Defense rests case in Jodi Arias murder trial
By BRIAN SKOLOFF Associated Press April 16, 2013 2:18PM
Jodi Arias, right, talks to her attorney, Jennifer Wilmott during her trial at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Arias is on trial for the killing Travis Alexander, in 2008. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace, Pool)
PHOENIX (AP) — Defense attorneys in Jodi Arias’ murder trial rested their case Tuesday after about 2 1/2 months of testimony aimed at portraying the defendant as a victim of domestic violence who was forced to fight for her life on the day she killed her one-time boyfriend.
The trial is expected to continue at least several more weeks before jurors begin deliberations. Testimony in the trial began in early January with opening statements, followed by the prosecutor making quick work of the state’s case, concluding in less than two weeks. Defense attorneys began calling witnesses on Jan. 29.
“At this point, the defense rests,” attorney Kirk Nurmi told the judge as the day began Tuesday.
The move came a day after Arias’ attorneys sought to admit as evidence a photograph of the victim taken by Arias in the final minutes of his life. A defense expert was prepared to testify that when digitally enhanced, a figure, presumably Arias, can be seen reflected in the victim’s eyeball holding a camera, not any weapons.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez vigorously fought to keep the jury from hearing the testimony, but after several hours of arguments, he merely stipulated that the figure in the reflection is, indeed, holding a camera, not a gun or a knife.
Arias faces a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 killing of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home.
Authorities say she planned the attack in a jealous rage. Arias initially denied involvement then blamed it on two masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.
Arias testified that she was taking provocative pictures of Alexander in the shower when she dropped his camera and he became enraged, forcing her to defend herself.
Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the head and had his throat slit. Arias’ palm print was found in blood at the scene, along with nude photos of her and the victim from the day of the killing.
Arias said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury. She said she ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf and fired in self-defense but has no memory of stabbing him.
She acknowledged trying to clean the scene, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi to avoid suspicion.
Arias’ grandparents reported a .25-caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California home about a week before Alexander’s death — the same caliber used to shoot him — but Arias said she didn’t take it. Authorities believe she brought it with her to kill the victim.
Later Tuesday, Martinez began calling rebuttal witnesses starting with a state-hired clinical psychologist who evaluated Arias, as the prosecutor works to discredit two key defense witnesses — one who diagnosed Arias with post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia and another who said the defendant suffers from battered woman’s syndrome.
Martinez accused both defense witnesses of shoddy work, and of basing their opinions on biased findings after forming relationships with Arias.
Arizona clinical psychologist Janeen DeMarte first addressed the more than 40 hours the defense’s domestic violence witness — psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette — spent interviewing Arias in jail, explaining that amount of time was extreme to come to a definitive diagnosis.
“It becomes therapeutic,” DeMarte explained, adding that such a relationship could skew findings. She said that amount of time would only be needed for those “who weren’t very good” at their jobs.
Martinez then worked to the attack the credibility of another key defense witness, psychologist Richard Samuels, who diagnosed Arias with amnesia and PTSD.
DeMarte explained how Arias’ responses to certain questions on tests administered by Samuels to reach his diagnoses were untruthful, meaning the conclusions by Samuels would be invalid.
DeMarte later said it was merely “other evidence that Ms. Arias decided to lie...”
She was immediately cut off by a defense objection, which the judge sustained and questioning moved in a different direction.
Throughout the more than three months of testimony, both sides have presented dueling portraits of Alexander — that of a man who feared for his life and had been trying to distance himself from Arias as he sought out other relationships and a manipulative, abusive liar who physically attacked the defendant on numerous occasions, the last being the day of the killing.
The prosecutor and defense attorneys also have presented conflicting portraits of Arias, as the defense works to show she’s a domestic abuse victim who was forced to fight for her life while prosecutors say she was a scorned lover who planned Alexander’s killing.
Brian Skoloff can be followed at https://twitter.com/bskoloff