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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. Last week, the defense domestic violence expert faced tough cross examination from the prosecutor and skeptical questions from the jury.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez spent much of the week attempting to use defense domestic violence expert Alyce LaViolette’s own words and theories against her.
He questioned how she uses a diagram illustrating what she calls the continuum of aggression and abuse. LaViolette said it was part of the framework she uses in general, but her assessment of Arias is not based on it.
Throughout the week, Martinez repeatedly reminded LaViolette that she had said during her direct testimony that 90% of communication was non-verbal, but she did not personally interview anyone other than Arias in preparation for the case.
“That would mean you were 90% wrong,” Martinez said Monday of LaViolette’s interpretations of Travis Alexander’s writings and text messages.
LaViolette maintained that she read enough interview transcripts, texts, instant messages and emails to have the proper context to evaluate Arias.
Revisiting LaViolette’s “Was Snow White a Battered Woman?” presentation, Martinez asked whether she spoke to anyone involved in the fairy tale before assessing that case.
LaViolette responded that she did not speak to any of the seven dwarves.
LaViolette was also questioned about the things she chose to believe or dismiss from Travis Alexander’s communication with other women. Martinez asked LaViolette if she was a “human lie detector” and later referred to her as the “gatekeeper” of what evidence is or is not believable.
Martinez also suggested that LaViolette had a bias in the case because she seemed to interpret every piece of evidence in the way most beneficial to the defendant, which she denied.
LaViolette acknowledged that she does not know whether the stories Arias told her were true. She also stated that Arias had a “history of lying” after the killing. Martinez noted that her interviews with Arias were conducted after the killing.
Martinez questioned why LaViolette felt it was appropriate to apologize to Arias the first time she met with her. She said she thought it would be a good way to establish a relationship because she had invaded Arias’ privacy by reading her personal journal entries.
According to Martinez, the apology indicated that LaViolette was sympathetic to Arias and biased from the start. LaViolette continued to defend the act as a way to build rapport with Arias.
At the end of the day, Martinez asked about a “manifesto” Arias wrote while in jail in Yreka that she allegedly wanted to sign copies of in case she became famous. No details about the contents of the manifesto were released.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has not responded to a public records request from HLN seeking a copy of the manifesto.
Martinez tried again Tuesday to show the jury that LaViolette had a bias that led her to believe Arias over other sources.
LaViolette revealed what appeared to be yet another version of Jodi Arias’ explanation to the injuries she suffered to her hand around the time of the killing. In her notes, she had written that Arias said she cut her hand while slicing apples.
Questioned by Martinez about whether she believed that story, LaViolette said it was not something she focused on because her job was specifically to assess domestic violence in the relationship.
Martinez pointed out that a school friend of Arias said she liked to play the victim. LaViolette said she did not give that statement much weight because the person only knew Arias when she was young.
Martinez also asked whether LaViolette had seen information indicating Arias was manipulative with men. While at least one former co-worker had said she was, LaViolette said she did not believe Arias was manipulative prior to her relationship with Alexander.
Martinez again suggested that LaViolette was acting like a “human lie detector.”
LaViolette admitted that she was hesitant to ask Arias about her experiences with anal sex because she was “old-fashioned.” She said she felt that was irrelevant to her assessment of domestic violence, but she acknowledged that she could be wrong about its significance.
The interaction between LaViolette and Martinez was often heated Tuesday, with him complaining that she was not directly answering his questions and her saying that he was mischaracterizing her responses.
“If you were in my group, I would ask you to take a time out, Mr. Martinez,” LaViolette said at one point, leading to an admonishment by the judge.
Martinez asked about an argument Arias and Alexander had at the start of a trip to Havasupai with Dan and Desiree Freeman in 2007, comparing Arias’ journal entry about the fight to what the Freemans had testified earlier in the trial.
LaViolette acknowledged that the account of the incident in the journal was incomplete and that it would be problematic if what Arias did write turned out to be a lie.
Martinez questioned LaViolette about Arias’ actions after her break-ups with Bobby Juarez and Matt McCartney, insisting that she displayed jealousy and stalking behavior. LaViolette refused to characterize those acts as stalking.
