PHOENIX (AP) — The prosecutor in Jodi Arias' murder trial worked Tuesday to portray the defendant as a manipulative liar as he questioned a defense witness' contention that Arias suffered domestic abuse at the hands of the boyfriend she has admitted killing.
Psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette has been testifying for more than a week about her conclusion that Arias was a victim of both physical and emotional abuse.
Arias says the killing was self-defense and has described how Travis Alexander grew more abusive in the months before his death, once choking her into unconsciousness. She says on the day of the killing in June 2008 at Alexander's suburban Phoenix home, he attacked her and she was forced to fight for her life.
However, no other evidence or testimony — other than Arias' accounts — have been presented at trial showing Alexander had ever been physically violent.
Authorities say Arias planned the attack in advance. She initially denied involvement, then blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.
She faces a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.
LaViolette has described for jurors Arias' volatile relationship with Alexander, portraying the man as a womanizing cheater who courted multiple women simultaneously while berating Arias with derogatory names.
She said she came to her conclusions based on more 40 hours of interviews with Arias, and reviews of thousands of pages of text messages, emails and other communications between Arias and the victim, as well as messages between Alexander and other women.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez pointed out how Arias lied repeatedly in the months after her arrest, asking LaViolette how she could be certain the defendant isn't still lying.
"I found the defendant to be credible," LaViolette said.
"Which means you found her to be truthful, right?" Martinez countered.
"Alright," LaViolette replied defiantly. "There is always reasonable doubt, Mr. Martinez," she continued.
"You didn't talk to Mr. Alexander, did you?" he snapped back.
"No, I did not," LaViolette said.
"You didn't talk to any other witnesses, correct?" Martinez prodded.
"No, I did not," the witness said.
The judge then removed the jury from the courtroom as Martinez worked to introduce as evidence a video of police questioning Arias' father, William Arias, on the day his daughter was arrested. The man tells a detective, "She's never been honest with us."
LaViolette said she was unaware of the statement but added that she would have only used it to come to her conclusions in the context of everything else she reviewed, including Arias' contention that her father abused her as a child.
"I would not take a sound bite of anything and make a decision on it," she said.
Martinez argued that the video was relevant since he said LaViolette is "taking the defendant's word in this case about the events."
"Anything that goes to whether or not the defendant is telling the truth is relevant," he said.
The judge allowed the line of questioning based on the content but did not permit the video to be shown to jurors.
Martinez later reminded LaViolette of a statement made by a high school classmate of Arias that the defendant "liked playing the victim."
"That was about high school," LaViolette said, explaining that she found no evidence of such behavior in Arias' adult life.
"The defendant is very manipulative, isn't she?" Martinez asked.
LaViolette dodged answering the question directly, and instead explained that Arias lied after the killing in an attempt to "feel normal."
Martinez then returned to a familiar topic in the trial — sex. He questioned LaViolette about a telephone call Arias recorded on which she and the victim are simulating graphic acts.
"They were being tender to each other, weren't they?" Martinez asked.
"There was tenderness," LaViolette replied.
"There was no indication from the tape itself that Ms. Arias wasn't enjoying herself as much as Mr. Alexander, right?" Martinez said.
The defense has worked to portray Arias as having only participated in raunchy sex acts with Alexander to please him and to tame his temper.
Martinez has repeatedly pointed out how there is no evidence to support that.
Testimony on the topic grew so graphic and bizarre that LaViolette struggled to respond to questions about whether Arias may have been faking her pleasure on the phone call.
"My expertise is in domestic violence, not in orgasms," she told the prosecutor.
At one point, LaViolette, who counsels domestic abuse victims and abusers, lashed out at Martinez as he raised his voice in frustration when she dodged his questions.
"If you were in my group, I would ask you to take a time out, Mr. Martinez," she said.
The judge admonished her to only answer the questions she is asked as Martinez objected to her scolding.
LaViolette resumes testimony Wednesday.
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