PHOENIX (AP) — A domestic violence expert testified Tuesday in Jodi Arias' murder trial that most victims don't tell anyone about abuse because they feel ashamed and humiliated, though the witness spoke only in generalities and didn't discuss whether she ever met with Arias.
Alyce LaViolette, a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence, appeared to be working to explain why there is no evidence or witnesses to corroborate Arias' claims that her lover had grown physically abusive in the months before she killed him.
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.
LaViolette said many victims of domestic violence don't leave their abusers because "shame and humiliation will keep people stuck."
During her 18 days on the witness stand, Arias described repeated instances of Alexander physically abusing her, once even choking her into unconsciousness.
LaViolette explained that it's typical for a battered woman not to tell anyone about the abuse.
"They want people to like their partner," she said. "They don't want anybody to think they have lousy taste."
Prosecutor Juan Martinez repeatedly questioned Arias and other witnesses about the lack of evidence supporting Arias' claims that Alexander had been physically violent, pointing out that Arias never chronicled any events of abuse at the hands of Alexander in her detailed journals and no witnesses have corroborated her stories.
Arias has said she never wrote anything negative in her journals about Alexander because of her belief in "the law of attraction," a notion made popular by the movie and book "The Secret," which Arias has referenced repeatedly.
The idea is that you reap what you sow, negativity begets more negativity. Arias explained that she only wanted to dwell on the positive aspects of her relationship with Alexander in hopes it would lead to more positive interactions.
Under cross-examination in February, however, Arias said she had told an ex-boyfriend about the time Alexander choked her after the man noticed bruises on her neck. She said he could corroborate her story.
Martinez then snapped back, asking if she was aware the man had no recollection of it. The line of questioning stopped after repeated objections from defense attorneys. The man has not been called as a witness to testify for either side.
On Tuesday, LaViolette testified that battered women tend to stay with their partners out of "hope and fear," echoing Arias' testimony that she never stopped seeing Alexander because she loved him and believed things would get better.
Arias' attorney also appeared to work toward having LaViolette explain how Alexander could have grown up to be a batterer, though she never mentioned his name and again, spoke in generalities.
Alexander's parents were drug addicts. He and his siblings were later raised by their grandmother.
"A child who grows up in an environment like that, who is neglected, who can't bathe all the time, who has parents who are violent to each other, who has parents who are drug addicts, would you consider that abusive?" defense attorney Jennifer Willmott asked.
"It's very abusive," LaViolette replied, explaining how such a child would later in life "not have the skills to deal with an intimate relationship."
Willmott then asked if all children who had been in abusive homes grow up to be abusers.
"We actually have no way of knowing that," LaViolette said. "But I will say this, If you grow up ..."
Martinez quickly objected, and the line of questioning ceased.
LaViolette is set to resume testimony Wednesday.
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.