Martinez then pointed out again that Travis Alexander had written in an instant message to a female friend in May 2008 that he was “extremely afraid” of Arias and she was stalking him.
On Wednesday morning, Martinez used LaViolette’s continuum of aggression and abuse in an effort to show that Arias was the one whose behavior matched the traits listed on it, rather than Alexander. He highlighted the fact that “stalking” was listed in the terrorism column on the continuum.
LaViolette again denied that Arias stalked Alexander, saying that stalking victims act like they are afraid of their stalkers and Alexander’s interaction with Arias after they broke up in 2007 did not reflect fear.
Martinez then asked her about some of Arias’ behavior after that break-up, including moving from California to Mesa, Arizona, where Alexander lived, and watching him through a window as he was in an intimate moment with another woman.
LaViolette agreed that the incident with Arias spying through the window was not mentioned in her journals, which Martinez took as evidence that the journals were not truthful.
Martinez accused LaViolette of concluding that Alexander was a “bad guy” because he was communicating with several different women at once prior to his death.
“I don’t see the world in good and bad,” LaViolette said.
Still, Martinez alleged that because she was so “old-fashioned” she was offended by Alexander’s behavior and that impacted her assessment of the case. LaViolette denied that.
Martinez informed LaViolette that Dan Freeman testified previously that Travis Alexander told him in early 2008 that he was going to talk to Arias about wanting her to move away from Mesa. He portrayed that as a response to Arias’ stalking behavior, but LaViolette said Alexander continued to communicate with and see Arias after that.
Martinez pointed out that Arias continued to speak to and have sex with Alexander after he allegedly abused her and she allegedly discovered his pedophilia. He said LaViolette was applying different standards to Arias’ conduct and Alexander’s.
He also noted that Arias allegedly had childhood abuse in her background like Alexander did and that “family of origin issues” was a factor on LaViolette’s abuse continuum.
In an interview with Martinez last November, LaViolette had stated that Arias caught Alexander looking at child pornography on his computer on January 21, 2008. Arias testified that he was looking at printed photos. LaViolette testified that she misspoke in the November interview.
According to Martinez, this discrepancy showed she was sloppy and inaccurate in her work even though she knew it was important and she was being paid for it.
Again bringing up factors listed in LaViolette’s own continuum, Martinez asked whether Alexander’s statement that he was “nothing more than a dildo with a heartbeat” to Arias indicated she subjected him to sexual humiliation and degradation.
“It does appear the person who was the perpetrator, the abuser in this relationship was the defendant, right?” Martinez asked.
“Not in my assessment,” she responded.
Martinez noted some inconsistencies between LaViolette’s notes on what happened on June 4 and Arias’ testimony. According to LaViolette’s notes, Arias shot Alexander in the closet rather than the bedroom and she said the knife was on the nightstand.
Concluding his cross examination, Martinez asked about the text messages Alexander sent Arias on May 26, 2008 in which he called her “evil” and a “sociopath.” LaViolette acknowledged that she does not know what Alexander was angry about at the time.
Martinez read a message where Alexander said, “You are the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
“And that is true in this case, isn’t it?” Martinez said, a remark that the judge told the jury to disregard.
On redirect, defense attorney Jennifer Willmott tried to give LaViolette a chance to elaborate on some of the issues that came up during cross.
LaViolette emphasized how important it is to look at the broader context of a relationship rather than focusing on one specific incident or statement. She distinguished between typical feelings of jealousy and a destructive pattern of jealousy, stating that Arias’ behavior in her prior relationships did not constitute a pattern.
She pointed out that, on the same day Alexander told a woman he was “extremely afraid” of Arias, he communicated with Arias several times. Two days earlier, he had asked Arias to send him a photo.
On Thursday, Willmott continued to address potentially damaging testimony LaViolette gave on cross.
Willmott asked about LaViolette’s notes saying that Arias shot Alexander in the closet and she stated Arias did not tell her that. She did not focus on the details of what happened on June 4, 2008 in her research because she was assessing the relationship leading up to that point.
LaViolette stated that Alexander wrote in his own journals that Arias moving back to California could be a good thing for both of them. He also never wrote about being fearful of Arias.
