This Week in Jodi Arias Trial: Killer Wraps Up 18th Day on Stand, Defense Doc Claims PTSD Caused Arias' Memory "Fog"
Travis Alexander's closet, as photographed by Mesa police after Alexander's body was found. Jodi Arias claims she made a panicked dash into the closet and stepped up on a shelf to reach a gun on a higher shelf that she believed Alexander kept there.
Murder suspect Jodi Arias wrapped up her 18th (or 19th, by some accounts) day on the stand this week with trial watchers wondering whether her lengthy testimony helped or hurt her.
We're still predicting the jury will hand Arias a death sentence, for reasons that will be explained below.
Following Arias' deep and noticeable sigh before leaving the witness stand on Wednesday, attention turned to the testimony of psychologist Richard Samuels and arguments by attorneys over the extent of that testimony.
Samuels' testimony can be boiled down to a couple of quotes as reported Friday by CBS News:
A large percentage of individuals who are in such settings do not remember or have cloudy or foggy memories of what has transpired . . . We are more concerned with survival."
Arizona Coyotes vs. San Jose Sharks
TicketsTue., Nov. 1, 7:00pm
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
TicketsWed., Nov. 2, 7:00pm
Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
TicketsThu., Nov. 3, 7:00pm
Arizona State University Sun Devils Hockey vs. University of Michigan
TicketsFri., Nov. 4, 7:05pm
We have no reason to doubt the good doctor, who's had several sessions with Arias since she's been in jail and who's diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But we're also aware that PTSD is just as often recognized by the patient's inability to forget something. Unwanted memories are seared into the patient's brain, surfacing in a debilitating manner when triggered by something from daily life.
An Outside magazine article we read a couple of years ago about Aspen search-and-rescue expert Michael Ferrara exemplifies this idea. The experienced, tough mountain man experienced a "devastating breakdown" in 2008 caused by acute memories of a jet crash he worked.
In her third version of the events of June 4, 2008, Arias claims that she killed Alexander in self-defense after he grew angry at her for dropping his brand-new Sony camera.
She testified that he stepped out of the shower and "body-slammed" her. Believing that he was trying to grab her -- though she admitted on the stand that she didn't actually see him trying to grab her -- she ran to his closet where she knew he kept a small, unloaded semi-automatic pistol. She stepped on a shelf to reach the gun, then came back to the bathroom and pointed it at him. The gun went off, she remembers, but she wasn't even sure she hit him before what she calls the "fog" set in.
The "fog" is her allegedly PTSD-influenced memory lapse that prevented her from recalling under oath how she stabbed ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander 27 times and then slit his throat from ear to ear. After the gun went off, she claims, the next thing she remembers is driving on the highway in the desert, then stopping to wash the blood off of her hands. She says she has a vague memory of getting rid of the gun in the desert.
The big problem with this story, and the reason that Arias' 18 days on the witness stand probably didn't help her, is that no reasonable juror could believe that she's told the truth about getting the gun, shooting Alexander, and her subsequent memory loss. Other facts in the case do not agree with her version.
First, a county medical examiner has testified that the gunshot almost certainly didn't come first -- because it was a fatal wound.
In other words, when the bullet blasted through Alexander's forehead, into his brain, turned, then lodged in his cheek, Alexander likely would have fallen to the floor, dead or nearly dead. With that sort of gunshot wound to the head, he simply could not have defended himself from the knife attack, as he clearly did judging by the numerous defensive wounds on his arms.
The jury will have to believe Dr. Kevin Horn or Jodi Arias.
And they know Arias is an admitted conniving liar who first told police and the public that she was never in Arizona on the day of the murder, then told police and the public that she was in Arizona, but that mysterious masked intruders killed Alexander.
They will pick Horn.
Another key piece of evidence that belies Arias' version of the slaying is the picture of Alexander's closet. It's very neat, with ties, shoes, and clothing all organized and in place.
As prosecutor Juan Martinez hammered home on Wednesday, Arias' claim that she made a mad dash into that closet to grab the gun is ridiculous. He informed her and the jury that the closet shelves, held up by pegs, are only rated for 40 pounds.
She claims that she stood on the edge of one of those shelves to reach the gun and, somehow, her foot didn't seem to mess up anything on the shelf or tip it over.
Jodi Arias self-portrait
"There's really nothing here that's out of order, right?" Martinez asked her, showing her the picture of the immaculate, orderly closet.
"I'll agree with that," Arias said.
The jury will have to decide if Arias is lying -- or the picture is lying.
They will choose the picture.
Once the jury members decide Arias must be lying about getting the gun from Alexander's closet, they'll be forced to agree that the most likely alternate explanation is that she brought the .25-caliber pistol from her grandparents' home, as police and Martinez have theorized.
Our feature article this week covers one aspect of the gun that Martinez hasn't picked up on yet. As we wrote, the .25-caliber pistol is relatively rare these days. They were popular in Arias' grandparents' earlier years, but not so much now.
In researching our feature article, we called several gun shops. They confirmed what we already knew: That the odds are absurdly high that the admitted killer's grandparents .25-cal went missing, and Alexander happened to have a .25-cal in his closet.
Alexander was a successful, young, law-abiding businessman who could have any firearm he wanted. One gun shop manager confessed that if a customer such as Alexander had walked in, asking about purchasing a gun for home protection, salesman would never have suggested a low-powered .25-caliber, and would have steered him away from such a purchase if Alexander had expressed a desire to own one. The .25-caliber makes a good pocket gun, being easy to conceal, but has minimal stopping power.
Another gun store said it did not normally carry .25-caliber target rounds, because of the low demand, but did have some .25-caliber hollow-point defense rounds for sale.
Martinez ought to put a firearms expert on the stand to talk about this issue. Not that he didn't do a good job grilling her over why she thought Alexander would be intimidated by a gun that he'd told her he always kept unloaded.
But whether he does or not, the jury will have a hard time swallowing the coincidence of the "two" .25-caliber handguns -- the grandparents' and the one Arias says Alexander had.
If Arias brought the gun from California, then the crime was premeditated. And that's why we can't shake the idea that Arias is, indeed, headed for death row.
In other Arias news:
*A couple of new videos surfaced this week: One shows Alexander telling his friends how he was once robbed at gunpoint.
Alexander explains how he had a "gun at my temple," and -- eerily -- had images in his head of lying in a pool of blood.
Another interesting vid shows Arias laughing to herself and doing a headstand in a police interrogation room.
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.