These are some of the essays that I have written about the Jodi Arias trial. Many more to come.
JODI ARIAS TRIAL: SECOND EXPERT WITNESS, ALYCE LAVIOLETTE UNDER SCRUTINY
Alyce LaViolette is the second expert witness called by the defense in the Jodi Arias trial. Ms. LaViolette has a Masters degree and has worked since the 1970s in the field of domestic violence. She has been described by some as being a man hater.
For instance, attorney and radio host Jenny Hutt, in her appearance on the Dr. Drew show, referred to Ms. LaViolette’s testimony in the following way: “I feel like she`s just a man hater…she`s clearly prejudicial, and she just reads that she doesn`t like men.”
This criticism, valid or invalid, is also present in professional critiques, couched using terms such as “feminist perspective” and even extends to the personal reviews that can be found on Amazon.com.
One reviewer, asked the question “did she ever meet a man who was not an abuser?” Obviously, the impression of Ms. LaViolette, as being a man hater, is legitimate in the minds of many people. She has left that impression with many readers and viewers of her work. This is not to say that Ms. LaViolette is a man hater, just because a number of people think her so. That would be unfair.
It would be fair to say this. Her behavior, her writing, her court testimony, has left a significant number of people with the impression that she is a man hater.
I don’t know if she is a man hater or is not. If she is, this is America and she has a right to hate men if she wants to. I don’t know that she hates men, hates Republicans, hates Democrats, hates the New England Patriots. I also, do not care to know.
As I have said, she has a right to hate anyone she wants or for that matter, no one. So why did I start this article by talking about the fact that she is leaving this impression with some people, a significant number of people, that she hates men?
It’s because her credibility with the viewer, the reader, the jury, will rest heavily upon her being possibly perceived as a man hater. After all, Travis was a man. Is she saying that Travis was a bad guy or is she saying that Travis was bad “because” he was a guy?
This is not a minor point. If she is a man hater, she is biased and unable to be fair. If she is biased, to view men as base, violent, abusers and women as weak, incapable, victims of men, then her testimony would be of no value. We are concerned about whether or not, Jodi Arias murdered Travis Alexander. Ms. LaViolette, has no value whatsoever, if she cannot shed light upon the innocence or guilt of Jodi Arias.
Is the jury perceiving a bias on the part of Ms. LaViolette? Ms. LaViolette is scheduled to testify again today. One has to wonder, is her ongoing testimony a benefit to the defense team and Jodi Arias?
At some point during the first day or so of testimony, the jury probably thought “thanks for teaching me about domestic violence.” After the second day or the third, the jury probably thought “hey thanks again for teaching me all about domestic violence but you know I really have to get back to work here.” And after, the fourth or fifth day they may well have thought “hey it’s been nice talking to you and you really seem like a nice person and all but I left the Jodi Arias murder trial boiling on the stove and I really have to get back to it now.”
In other words, at some point the jury is going to realize, as has most viewers of the trial, that Ms. LaViolette’s testimony, replete with anecdotes and stories about her friends, clients, and what somebody told her, has nothing to do with whether or not Jodi Arias is guilty.
DIAGNOSING JODI ARIAS
I have been asked by Dr. Randle to provide a written summary to some of the more important questions pertaining to the Jodi Arias case. I have followed the Arias case very closely, having watched all of the testimony and having familiarized myself with available background information.
My background is as a clinician and a college professor. I have no interest in the criminal justice system. My interest in this case is as a clinician. Jodi Arias is an admitted perpetrator of a horrendous killing. She not only killed Travis Alexander but did so in a monstrous fashion. She shot him near his right temple with a .25 caliber bullet which according to the medical examiner traveled through and destroyed the frontal lobes of his brain and ended in the left sinus cavity below the eye. She also stabbed him 29 times. Her most brutal act was savagely cutting all of the soft tissue of his throat. The wound which went from ear to ear, was 3 to 4 inches deep and ended at his spinal column. Reports indicated that he was nearly decapitated. The savagery of her acts are important in providing a diagnosis of her condition. The second thing of great importance, is her lying.
Her lying is not of the typical variety. Much of the negative reaction that the public has to her emotional demeanor is due solely to the manner in which she lies. She lies with the greatest of sincerity. When I discuss her lying, I am only discussing and basing my discussion upon her admitted lies. I am not judging the veracity of her current testimony. I am not saying that she is lying based on my own judgment but instead based on her own admittance.
She has admitted that the information offered by her in the video interviews was deceitful, misleading, and outright lies. If you could only do one thing to familiarize yourself with the Jodi Arias case, it should be to watch her 48 Hour interviews. If you were to watch these interviews you would see a very calm, relaxed, confident, often smiling, very sincere, woman. You would see a woman whose competence and composure would suggest her innocence. Wouldn’t a liar be nervous, fearful and emotionally unsteady? Jodi was none of those things. It is a reasonable conclusion on your part to believe that a normal person would be, that you would be. That is why Jodi’s ability to lie is of paramount diagnostic importance.
Understanding The Nature of Psychiatric Diagnosis
When looking at diagnoses, how they are interpreted, how they are given, it is most important to always remember that a diagnosis is actually a categorization of symptoms. It would be nice to believe that diagnoses are completely consistent between therapists but studies show this not to be true. It would also be nice to say that there is universal agreement around the world on mental illness diagnoses and categories but this is also not true. The United States of course uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Most of Europe uses the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Other places in the world have other systems.
When we attempt to categorize or diagnose Jodi Arias, we must allow for inconsistent diagnoses. I have heard many so-called experts provide a diagnosis for Jodi Arias and though there is room for vagary, many of the diagnoses appeared to be quite incorrect.
So who do you believe? There are many experts. I would like you to ask, “how expert are the experts?” It seems as if anyone with a suitable degree, a master’s degree perhaps and most certainly a PhD, is an expert. You must remember that there are many thousands of these degrees given every year adding up to a great many experts in the last 10 years, and many more going back 25 years. There are plenty of experts to go around. I would suggest, rather than choosing the expert du jour, that you make your own diagnostic determination. I intend to use the DSM and the ICD to some degree, to guide you in making your own diagnostic determination.
I will use my own experience and expertise to narrow the search. I will insist however that, though I will provide my own logical processes and conclusions, you must come to your own determination and final diagnosis.
