Jodi Arias Trial: Defense Counters Attacks on PTSD Doc's Credibility; We Talk to Expert Who has Doubts on Amnesia Story
The capital murder trial of Jodi Arias continued with several delays today, focusing on the testimony of a local doctor who claims Arias' alleged amnesia seems real.
The theory of Scottsdale psychologist Richard Samuels was tarnished badly by deputy Maricopa County Attorney Juan Martinez, as we detailed in Monday's blog post. Martinez questioned Samuels' memory, accused of being too friendly to Arias during his jail evaluations of her, and got him to admit he should have re-administered a test to Arias after he found out she lied on the first one.
Today, as media outlets reported, defense attorney Jennifer Willmott led Samuels through more gentle questioning. Samuels insists his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Arias is correct.
Arias appears to have an excellent memory and has no history of mental illness. Yet she claims a convenient memory lapse causes her to forget stabbing Travis Alexander, her ex-boyfriend, 27 times and slitting his throat from ear to ear. Arias referred repeatedly to this lost memory as a "fog" that only cleared while driving in the desert, hours after slaying Alexander.
Looking for a second opinion to Dr. Samuels' analysis, we talked to PTSD expert Doug Bremner today at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bremner, who's published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, according to his bio, tells us that PTSD can, indeed, result in amnesia. Traumatic events can cause damage to the part of the brain that governs memory, causing people with PTSD to remember some things very well, but also to forget details.
He's interviewed numerous patients with memory loss that was apparently quite real, he says. Once, a combat veteran told him of waking up in a forest 100 miles from home, with no memory of driving there.
Because of those stories, Bremner says one believable part of Arias' story is that she suffered a memory loss because of the intensity of the slaying, which she says was in self-defense. Blanking out, then returning to a more conscious reality hours later while driving is possible, he says.
However, Bremner says it becomes "harder to believe" Arias' claimed memory loss when other details of the case are considered -- such as the fact that Arias deleted pictures from a camera while in her "fog" and put the camera in a washing machine.
Bremner wasn't completely up on the case, and when we filled him on a few key points, his skepticism of Arias grew. For instance, we told him that Arias left cheery voice mails for Alexander, as if he was still alive, just hours after she left his mutilated body in the shower.
"That's not something a person with disassociative amnesia would do," Bremner says. The reason is that the PTSD sufferer would more likely "try to stay away from whatever it was that made them have amnesia."
In other words, if Travis Alexander was responsible for Arias' trauma, leading to amnesia, her wounded mind wouldn't have wanted to think about Alexander, much less leave him voice mail messages. (Yet Arias remembered rehearsing and leaving those messages, meaning that Arias could claim her "fog" had lifted by the time she called Alexander's voice mail.)
In any case, Arias' memory lapse is simply too convenient to believe, especially on top of her other admitted and apparent lies. As we noted the other day, her version of events includes the detail that the gun went off just before she entered her memory fog. Yet a medical examiner testified that Arias must have shot Alexander after the knife attack because the gunshot to the head would have been fatal, preventing from incurring his defense knife wounds.
In other Arias news today:
* Corey Rangel of ABC-15 News had an interesting tidbit today about the cost of Arias' two public defense attorneys, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott. They've cost taxpayers $838,000 so far for Arias' defense, a county official calculated.
Twitter user Lisa Marie Jolley posted this picture after hearing that an Arias trial spectator vomited in the courtroom today.
* Another ABC-15 story, this one by Christopher Sign, takes a more Bigfoot-hunter tone, reporting that a Nebraska man claims that Arias and two other people were standing in front of Alexander as he took a shower. The man says he knows this because he sees all those people in Alexander's eyes, in a close-up picture of his face. This is about as believable as the idea that Satan's face shows up in the smoke from the 9-11 attacks.
* Amy Larson of KSBW News in California answers the question nobody's been asking: Why does Jodi Arias' driver's license say she's in Big Sur?
* An additional stack of juror questions was put aside until tomorrow after one of the court spectators threw up in the courtroom. Surprisingly, no media outlets have reported what the courtroom vomit smelled like or where the sick person ate lunch. Twitter users were quick to discuss the puke, particularly whether it was the defense attorneys or Arias herself who made the spectator upchuck.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.