I awoke to two sickening and unfortunately not too shocking headlines, “OJ Simpson going to speak to law schools on tour and is excited to get on with his life” and “Will Jodi Arias plead for her life?”
This made my gut flinch. As a legal aid attorney in the 80’s, it was my duty to educate people about domestic violence. I helped draft domestic violence legislation. I helped to build community organizations to address the issues of domestic violence. I worked in shelters and on a shelter advisory board. And in 1995, my world was shaken when the rest of the world was introduced to domestic violence through the OJ Simpson trial and his dream team of attorneys won his acquittal.
There have been other appalling trials in the last few decades, such as William Kennedy Smith who was acquitted of rape without the jury ever hearing the testimony of three women who came forward to tell about being sexually assaulted, nor did they hear about the 2 women who were sexually harassed by him on the job.
Most recently, in 2011, Casey Marie Anthony was tried for the murder of her 2 year old daughter. She lied numerous times, like Arias, but she did not testify and without definitive evidence, the prosecution had a difficult time proving their case. The public went crazy with threats and she has been, I understand, living in hiding.
Jodi Arias eventually recanted a long list of lies and admitted to the murder of Travis Alexander. The jury did not have to decide whether she killed him; they only needed to decide whether it was justified in some way. They voted no, it was not justified.
Like the Kennedy-Smith case, the jurors did not hear all the evidence. They did not get to see the threatening emails from Travis, as they are deemed hearsay. The defense’s expert witness, Alyce LaViolette, did not have a doctorate, and testified poorly on battered women’s syndrome. She was flippant and unlikable in court, and was so stressed out by the trial and public threats against her that she was taken to the emergency room. From the jury’s questions, you could tell it was not clear why a battered woman, who was safe in one state, would drive to another state to be with the man of whom she said she was afraid.
Dr. Lenore Walker, the foremost expert on domestic violence, when asked in an interview by Nancy Grace “[i]f Jodi Arias was lying about Travis Alexander abusing her, could she still be a battered woman?” Walker answered, “Sure. Battered women lie all the time. That’s how they stay alive. That’s how they deal with the shame that they feel, so lying is not new for battered women.”
Dr. Walker added, “[i]t is not just whether or not someone’s an abused woman that’s important in these cases as you well know, Nancy. It doesn’t give them a free pass just because they’re a battered woman. It’s really used only to help us understand whether or not they were in fear of what was happening, that they would be seriously harmed or killed at the time that they commit a homicide. That’s what we have to look at, and that’s not what I’ve heard yet in this trial."