The Limits of Diagnoses
There are many clinicians and theorists who would insist that all labeling is limited, inconsistent and at best a necessary evil. Diagnoses are a shorthand way to communicate a particular patients or clients mental health state to another clinician or professional who is familiar with the shorthand system. It is much easier to refer to someone as a schizophrenic than it is to describe all of their behavior and symptoms. To read a diagnosis of borderline PD or narcissistic PD is quite communicative. It says a lot. I acknowledge the limitations of labeling but having said that nonetheless there is a necessity for labeling. It’s imperfect and we do not have universal agreement about a particular diagnosis or about a particular mental illness.
I would like to begin by saying that most professionals would agree that Jodi Arias displays symptoms and behaviors that would fall within two or perhaps three diagnostic codes. These would be in order; antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and (though I would strongly disagree) borderline personality disorder. Though I disagree with borderline personality disorder, I will show the logic that leads some to this conclusion.
First I would like to show the consistencies of Jodi’s behavior with antisocial personality disorder. Most important, as you will see if you check the DSM, is lying. You can read all about this on the Internet or in multiple volumes at your local library. If you do so and I would encourage you to do so, please read more than the explanation offered in the DSM. You must recognize that the DSM must be brief or if not the DSM would become voluminous, unwieldy and of little practical value. Please check the DSM for accuracy but also read case histories, examples and explanations that are offered by other writers.
I will provide you my own explanations and interpretations, the same ones that I use in the classroom, to aid in your understanding. I provide this to you, as I would my students, as an aid to understanding. I am not suggesting that it should take the place of your outside reading or research. You should arrive at your own “expert” diagnosis. It is you who should be logically satisfied.
First, check the DSM-IV-TR for its categorization of lying. Next, read what you can about the particular type of lying that is done by the person with antisocial personality disorder. In the next paragraph, I will explain and give examples of the type of lying that is associated with antisocial personality disorder. Students like examples, perhaps you will to.
Lying and Lack of Conscience
If someone were to tell me about their child’s consistent lying and that this lying has become problematic, my first concerns would be towards the possibility of antisocial personality disorder. Technically, according to the DSM, a child cannot be labeled antisocial, they must be 18 years of age to earn such a designation. However, practically speaking and clinicians must be practical for they are practitioners, antisocial personality disorder persons do not magically appear after their 17th year of life.
Before we look at the nature of the lying, it would be best to look at what motivates it. For many professionals, if they were asked to provide the shortest possible description of antisocial personality disorder, they would say “a lack of conscience.” Conscience has no scientific explanation. It has never been weighed or objectively measured. However, there is a practical if not scientific understanding of conscience. I will proceed using the commonly held understanding of conscience.
The Bad Seed
Someone with antisocial personality disorder, appears to have no conscience or at least a conscience that can be turned on and off when it suits the needs of the individual. Since we are looking at a culturally held understanding of conscience and in the case of the antisocial, the lack thereof, it might be best to look at a movie. The 1956 movie The Bad Seed, is perhaps the perfect example. A mother has a beautiful eight-year-old daughter and throughout the film it becomes apparent that the daughter has no conscience. The daughter lies constantly, in a manner that is quite consistent with the person with antisocial personality disorder. The daughter also commits heinous acts of evil, all for her own self-interest. She appears to have no concern for the life or well-being of others. It was reported that moviegoers cheered wildly in the movie theater, when the beautiful eight-year-old girl is killed by a lightning bolt at the end of the film. One could conclude that symbolically God did smite this little girl because he was smiting evil.
I’ve spoken to many individuals, colleagues included, who have (or at least have expressed to me) a revulsion towards Jodi Arias. This is not surprising to me because as social creatures the antisocial is anathema. Just as antimatter is the opposite of matter and will lead to its annihilation, the antisocial is the opposite of the social and would lead to the destruction of the social creature and society at large. Antisocial personality disorder is fairly rare, estimated to affect less than 1% of the population. If the percentage was greater it would certainly be destructive to society and if the numbers were greater still it would make society an impossibility. How could you sit in a movie theater, with your back turned towards others, when antisocial persons could be behind you and if they were, they would harm you for their benefit, without hesitation.
When Ted Bundy was interviewed he spoke of the women that he dated and intended to kill, that he did not kill. In one such example, when asked why he did not kill a particular woman, he said that he intended to and had driven her to the designated spot but that it had begun to rain and he did not want to get wet or get his shoes muddy. Her life meant nothing to him but the inconvenience of muddy shoes did. Could you sit in a college classroom if 10% of the population was antisocial?
As you do your research into antisocial personality disorder, please recognize that persons with this disorder do not always turn to a life of crime and do not always end up in prison. You will find confirmation of the fact that they sometimes become very successful businessman and women. Having no conscience, having no hesitation to lie and having no reluctance to harm others, can be a great asset to the success of a business man or woman.
The Diagnostic Significance of Jodi’s Unique Ability to Lie
Ms. Arias, compared to the normal individual, has a unique ability to lie. She lies, not always but always when it benefits her. It is the manner in which she lies which is the most revealing. A review of her video interviews will clearly demonstrate this. We first must recognize as we watch those videos, that she knows that she is lying. We don’t have to judge whether or not what she is saying is true because she has admitted that everything she said, in those interviews, was a lie. In the interviews she appears to be calm, serene, witty and charming. Wit and charm are characteristics of an individual with antisocial personality disorder. Both the wit and charm are used to manipulate others. Manipulating others is also characteristic of the antisocial.
Lack of Remorse or Guilt
You will also see in her interviews and court testimony that she describes the flattery that she used with Travis Alexander and admitted that she said it because he liked to hear it. In her recorded phone sex tape, you will hear her using great degrees of flattery when speaking to Travis. Again, this flattery is simply an attempt to deceive and manipulate Mr. Alexander. What is lacking, in the antisocial, is honesty, integrity, morality and concern for the well-being of any other. The antisocial does not show remorse because of course they do not feel remorse. If you simply do not care about the well-being of another, or for that matter any other, you cannot feel and will not feel guilt or remorse after having harmed them.
Checking the DSM, will show that a lack of guilt or remorse is also characteristic of the antisocial. Many people have commented on the fact that Jodi Arias seems to have inappropriate emotional responses. I would suggest to you that in her interviews and court testimony, what makes her emotional responses appear to be odd is that she does not show or apparently feel any guilt or remorse. I should clarify the fact that she does appear remorseful about the things that she has done which have resulted in harming herself. However, when discussing Mr. Alexander she does not display guilt or remorse. The fact that she has admitted to the brutal slaying of Mr. Alexander, means that she is responsible for the loss of his life and for all the pain and suffering he endured that led to his death. Even if, as she contends, her actions were in self-defense she still is responsible for all of his pain and suffering and the loss of his life.
