but Alexander refused to talk to a bishop about it.
She testified that Alexander maintained relationships with multiple women in September 2007, including Arias, and she said chronic unfaithfulness is a form of psychological abuse.
LaViolette talked about emails between Alexander and another woman he was seeing at the time, Lisa Andrews, in which Andrews complained that he was being too sexual. She also said the emails indicate Andrews believed Alexander was still a virgin.
Late in the day, LaViolette briefly discussed the first alleged incident of physical abuse in late 2007 when Alexander supposedly threw Arias to the ground and said negative things about her family. She said Arias believed he would not be physically violent with her again, but she did write in her journal at the time that she needed to get over him.
Wednesday’s testimony was cut short by LaViolette becoming ill, but before that, she discussed more of her observations about Arias’ journals and drew parallels to her earlier descriptions of the characteristics of an abusive relationship.
LaViolette testified that it appeared Arias and Alexander were in a cycle of fighting and making up, which she had described as being common in abusive relationships.
Testifying about the alleged fight in January 2008 when Arias claimed Alexander broke her finger and kicked her in the chest, LaViolette said it was not unusual for abuse victims not to seek medical attention for injuries because they do not want their partner to get in trouble.
LaViolette described more of what she considered to be controlling and abusive behavior by Alexander illustrated in journal entries and text messages, but she said Arias still cared for him too much to leave the relationship.
She also noted that Arias and Alexander were still taking trips together in March 2008, having good experiences and engaging in sexual relations.
Alyce LaViolette wrapped up her direct testimony on Thursday, detailing the breakdown in communication and escalating arguments between Arias and Alexander in the months leading up to his death.
Before she returned to the stand, however, defense attorney Kirk Nurmi renewed his motion to have the jury sequestered, arguing that the media coverage of the case could prevent Arias from getting a fair trial.
Judge Stephens denied the motion, stating that there was no indication that the jurors have been exposed to media coverage of the trial.
As LaViolette described the interaction between Arias and Alexander, defense attorney Jennifer Willmott repeatedly asked her if she saw any evidence of Arias being jealous or stalking Alexander. LaViolette said she did not.
LaViolette testified about angry text messages Alexander sent Arias in April 2008, in which she said he threatened Arias with “the wrath.”
LaViolette reviewed additional text messages from May 2008 where Alexander expressed anger over Arias’ relationships with other men. She said it seemed Alexander grew more jealous as Arias pulled away from him.
Following Thursday’s lunch break, Juror 5 returned to the courtroom as a spectator.
On Thursday afternoon, LaViolette described what she considered to be “character assassination” by Alexander in a long series of instant messages from late May 2008. She testified that he insulted Arias and called her names like cheap whore, corrupted carcass and rotten lunatic. The “tirade,” as LaViolette described it, went on for 16 pages.
Following this argument, Arias described Alexander’s behavior in her journal as “classic rude,” according to a copy of the journal entries.
LaViolette testified that Arias left out the details of what Alexander said and the names he called her because she had promised not to write negative things about him. She said this was another example of Arias minimizing the abuse she allegedly suffered.
In addition to talking about Arias’ journals, LaViolette testified about communications between Travis Alexander and other women that she reviewed. She named at least seven other women besides Arias with whom he was having what she considered to be flirtatious communication between December 2007 and June 2008.
Willmott concluded her questioning of LaViolette by asking for her opinion about Arias and Alexander’s relationship based on all of the material she reviewed in the case. LaViolette said she believed it was an abusive relationship and Arias was a battered woman.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez started cross examination by aggressively attacking LaViolette’s credentials and questioning the validity of a “battered woman” diagnosis, which LaViolette acknowledged is not defined in the DSM-4.
Martinez pressed her about whether she understood his questions about clinical interviews, leading her to ask, “Mr. Martinez, are you angry with me?”
“Ma’am, is that relevant to you?” he responded, asking whether his demeanor would affect her opinions.
A few minutes later, as Martinez demanded direct answers to his questions, LaViolette said, “Do you want the truth, Mr. Martinez, or do you want a yes or no answer?”
“Do you want to spar with me?” Martinez asked.
Martinez spent the last twenty minutes of the day questioning LaViolette about a presentation she has given several times titled, “Was Snow White a Battered Woman?”
As they discussed minute details of the Snow White fairy tale—did the dwarves live in a shack or a quaint little cottage, for example—and why LaViolette considered the character to be a battered woman, she repeatedly insisted that Martinez was mischaracterizing her presentation and her arguments.
Martinez attempted to draw parallels between Snow White and Arias, but LaViolette said her Snow White presentation is about growing up in an abusive family, not being in an abusive intimate relationship.
Testimony resumes with more cross examination of LaViolette Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET.