Domestic violence expert testifies in Arias trial

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by Brian Skoloff/Associated Press

Video report by Mike Watkiss

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 27 at 11:54 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- A domestic violence expert testified Tuesday in Jodi Arias' murder trial, explaining for jurors the various forms of abuse, and how the abuser typically is well-respected in the community and not seen publicly as a violent person.

Alyce LaViolette, a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence, was expected to discuss why Arias stayed with her lover even after repeated instances of physical abuse, but she had yet to get to specifics of the case by midday Tuesday.

"For the most part in these relationships ... these people, many of them are very well thought of in the community," LaViolette said of abusers. "It would surprise anybody to think that this person was acting out at all."

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.

During her 18 days on the witness stand, Arias described for jurors repeated instances of Alexander abusing her, once even choking her into unconsciousness. She said he had grown more violent in the days leading up to his death, yet there has been no evidence presented at trial that Alexander had ever been physically abusive in the past.

Prosecutor Juan Martinez repeatedly questioned Arias and other defense witnesses about this lack of supporting evidence, 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 throughout her trial.

The idea is that we reap what we sow, negativity begets more negativity, and Arias explained to jurors 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 intense cross-examination in February, however, Arias said she had told one person, an ex-boyfriend, about the time Alexander choked her after the man noticed bruises on her neck.

Martinez asked then if the man could corroborate her story.

"Yes," Arias replied sheepishly.

Martinez then snapped back, asking if she was aware the man had no recollection of it. The line of questioning stopped abruptly after repeated objections from defense attorneys. The man also has not been called as a witness to testify for either side.

In addition, there have been no references to violence or abuse in any of the numerous telephone recordings between Arias and the victim or in text messages and emails exchanged between the two and displayed for jurors throughout the trial.

LaViolette explained Tuesday that such behavior is typical for a battered woman.

"They want people to like their partner," she told jurors. "They don't want anybody to think they have lousy taste."

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.

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