For a normal individual, killing someone by accident or in self-defense will still result in feelings of remorse and guilt. Even when killing someone is a necessity, for instance in the case of a police officer or soldier, there will be a resulting emotional consequence. You may or may not be aware of this but in recent wars, more soldiers have died as a result of suicide than have died in combat.
It is commonly difficult for police officers to live with the fact that their actions, even when necessary to save an innocent life, have resulted in the death of another. Even if Jodi Arias was forced to kill Travis to save her own life, she should feel great sadness and remorse. It is up to you to decide if she is displaying remorse. In my opinion, she is not. Since I have brought up her self-defense plea, it would be negligent of me not to mention issues pertaining to the legitimacy of such a plea.
The Self-Defense Plea
Using self-defense to protect yourself from the attack of another is only legitimate when “sufficient” force is used. Anything beyond sufficient force is not acceptable as an explanation for self-defense. It might very well be true that a wife was about to strike her husband in the face with a closed fist. If this were true and he were in danger, he would have the right, the legitimate right, to stop her attack. Obviously, though he has the right to stop her attack, he does not have the right even when attacked, to pick up a knife and stab her. He most certainly does not have the right to cut her throat or shoot her in the head. Self-defense has at its core the implicit understanding that only sufficient force be used to protect one’s self from danger.
In the Jodi Arias case, greatly excessive force was used. One cannot explain Jodi’s actions using the explanation of self-defense. It should be obviously true to anyone, perhaps with the exception of her defense team, that her actions cannot be explained by an argument of self-defense. The medical examiner testified that the bullet, that Jodi has admitted firing into the head of Travis Alexander, resulted in the exploding of the frontal lobes of Mr. Alexander’s brain. According to his testimony, Mr. Alexander would have instantly become unconscious. Once unconscious, Mr. Alexander would be no threat to Jodi Arias. In the 29 stab wounds that Jodi Arias inflicted upon Travis, one of the wounds sliced a large blood vessel of the heart — the vena cava. The wound would have severely incapacitated Mr. Alexander. It would have caused him to bleed to death and upon its infliction, Mr. Alexander would no longer have been a threat to Jodi Arias.
At some point, Ms. Arias cut Mr. Alexander’s throat from ear to ear. As I had mentioned earlier, all of the soft tissue had been cut and according to court testimony, Mr. Alexander had been nearly decapitated. According to the medical examiner’s testimony, within seconds of having had his throat cut, Mr. Alexander would have been rendered unconscious and thus no longer a threat to Ms. Arias. In essence, Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander three times. Any one time would have been sufficient to render Travis Alexander a harmless threat to Ms. Arias.
Ms. Arias’ defense team is aware of the excessive violence, that is inconsistent with a self-defense plea and that is why they have brought up the battered spouse syndrome. The battered spouse defense is their attempt to explain the horrendous violence that Jodi admittedly committed to Travis Alexander. The purpose of this writing is to help the reader understand the mental health state of Jodi Arias, in other words to answer the question “what mental illness does Jodi Arias suffer from?” Again it would be negligent, to bring up battered spouse syndrome, without providing at least a small explanation.
Battered Woman Syndrome/ Battered Person Syndrome
Perhaps the most important thing that I could say, is that there is no diagnostic code for this disorder contained within the DSM. The ICD, does have a diagnosis code for Battered Person Syndrome (BPS). Battered wife, battered woman, battered spouse, abused spouse, abused woman, battered person syndrome, domestic violence, all have been used in writings and in the legal system to describe roughly the same thing.
There are very specific diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. All are clearly spelled out and delineated within the DSM. Battered person syndrome (BPS) is not as easily defined or delineated.
This disorder does have identifying characteristics and the term is used by the public and in the legal system. It remains controversial among many professionals. There is however, a description of the BPS in the ICD. We will look at those characteristics, even though it is the DSM that is used for diagnostic purposes in the United States and not the ICD.
I can assure you, since there is so much controversy and disagreement about the very existence of a battered person syndrome or battered woman etc., that what I am about to write will be acceptable to some clinicians and not to others. However, I think that there is a common understanding of a battered spouse and though that understanding may be inaccurate, it is still used as a legal defense. Here is how it is commonly used and understood. A person, usually a woman or a wife, undergoes a lengthy period of mental and physical abuse. Often this abuse takes place in a loving relationship. Most characteristic of this situation is that the abused cannot end the abuse by leaving. In other words, leaving the abuser will not provide safety or end the abuse. There are many reasons why the abused cannot leave the abuser. There are physical threats from the abuser of severe repercussions towards the abused or their families. The abused may not have anywhere to go to. They simply can’t leave. This may be due to a lack of money, family, friends, or the necessary convictions to leave.
The question becomes, in the legal system, could the victim of the abuse have ended the abuse by leaving? That is by far the most important question. Remember in this country, killing your spouse, no matter how abusive they may have been, is never a justified form of payback. It’s not as if the court system is saying, “prove they were really abusive people and it’s okay if you have killed them.” The real question that the court is asking is “was there any other way to stop the abuse other than by killing them?” If the victim of the abuse could be reasonably assumed to have had the ability to leave, then almost always they are found guilty.
According to the testimony of Jodi Arias, she never lived with Travis. So in that regard they were independent. Also according to her testimony, she was always financially independent of Travis, so she did not need Travis Alexander’s money to survive. She also claimed, according to her testimony, that she had determined that she did not want to marry Travis and that she was happy that he had found someone that he did want to marry. This would indicate that she was not psychologically and not emotionally dependent upon Travis Alexander.
All of this proves, that Jodi Arias had the power (physically and psychologically) to leave Travis Alexander and end the supposed, alleged abuse. We don’t need to hypothesize about whether or not she had the power to leave, she did in fact leave. She moved over 1000 miles away from Travis. This is not conjecture or theory, it is simple fact. She had the money to move (from her mother). She had a place to move to, her grandparents home in Yreka. She also rather quickly found employment in Yreka.
Virtually No Evidence of Abuse in the Arias Case
The first qualifier for the battered person syndrome, is that some battering has to have occurred. Jodi has no evidence whatsoever of physical injury, to her person, having come as a result of the actions of Travis Alexander. She has told us rather convincingly of Travis having abused her. Her testimony was filled with sincerity, tears and emotion. However, neither her sincerity or tears or emotion was any greater than that which she displayed in her 48 Hour interviews, when she dramatically told us of the two ninjas who put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger and later brutally killed Travis. She also told us, that because of what occurred to her, at the hands of the two ninjas, she was horribly traumatized, frightened and thus did not go to authorities. During the two nationally televised 48 Hour interviews, her tears were wet, her fear was palpable and her sincerity was unquestionable, even though every word she said was a lie.