LaViolette testified that all of Arias’ lies after the killing and her changing stories about what happened that day gave her no reason to doubt what Arias told her.
“If Ms. Arias was a really good liar, she would have planned a really good lie and she didn’t,” LaViolette said.
On Thursday afternoon, LaViolette began answering questions from the jury, fielding about 90 of them before the end of the day.
Many of the questions dealt with similar issues, and some of the most prominent themes included:
- How does LaViolette know Arias did not lie to her?
- Is it possible for a victim of domestic violence to also be a perpetrator?
- How much can she know about Travis Alexander without being able to interview him?
- Is there any evidence Travis Alexander was physically abusive other than Arias’ words?
LaViolette stated that she does not know for sure that Arias told her the truth, but she looked at extensive corroborative data from other sources that supported her conclusions. She did not feel that Arias was trying to manipulate her.
She said more than once that she wished she could have interviewed Alexander to get his side of the story, but instead she had to rely on his writings, his emails and texts, and transcripts of interviews with those who knew him.
Other than the broken finger that Arias claimed Alexander caused, LaViolette did not see any evidence of physical abuse, and she stated that none of Alexander’s other girlfriends complained of physical abuse.
Some questions addressed the possibility that LaViolette was biased in favor of Arias. Two in particular were about her body language on the stand:
“Why have you looked at Ms. Arias multiple times during cross examination with the prosecutor when there were breaks and sidebars, to meet eyes with Jodi and give her a small, warm smile?”
LaViolette responded that she may have done that occasionally just to acknowledge Arias, but she has actually tried not to look at her. She has looked at friends seated in the gallery at times as well, though.
“On April 9th at approximately 11:33, when discussing Jodi being manipulative at the Purple Plum and what the waitress said about Jodi, when the prosecutor was marking the exhibit, you looked at Jodi, gave a half-smile and shrugged your shoulders. Why do you keep doing this?”
LaViolette said she was not aware that she had even done that.
Court resumed for a rare Friday session with the remainder of the jury’s questions about Alyce LaViolette’s testimony. In total, LaViolette answered more than 150 questions from the jurors.
Many of Friday’s questions reflected the same themes that had arisen on Thursday, with LaViolette providing similar responses.
Comparing the brutality of the killing to the alleged prior incidents of physical abuse Arias described, a juror asked, “Is not the perpetrator of the greatest domestic violence Jodi?”
“No,” LaViolette answered.
Responding to a question about whether she ever had any physical contact or “friendly touching” with Arias, LaViolette said she may have touched her arm at some point, but they were often separated by a glass screen in the jail.
LaViolette stated that she agreed to take the case, in part, because she believed Arias, and she would have turned it down if she did not trust her. She said Arias’ story had remained consistent since she first interviewed her in October 2011, but she did not know what Arias said on the stand during the trial.
She admitted it is possible her opinion that Arias is not manipulative could be wrong, but she did not see evidence of it in the collateral sources she reviewed.
Responding to follow-up questions from Willmott, LaViolette again testified that she did not see a pattern of manipulative behavior by Arias. She stated that if she did not feel she had enough evidence to determine whether Arias was abused, she would not be testifying.
LaViolette also stated that Travis Alexander appeared to have many wonderful qualities, but that did not make it impossible for him to also be abusive.
During follow-up questions from Martinez, LaViolette acknowledged that she has never testified for a male defendant in a criminal case. He suggested she misrepresented herself to the jury earlier in the day when she said she testified in one or two cases.
Martinez asked what impact learning that Arias had lied about something during the trial would have on LaViolette’s assessment, but she said it would depend on the lie and whether it was an isolated incident.
Noting that LaViolette had said she wished she could have interviewed Alexander, Martinez suggested that her evaluation in the case was incomplete because she did not have his side of the story.
“You would agree ma’am that your evaluation in this particular case is defective because you only spoke to the defendant, who has lied, and not to Mr. Alexander?” Martinez asked.
“I would disagree totally with your conclusion that I am defective,” LaViolette said.
Judge Sherry Stephens told LaViolette that she needs to come back next Tuesday to complete her testimony regarding an issue that she did not specify.
Also on Friday, Stephens excused juror 11 from further service due to illness, leaving 16 jurors to hear the rest of the trial.