Expert defends Arias diagnosis of PTSD, amnesia

AP News
Posted: Mar 25, 2013 8:29 PM
Expert defends Arias diagnosis of PTSD, amnesia

PHOENIX (AP) — The prosecutor in Jodi Arias' murder trial pounded on a table Monday as he attacked the credibility of a psychologist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia, appearing to mock the expert witness who feverishly defended his work.

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 on her lover in a jealous rage. Arias initially told authorities she had nothing to do with it then blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.

Psychologist Richard Samuels, a defense witness, testified previously that his diagnosis of PTSD and amnesia explains why Arias can't recall many details from the day she killed Alexander as the defense works to convince jurors she may have lied repeatedly before, but she isn't lying now.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez has spent several days picking apart Samuels' evaluation techniques, and even accused him of forming a relationship with Arias that biased his diagnosis.

"You have feelings for the defendant!" Martinez yelled.

"I beg your pardon, sir," Samuels responded as defense attorneys objected.

Earlier in the day, Martinez pounded on a table as he questioned Samuels' credibility, appearing to rattle the witness who thumped his own finger loudly on his notes.

Samuels has denied the allegations of bias and missteps that could have skewed his findings. He testified that he based his diagnosis of Arias on multiple interviews with her, reviews of crime scene photos and police reports, as well as the tests he performed on her.

Martinez later again questioned how Samuels could have come to any definitive diagnosis based on Arias' lies. When Samuels began evaluating her in jail, Arias was sticking to the intruder story.

Martinez also questioned how Samuels could know whether Arias indeed doesn't recall details from the killing and suffers from amnesia or if she is faking it.

"I can respond in terms of psychological probability," Samuels explained.

"Which is basically telling me you don't know," Martinez snapped.

Throughout the often redundant questioning of Samuels, some jurors appeared to be growing bored of his explanations and Martinez's repeated queries that treaded the same ground as his testimony over his previous five days on the stand.

One panelist rested his head in his hands, while another bent over and picked at his fingers. Some jurors yawned and leaned back in their chairs, appearing to take less notes than during previous days. One looked at his watch repeatedly.

Arias, meanwhile, appeared to pay close attention to the testimony, watching the often contentious interaction between Martinez and Samuels without much emotion.

The defense then called its next witness, a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence. Alyce LaViolette spent the remainder of the day explaining her background and expertise to jurors. She is set to resume testimony on Tuesday.

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 her hair and nude photos of her and the victim from the day of the killing.

Arias said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury after a day of sex. 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. She said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth at the time but insists she isn't lying now.

None of Arias' allegations of Alexander's previous physical abuse, that he owned a gun and had sexual desires for boys has been corroborated during the trial that began in early January.