There were no ninjas. There was no gun put to her head. No one ever threatened her or her family. As you observe her, in those nationally televised interviews, please remember that every word that escaped her lips, every saddened glance downward, every emotion, was a lie. We know that, because Jodi Arias has admitted that.
She has testified to a surprisingly small amount of alleged abuse, suffered at the hands of Travis. I am not suggesting that any amount of abuse is acceptable but instead I’m saying that the amount, she has testified to, is surprisingly small when compared to that of a battered woman or spouse etc. The number of incidents, which she claims came as a result of Travis’ abuse, is surprisingly low.
Of course, she has no evidence of any abuse. By contrast the battered woman has not just five or six incidents of abuse but instead hundreds, perhaps thousands. And as for evidence of abuse, the battered woman has broken bones, broken ribs, a crooked nose, broken teeth and medical records to prove it. Her friends and family can also attest to the strange bruising, which they observed, and she explained away as another example of her clumsiness.
Does Jodi Have Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder ?
Does Jodi Arias suffer with BPD? This seems to be the most popular diagnosis given by those in the public eye. Most experienced clinicians would disagree. I could waste your time by repeating and explaining the diagnostic criteria that can easily be found in the DSM-IV-TR. I would suggest if you are seriously interested in the criteria, you can easily find them on the Internet. I will instead, give you a clinical picture of someone with BPD.
Clinical Picture of Someone With BPD
Persons with BPD have great difficulty moving out of their home and into the world, alone. For instance, they oftentimes have great difficulty moving away to college. They often will struggle, return and then have to attend a local college or university. They have a great fear of abandonment. A hallmark characteristic of BPD is self-mutilation. This often goes beyond simple cutting. It may involve using a knife or scalpel to carve their boyfriends initials into their arm or thigh. Or using a lit cigarette to burn the initials deep into their skin.
Their love relationships alternate, within their mind, between idealization and total devaluation. If we look at Jodi’s journals, we can see no sign of this fluctuation. Her relationship with Travis appeared to be fairly steady. There was very little fluctuation in how she describes the relationship or how she wrote about the relationship in her journals.
We have not heard or read from her journals, that Jodi engaged in any type of self-mutilating behavior.
Jodi was not at all afraid to move from home. She had jobs in cities far from home. She lived with Darryl for a number of years before leaving him for Travis. She has testified to the fact that she had broken up with most of her boyfriends, including Travis. It was her decision to move back to Yreka. This all shows a level of independence that is not characteristic of BPD.
Borderline people act impulsively. They do so because it gives them immediate relief from the extraordinarily intense emotions that they may feel. This impulsivity is more likely to cause self-harm than harm to others. They might, in a fit of rage, pick up a gun and shoot someone but there is no premeditation. Remember, their acts are impulsive, they are spur of the moment actions. They are emotionally impulsive. They would not steal a gun a week before they shoot someone. They would not borrow and purchase gas cans, so as not to leave a trail of receipts that would link them to the murder scene. They would not remove the battery from their phone so that there would be no record of cell phone pings from the towers in Arizona. The borderlines’ actions show no preparation, no planning, no scheming. They are impulsive. Their actions show this impulsivity. It is a hallmark characteristic of their disorder. They would not premeditate a murder. Jodi, most certainly premeditated her murder of Travis and this alone, disqualifiers her from a diagnosis of borderline PD.
Why Antisocial Is More Fitting Than BPD
So far we have focused on characteristics of BPD which Jodi doesn’t have. Let’s look at a characteristic that she does possess, which is not characteristic of BPD. Lying, is not characteristic of BPD, especially not the massive lies and deceptions generated by Ms. Arias. The type of pathological lying that typifies Jodi’s history is not characteristic of BPD but is instead the key characteristic of antisocial personality disorder. If we listen to Jodi’s trial testimony, she appears to have no empathy for Travis or her mother or her father. In all likelihood she is incapable of feeling empathy. In one of her television interviews, she cries and talks about all the things that she will now miss out on in her life. Her sadness, when displayed in interviews or on the witness stand, comes from the pain that she has caused herself. It is a “woe is me,” type of sadness. She appears to have no realization of what she has done to Travis or his family. She appears to have no guilt.
After coming out of the “fog” for the first time, on her way to Hoover Dam, she said she thought ”something really bad had happened” and then went on to say “that she had really screwed up.” This is a far cry from a normal person who would have been overwhelmed at having massacred another human being. Remember, this was not a fight where someone shoots her lover three times or stabs him in a fit of anger but instead was a true massacre. We know that she shot him in the head and stabbed him 29 times in the chest, head and back.
However, the most telling thing was the cutting of his throat. Keep in mind, Jodi had no medical equipment with her to determine the extent of the injuries that she had just inflicted on Travis. Were the shooting and the 29 stab wounds enough to kill him?
It is safe to assume that when you shoot someone in the head and then stab him 29 times, you want that person dead. It is a safe assumption. It is a reasonable conclusion. However, nothing is more demonstrable of your intentions than to cut someone’s throat.
Some people live after being shot in the head. Some people survive 29 stab wounds but no one survives having their throats cut, ear to ear. That was her act of finality. There is no doubt that slitting someone’s throat is murder. It cannot be self-defense. It is an act of execution.
In none of her police testimony or her court testimony, is there a sign of remorse on the part of Jodi Arias. She seems to have no understanding of the gravity of her actions. She has no guilt, in fact her defense is that she is “not” guilty. The lack of empathy, remorse and guilt is not at all characteristic of BPD but instead is the very core of antisocial personality disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
The very last personality disorder that I will discuss in this paper is narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). In the media, “experts” that are interviewed often diagnose Ms. Arias as having NPD. Again, all of the diagnostic criteria are available online and if you’re interested in the specifics, please take the time to look them up. Instead of listing them one by one and explaining them, I will instead give you an example of someone with NPD. I would also like to mention that in the clinical world, the narcissist is often considered a therapist’s nightmare.
Every good therapist, gives their all for each client. I have known many good therapists and I can assure you that is true. They try their best, they hold nothing back and they truly care about their clients. It’s not that the problem of narcissism makes the narcissistic client difficult, it is the behavior of the narcissistic client that makes them difficult to deal with.
The narcissist believes that they are among the elite that walk this earth and that they deserve to be recognized as such and treated as such. They also have little compassion for those beneath them and that can often include their therapist. They are incredibly demanding. They expect to be treated like the royalty that they believe themselves to be. They can believe that they are not only attractive but the most attractive person in the world. They expect to be recognized as such by the therapist and seek admiration from the therapist.
They will ask questions to the therapist such as “I am the most beautiful client you have, aren’t I?” Or say things to that end, like “I felt so bad for the bride because when I walked into the room everyone ignored her and looked at me. How should I have handled that?”
Narcissists have fantasies of unlimited success, unlimited power, and unlimited achievement. When in love, they will describe it as “a love never before felt by a human being.” It’s not that they consider themselves to be the best, the highest one in the world, etc. but that they believe that they belong to a very special class of the elite. They belong to a group that is few in number and is superior to the rest of the human race.
They might accept the coffee offered by the therapist, in the white foam cup. At the next visit however, they might bring their own special ceramic mug that they expect the therapist to keep clean and have available for them, at all future visits.
They are, interpersonally exploitative. That means that they can take advantage of you in relationships. They can expect you to drive them somewhere or pick them up when their car is in the shop. Remember, I said expect you to, not ask you to. They just take it for granted that you would want to please your king or queen. They might ask you to pick up a few things for them at the grocery store. Expect you to deliver them, and then show their disdain towards you, if you can’t do it soon enough to please them. After having gone out of your way, purchasing the groceries, delivering the groceries, they might become annoyed with you if you were to ask to be reimbursed for the groceries. After all, aren’t you being ungrateful, since your queen has allowed you to be of service to her? Yes, they can be interpersonally exploitative but that does not mean interpersonally explosive. There is no mention in the DSM-IV-TR, of them lying, deceiving, killing, being violent or aggressive.
Sociopaths, Psychopaths and Antisocial Personality Disorder
Remember, when we talked about sociopaths, psychopaths and antisocial personality disorder? No matter what you may have heard on the Internet or television, no matter how many degrees that the expert interviewed possesses, no matter how many advanced years of experience they may have, there is no diagnosis code in the DSM-IV-TR for psychopath or sociopath. The diagnosis, in the DSM-IV-TR, that would describe the behavior that the public is referring to as psychopathy or sociopathy, is antisocial personality disorder.
Many of the characteristics that Jodi Arias is displaying, when looked at superficially, are reminiscent of narcissism and BPD. But that’s as far as it goes. A deeper analysis would take a diagnostician beneath the superficial similarities and bring them clearly to a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Many of the behaviors of Jodi Arias, which has caused the TV experts to diagnose her as borderline or narcissistic, can be better understood and are fully contained within a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. In other words, her concern for her appearance, her fixation on Travis, her inappropriate and seemingly limited emotional responses (blunted affect) are all characteristic of the antisocial.
I would like to take a minute to discuss something that many people see in Jodi’s behavior and are describing as “blunted affect.” It is not blunted affect. It is instead, inappropriate affect. Dr. Samuel’s testified that when he spoke to Ms. Arias about her killing of Travis, she didn’t respond appropriately. He expected a more intense response. Let me explain blunted affect with an analogy. Think of normal emotional responses, like a mountain range. The peaks of the mountains are high and the valleys that separate them are low. How high and low are they? They are normally high and normally low, as you would expect to see in the average mountain range.
That normal mountain range is analogous to normal human emotions. Now let’s imagine a different mountain range, where the mountain tops are not high, not nearly as high as normal and the valleys are not deep, not nearly as deep as normal.
That is blunted affect. The differences between the highs and the lows are not as big as they should be, in a normal mountain range or in normal human emotional responses.
If someone told you that your beloved mother was just killed in a car crash, assuming that you are normal, we would expect to see a very strong emotional response from you. However, that is just our expectation. Your response might be different. You might have a blunted response or a less intense response than we would expect. We are simply comparing your response to what we would expect the average response to be.
If you responded the way would we would expect most people to respond, then we consider your response to be normal. If you respond differently, we would think your response was odd or abnormal. This however, does not mean that we were right in our assumption that your response was inappropriate. Perhaps, your mother had been a very bad mother and you did not love her at all. Then, your less intense response to the news of your mother’s death, or what some would call blunted affect, was quite normal and completely appropriate.
When Dr. Samuels talked to Jodi Arias about her killing of Travis Alexander, her responses were less intense than Dr. Samuels expected and thus he called it blunted affect. I would contend that Jodi Arias’ responses were quite normal and appropriate for someone who has antisocial personality disorder.
Antisocials, have no empathy. They do not have the ability to feel what another is feeling or perhaps they do but they simply don’t care what another feels. They care only about themselves and what benefits them.
Jodi cares about Jodi.
Does she now wish that she had not killed Travis?
Yes, most certainly so but it’s not because she stole his life from him and left a gaping wound in the lives of those who loved him. That’s not what she cares about. What bothers her and brings her to tears, at times, is the fact that she is unhappy being in prison.
She’s not having fun and she doesn’t like it. That’s what’s bothering her. This is typical of the antisocial. When discussing the killing of Travis, she uses expressions like “crap, I really screwed up.” Not expressions like “Dear God, forgive me for what I’ve done.”
She really doesn’t care about Travis, she never did. He was a means to an end. He was a way to get what Jodi wanted. He was an object to be manipulated. Dr. Samuels should not have been surprised by her shallow response. She didn’t have much of a response because she just doesn’t care very much about having killed him.
If we were standing together, and someone came up and told us that your mother was killed, you most probably would have a very strong response. You loved her. Her death and her loss matter very much to you.
As we were standing there, listening to the news of your mother’s death, I would have had a very shallow response. I did not know your mother. I did not love your mother and I am not feeling a loss. I care much more about the pain that you are now in, than the loss of your mother, someone I did not know.
Both of our responses were normal. Yours, because you cared and mine because I did not. Jodi’s shallow response was also normal. Normal for someone who simply didn’t and doesn’t care.
DOES JODI ARIAS HAVE LOW SELF-ESTEEM?
Many people have described Jodi Arias’ behavior as being odd. Some have referred to it as blunted affect and others have described her as being shy and lacking self-confidence. Much of Dr. Samuels’ testimony, has stressed her very low self-esteem. Low self-esteem has been a hallmark component of Dr. Samuels’ diagnosis. But does Jodi Arias have low self-esteem? There is no doubt that her behavior appears to be odd, that she strikes people as being not “normal.”
There are many reasons why this might be true, why she strikes people as odd. The least likely reason, is that she is shy with low self-esteem. You’ve probably already watched her 48 Hours interviews. She appears to be calm, completely in control, unflappable, and emanating the same confidence as a diva.
Please imagine someone who really is shy with low self-esteem. For many reading this, you won’t need to imagine someone because that someone is you. You have suffered with shyness and the lack of confidence in your abilities, your entire life. What if you were offered to do a one-hour interview on a national television show? You’re in jail for murder, awaiting trial and the outcome of the interview could determine whether you live or die. If you really do have low self-esteem and are shy the thought of being on national television, having to answer questions, being the center of attention for one hour, the cameras zooming in on your face, would be far worse than death. That’s right, you’d probably say “kill me” but I’m not doing the interview. “They can only execute me once but I’d die a torturous death each and every time I thought about the scheduled upcoming interview.”
I have had students who have changed their college major as soon as they found out that they would have to take a speech class. Just knowing that they would have to get up in front of a room of fellow students and give a short speech, was enough for them to pick a new career. I once had a client, who was promoted and would now have to give small monthly presentations to the upper management staff. Her plans before counseling, were to find other employment.
Shyness and a lack of self-esteem are major life problems. They are crippling. They bring misery and I would encourage anyone suffering with this problem, to enter counseling. With the right therapist, it is easily solved.
Jodi Arias does not and did not have this problem. She has radiated confidence. Nervous? I defy anyone who has watched her video interviews (48 Hours, Dateline, etc.) to seriously suggest that they can correctly note any signs of nervousness in Jodi’s behavior. Her voice did not tremble. She did not look away from the camera. She was not at a loss for words. Instead she looked directly into the camera and smiled sweetly. It was like an audience with a princess.
Look at the recently released video of Jodi, alone in the interrogation room, shortly after having been arrested. How would a shy person with low self-esteem act on that video? What would we expect to see? Fear. Crying. Signs of distress. We would not expect to see them singing. We would not expect to see them laughing. We would not expect to see them doing a headstand against the wall. We would not expect to see them doing yoga.
When they were told that they were about to be booked and have their mug shot taken, what would you expect they would ask the police officer? Perhaps, they would ask if they could call their attorney, or their spouse, or a minister. But what did Jodi Arias ask the officer when she knew that she was about to have her mug shot taken? She said, “I know this is going to make me look shallow but can you let me clean up a little before you take my mug shot?”
Isn’t that, arrogance, pride, vanity? Are these things present in a shy person with low self-esteem?
Evidence of Jodi’s Aggressiveness and Assertiveness
Consider the many aggressive and assertive actions of Jodi Arias. When Jodi learned Matt McCartney was cheating on her, she drove an hour and a half to confront a woman named Bianca. According to Matt McCartney, Jodi and Matt were broken up at the time he was seeing Bianca. Jodi admitted in testimony that there may have been “some confusion” about whether or not she and Matt were broken up at the time of the confrontation with Bianca. Remember driving an hour and a half, late in the evening, to confront a stranger is a very aggressive act.
Jodi’s first inclination was to be confrontational. A person with low self-esteem avoids confrontation. They feel inadequate when compared to others. A person with low self-esteem might have even blamed themselves for their partner cheating.
Jodi killed Travis Alexander, she’s admitted to that. It was necessary for Jodi to travel nearly 3000 miles, to kill Travis. She traveled by car and slept at times in the car. The majority of people would not feel comfortable sleeping on the side of the road, alone in their vehicle. Sleeping at the side of a road or in a parking lot, places you in a very vulnerable position. There are many things that can go wrong on a long road trip. The rental car breaks down, you run out of gas, you get a flat tire and all of these things could take place when you’re out of cell phone range. And speaking of the cell phone, what would happen if you lost your charger and you had no battery left? Perhaps the charger has rolled under the front seat and though you search the car diligently you can’t find it. You might then have no cell phone and be completely out of communication as you drive hundreds of miles to kill Travis Alexander. You might say it’s improbable that you would lose the charger to your cell phone, after all it’s a small rental car. Where could it go? Well according to Jodi, somehow it made its way underneath the front seat. Fortunately, after killing Travis and driving hundreds of miles across the desert (back to the Las Vegas area) she found the charger just-in-time to call and leave a voicemail for a dead man. The man that she had just killed.
How much self-confidence must you have, how much belief in your abilities, to travel 3000 miles, kill a man, meet a new boyfriend and make it back to Yreka…right on time to begin your shift as a waitress?
Television interviews have been conducted with many individuals who knew Jodi. Virtually every person interviewed, described Jodi as confident, assertive, aggressive, and someone who thought highly of herself. Not one person interviewed, thought she was suffering from low self-esteem.
Anthony Vaeena and Zion Lovingier, two of Jodi’s former friends, described a time when she invited herself on a surfing trip with them and a third man. They were surprised by her boldness and were uncomfortable with the idea of her attending. They subsequently changed their plans in an effort to discourage Jodi from going. They told her they would be traveling to a deserted beach in Mexico. They told her that she would be the only woman on the trip but it didn’t matter to Jodi. They described her as bizarre and assertive. She was not too shy to “scoot up” to Anthony, according to his interview. The surfing trip story is reminiscent of the all-male camping trip she planned prior to her July 2008 arrest. Inviting herself on an all-male trip, is the antithesis of a shy woman with low self-esteem.
Most importantly, for a period of approximately 10 days, Jodi acted as her own lawyer. She fired her defense team and decided that she, and she alone, would become the defense attorney. She went to court and acted as her attorney. Her life was on the line and though she had never gone to law school, she chose herself as the best attorney available. Is this someone with low self-esteem? Jodi was a high school dropout, with no life accomplishments, yet she believed that she was better equipped to represent herself in a death penalty case, than a team of highly skilled lawyers.
In another television interview, an acquaintance of Jodi’s described occasions at Pre-Paid Legal Services events, in which she made it a point to introduce herself to the “most important people in the room.” People with low self-esteem are shy and avoid situations where they have to interact with people, especially “important people.” They are preoccupied with the idea that they may say something “stupid” and are constantly worried about what other people might think of them. They would instead prefer to hide in a corner, too nervous to mingle with the crowd.
Clancy Talbot, a friend of Travis’s, described a time where she was accosted by Jodi Arias in a woman’s bathroom. The three were at an event at which Jodi claimed that Ms. Talbot was “intoxicated and hanging on” Travis. Jodi told this story on the witness stand but omitted the part where she cornered Ms. Talbot in the hotel bathroom. Jodi demanded that Ms. Talbot stay away from Travis because he belonged to her. Ms. Talbot commented that Jodi was anything but suffering from low self-esteem. Jodi was assertive, confrontational and out of control.
