When Love Goes Wrong – Really Wrong (The Jodi Arias Case)

Love, Family

Notorious murderer Jodi Arias - honest talk about abuse, the death penalty and forgiveness

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."

One definition of a battered woman is "A pattern of signs and symptoms, such as fear and a perceived inability to escape, appearing in women who are physically and mentally abused over an extended period, by a husband or other dominant individual." 

Perception from the perspective of the alleged abuse victim is everything. Yet, we’ll often still use the “reasonable person perception” theory, which does not work in these cases.

After working with battered women for years, I can say that many go back and back and back and they reiterate that they loved their abuser. And no one in this trial explained the mind-set of Jodi Arias. The prosecution expert said she had “borderline personality disorder” and I believe her expert said, “post-traumatic stress disorder.” Clearly, Jodi Arias has serious problems, and although she comes across bright and articulate, we must question her mental health.

It is no longer a question of justification of a horrendous and brutal killing, it is now one of death penalty mitigation and NO ONE on the jury has the evidence needed to make an informed decision. The jury, after a few hours of deliberation, came back deadlock, asking advice on how to proceed.

Jodi Arias’ attorneys tried to withdraw from the case, calling it a “witch hunt” as witnesses for Arias refused to testify after threats to their life by the public. The only one testifying is Arias herself, who just last week was on suicide watch. We keep her alive just in case we want to kill her. You have to shake your head and question our own judgment as a nation. Even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer jumped on the band-wagon with her announcement that she is guilty before the jury’s decision was made.

If public stonings were allowed, this country would have stoned both Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias to death. Yet, the jailers are ordered to keep her alive so we can possibly kill her later.

Abuse and the Gender Gap is Alive and Well in the US

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the average sentence for women who kill their partners is 15 years — for men, it is just 2 to 6. And they say that approximately 90 percent of women incarcerated for killing men were abused by the men whom they killed.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in their 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey shows the violent nature of relationships in the US:

• 1 in nearly 5 women are raped in their lifetime, while it is 1 in 71 for men.
• 1 in 6 women have been stalked, and for men it’s 1 in 19.
• And 1 in 4 women are the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while for men it’s 1