Arias trial delayed over defense expert witness

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by Brian Skoloff, Associated Press Writer and Catherine Holland

Video commentary by Mike Watkiss

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 18 at 3:45 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- Jodi Arias' death penalty trial was delayed briefly Thursday over prosecution objections to a defense expert witness called to help explain the defendant's memory lapses from the day she says she killed her lover in self-defense.

Arias is charged with first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities say she planned the attack in a jealous rage. Arias initially told authorities she had nothing to do with the killing then blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she settled on self-defense.

Arias testified for 18 days over nearly six weeks during which she described her abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with the victim and her contention that Alexander had grown physically abusive in the months leading to his death, once even choking her into unconsciousness.

She says she recalls little from the day of the attack.

Defense attorneys planned Thursday to call psychologist Richard Samuels as an expert witness to help explain why Arias has memory gaps, but prosecutor Juan Martinez objected before the judge called a recess to allow both sides time to review his testimony.

Samuels, an Arizona-based expert whose website says he specializes in "sexually violent perpetrator evaluations, psychosexual risk assessments, sexual harassment and gender discrimination matters," planned to use a PowerPoint presentation about brain function, among other things, to explain Arias' memory lapses from the day of the killing.

"Samuels is a psychologist, not a medical doctor," Martinez told the judge Thursday.

Defense attorney Jennifer Willmott countered that Arias is "in complete denial about what happened" and Samuels has the expertise to explain for jurors "why that might happen."

Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the head and had his throat slit before Arias dragged his body into his shower.

Arias has said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury. She says 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 repeatedly.

She has acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and leaving the victim a voicemail on his cellphone hours later in an attempt to avoid suspicion. She says she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth.

Arias' grandparents had reported a .25-caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California home about a week before Alexander's death - the same caliber used to shoot him - but Arias says she didn't take it. Authorities believe she brought it with her.

Since the trial began, none of Arias' allegations of Alexander's violence, that he owned a gun or had sexual desires for young boys has been corroborated by witnesses or evidence. She has acknowledged lying repeatedly but insists she is telling the truth now.

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3TV's Mike Watkiss has been watching the trial since the beginning.

"I think if they're making book on this in Vegas right now, odds are pretty good that Jodi Arias is going to get the death penalty," he said Thursday morning. "The state walked in with a rock-solid case.

"I think the one salvation, hope Jodi Arias has is that there might be one or two jurors who end up disliking [prosecutor] Juan Martinez more than they dislike her," he continued. "And that's the only thing that's going to save her .... I think that most jurors have decided that Miss Arias is very guilty ...."

The question is to what degree. The verdict must be unanimous, so it will only take one juror to give the defense what it's looking for.

With Arias' life on the line, the trial has been more about simply facts and evidence. There's also the courtroom drama.

"This bizarre interaction between the prosecutor and Miss Arias has really become the dominant feature in this trial," Watkiss said. "It's such a strange trial."

The question here isn't not whether Arias killed Alexander. She has already admitted to that. The question is was it premeditated or self defense. A conviction on first-degree murder could land Arias on Arizona's death row. A conviction on the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which does not require premeditation, would mean more than 20 years in prison.

Click the video at the top of the page to watch the rest of Watkiss' commentary on the trial that has captivated the entire country.

Watch LIVE: Jodi Arias takes the stand at murder trial

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