Jodi discussed another instance of aggressiveness on the stand (though she did not see it that way), in which she saw Travis making out with a woman when the two were no longer dating. Jodi showed up unannounced at Travis’s home, saw him with another woman and confronted him about what she witnessed. Remember that the two were not dating but she felt it was her right to confront Travis. The idea of being at someone’s house uninvited, peeking in their windows, is more evidence of her aggressiveness.
No Proof of Low Self-Esteem
There is not a single account of Jodi acting in a manner that’s consistent with an individual experiencing low self-esteem. Dr. Samuels is the only person who has made that observation about Jodi Arias. According to his testimony, Dr. Samuels had no outside corroboration to support his diagnosis of Jodi suffering from low self-esteem. He testified that his opinion was based solely on the information that Jodi told him concerning Travis Alexander and her relationship with him. In fact Dr. Samuels admits that during the first six of the 12 total interviews that he conducted with Ms. Arias that she continued to insist that Travis was killed by two assailants dressed like ninjas. He also stated that he was familiar with and had watched her television interviews. He also testified on the witness stand, that he knew that she was lying because the crime scene evidence made her story impossible.
After his sixth meeting with Ms. Arias, according to his testimony, he and defense attorney Kirk Nurmi made one or two visits to the prison in an attempt to convince Jodi to tell the truth (or perhaps just to come up with a more believable story). She then changed her story to… no ninjas, no gun to her forehead, no threats of death to her family. She now claimed to have killed Travis in self-defense.
Dr. Samuels was well aware of Jodi’s past, massive deceptions. Why would he now believe someone, who had actively and recently lied to him? Remember that his post-traumatic stress diagnosis relies heavily on her meek submissive demeanor.
It is the opinion of this author that Dr. Samuels, in orchestration with the defense team, is setting up the defense’s second witness, who will contend that Jodi Arias was a battered spouse. This will explain her meek behavior and her low self-esteem both of which Dr. Samuels has already sworn to. How did she get this way? Well of course, Dr. Samuels would have us believe that she was abused by her parents and then later she suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of Travis Alexander.
Please keep in mind that there is absolutely no evidence, from any source, that corroborates, suggests, hints at or even indicates the possibility that Travis Alexander abused Jodi in any way. Dr. Samuels has testified repeatedly that he believes Jodi was abused by Travis. He believes it simply because Jodi told him it was true. It is inconceivable that anyone familiar with the history of Jodi Arias, could believe her under any circumstances.
It is possible that she could tell the truth. When she says it is not raining outside it might not be, but an intelligent person would look out the window before leaving the house without an umbrella. You simply can’t believe anything she says.
JODI ARIAS TRIAL: DR. SAMUELS SECOND DAY OF TRIAL
Dr. Samuels might well have no memory of his second day of testimony. If his theory is correct and painful, traumatic experiences can well cause dissociative amnesia, then in all likelihood Dr. Samuels has no memory of yesterday’s testimony.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez, sliced and diced Dr. Samuels like a tomato in a Ginsu knife commercial. Prosecutor Martinez is known for his high energy, animated style of cross-examination but technique had nothing to do with his effectiveness. It was instead, his insight, his logic and his analysis.
The second day of testimony started with a continuation of the direct examination of Dr. Samuels by the defense attorney. He was treated with great respect and total deference and his expertise was accepted without challenge. However, when prosecutor Martinez cross-examined Dr. Samuels’s his expertise did not go unchallenged.
For instance, early in the cross-examination, prosecutor Martinez asked Samuels if he had much experience with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dr. Samuels responded indeed he had. Prosecutor Martinez then asked him, the name of the PTSD test that Dr. Samuels had given to Jodi Arias. Dr. Samuels began to answer, apparently was unable to remember the correct name, then began to look for the test itself in his binder. Prosecutor Martinez, saw him doing this and told him to stop and “simply tell us the name from memory.” Dr. Samuels struggled to remember the name of the test and then stated the name incorrectly. Prosecutor Martinez then asked him to read the name from the test, proving that the name given from Dr. Samuels memory was incorrect. In fact, it wasn’t even close.
Prosecutor Martinez asked Dr. Samuels how many times he had given this test. Dr. Samuels replied “about 15 times.” That’s 15 times in a lifetime. There are many clinicians, who specialize in PTSD, who have administered this test 1500 times or more. The question arises, “does administering a PTSD test 15 times, make you more a beginner or an expert?” Remember Dr. Samuels could not remember the name of the test that he had administered 15 times. Would it be fair to conclude that he was not very familiar with this test?
Also Dr. Samuels was unable to provide documentation that prosecutor Martinez requested. He was reprimanded by prosecutor Martinez for not being prepared to provide expert testimony. Prosecutor Martinez told Dr. Samuels that an expert witness is expected to bring the complete case file with him to court. On at least two occasions Dr. Samuels offered the excuse that he had probably “left it on his desk.” Once again I ask the question, “would it be fair to say that a professional witness, offering the excuse “I must have left it on my desk” is akin to “my dog ate my homework?”
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)
Dr. Samuels also made a serious error, in his testimony about TGA, when he twice said “3% to 8% of 100,000″ people develop TGA. This is not at all what the study says. Three percent of 100,000 people is 3000 people. Likewise, 8% of 100,000 people is 8000 people. Dr. Samuels went on to say that since 3% to 8% (of 100,000 people) are suffering from TGA, this means that TGA is fairly common. I would take exception to his conclusion. 3% to 8% of 100,000 people, would in my estimation not make it common but would also not make it rare.
However, please keep in mind that Dr. Samuels was wrong. It’s not 3% to 8%. The study never said that. The study clearly states that 3 to 8 people in 100,000 will develop TGA. That’s three people, not 3%. Three people in 100,000 is .00003, not 3% as stated in Dr. Samuels’ testimony. Three people out of 100 is 3%. Three people out of 100,000, is .00003.
So Dr. Samuels’ testimony stated that 3% to 8% of 100,000 people developed TGA. Remember, what the truth is. The study clearly states 3 to 8 people out of 100,000 and that would be .00003 to .00008.
You might say he misspoke but there is a level of precision that you expect with an expert. You would not expect a neurosurgeon to ask his nurse to hand him “that knife thing.”
Prosecutor Martinez meticulously worked on the timeline that was used for the administration of the PDS test done by Dr. Samuels He clearly proved in court that Dr. Samuels had administered the PDS while Jodi Arias was in the midst of her “two ninjas did it” lie. Also it is quite important to note, that her lie had nothing to do with her claimed amnesia or fog. We’re not talking about what she “can’t remember.” We are instead talking about “claiming to remember” things that just never happened. She knew that she was lying, she knew there were never two ninjas and she has admitted it. She stated that she lied. In her court testimony she said that at that point in time “she was lying to everyone.”
Prosecutor Martinez led Dr. Samuels to admit aloud in court, that the test results for the PDS were invalid because Jodi Arias had lied during the test. She had chosen answers, proven by illustration (provided by prosecutor Martinez) to be lies. She chose her answers so that they would be consistent with her two ninjas lie.
Soon thereafter, prosecutor Martinez got Dr. Samuels to admit that the test was invalid and that he, Dr. Samuels, had used the test results to a large degree in coming to his diagnosis of PTSD in Ms. Arias. Dr. Samuels actually then stated “perhaps I should’ve re-administered the test.”
Of course every good clinician knows that anyone who is intelligent and knowledgeable and possessing intent, can easily falsify a clinical test. When Jodi Arias took this test she intended to falsify it so that her story, of the two ninjas, would be more believable. Any diagnosis of PTSD, when she was actively attempting to deceive, would be invalid.
When Dr. Samuels, stated that “perhaps I should’ve re-administered the test ,” what he was implying was that “perhaps I should’ve re-administered the test, when she wasn’t lying.” The first test was invalid because she was lying. A second test would be equally invalid if she were continuing to lie.
Another major error committed by Dr. Samuels, is his linking dissociative amnesia with the physical inability to form memories, during periods of severe stress, in the hippocampus region. The first problem here, is that science does not accept this “hippocampus theory” as being factually proven. It would be much fairer to say, that science sees this as a theory, one theory among many others, that may or might help to explain memory encoding. Remember this theory, as expertly explained by Dr. Samuels, says that you cannot physically remember events during traumatic periods, because the hippocampus is flooded with hormones and is incapable of encoding memories.
Now the problem with this, is that some people do remember events during traumatic times. They have excellent recall, perhaps even enhanced recall when compared to non-stressful times. As I stated before in other writings, Dr. Samuels clearly states that it is impossible to remember during these traumatic periods. Well we know he is wrong. It must be possible to remember… because people do remember.
Another problem that Dr. Samuels has, when he links dissociative amnesia with the hippocampus theory, is that they simply do not belong together. The “hippocampus theory” deals with physical amnesia. The dissociative amnesia theory, deals with psychological amnesia.
Dr. Samuels diagnosed Jodi Arias as having dissociative amnesia because of the stress that made the hippocampus unable to encode memory. He also clearly stated over and over again that you cannot remember what has not been encoded. “You can’t remember what’s not there.”
While once again the big problem here is that people with dissociative amnesia often do regain their memories. Logically speaking this must prove that memories had indeed been encoded by the hippocampus and encoded during a time of stress.
Part 1: Stay tuned for more analysis as the trial continues.
JODI ARIAS TRIAL: HOW “EXPERT” WAS DR. SAMUELS’ EXPERT TESTIMONY?
Dr. Richard M. Samuels, the expert witness who testified on the behalf of Jodi Arias’ defense team, earned his money as a paid professional witness when he conveniently and suspiciously, told only part of the story. He offered few research studies to support his expert testimony. He did not present studies in their original form, but instead brought into the courtroom only a paragraph or two from each study. One of the studies that he mentioned, had to do with memory loss resulting from immersion in hot or cold water. As the defense attorney led him through his testimony, she inadvertently asked a question the answer to which he should have known. He did not know the answer to her question. It’s not so much the fact that he did not know the answer that is telling but it is much more, how he answered the question. When the defense attorney asked him how long these people were immersed in the water, he answered “oh that was in the details of the study and I didn’t read the details.” He didn’t read the details? Isn’t that like saying “I didn’t read the study.” Or perhaps it’s more like saying “I just skimmed it.”
After doing a fairly rigorous search of peer-reviewed journal databases, I could not find even a single article that Dr. Samuels had published in a peer-reviewed journal. This does not mean, of course, that he has not published in a peer-reviewed journal but after spending several hours searching databases, available almost exclusively to researchers, I could not find an article that Dr. Samuels had either authored or co-authored.
Being familiar with the research in the area of memory and trauma, the part of Dr. Samuels testimony that I found most impressive was not the research he had mentioned but was instead the pertinent research (available in peer-reviewed journals) that he had not mentioned.
If you bought all of Dr. Samuels testimony, hook line and sinker, really all that he said about Jodi’s claim of memory loss or being in a fog, was that it was “possible.” Of course if something is possibly true, logically it’s possibly not true. That’s why the weatherman is so often right. Showers possible tomorrow. Either way, it rains or doesn’t rain, the weatherman is right.
It all boils down to a simple question that should be asked of Dr. Samuels. “Dr. Samuels, is it possible that Jodi Arias does have a real memory loss?” He would undoubtedly respond “yes.” “Dr. Samuels, is it possible that Jodi Arias does not have a real memory loss and is simply lying?” If Dr. Samuels were to answer honestly and with integrity, he would have to say “yes.”
Dr. Samuels utilized two psychological tests to evaluate Jodi Arias. These included The Millon Clinical Multi-Axial Inventory-III, Third Edition, MCMI-III (2009). The MCMI is a clinical instrument that involves 175 true and false questions (much shorter than comparable instruments) that takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Dr. Samuels stated that the test was electronically scored, a service which he considered a “second opinion.” The MCMI is designed to assist with a psychiatric diagnosis. It is not designed to provide a “second opinion.”
The second test he used was the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS). The PDS is a paper-and-pencil or computerized administered test that takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. It consists of 49 items and it aids in the determination of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.
Psychological Tests Dr. Samuels Could Have, Should Have Done
A major concern with crime-related amnesia and the claim of memory loss, is malingering. Put more simply, it’s when a criminal claims to have amnesia, because it will help them avoid taking responsibility for the crime, but they are lying. There really is no amnesia.
James Tysse (2005) reviewed methods of assessing or testing potential cases of malingering amnesia. He notes that traditional psychological interviews (as was done in the case of Ms. Arias) are often not helpful since the defendant “can’t answer questions” since they claim to have no “memory.”
He recommends that a court-appointed expert can and should do more than just “interview the defendant.” He recommends the use of “Symptom Validity Testing” (SVT). This type of test, includes asking a series of true and false questions about the crime and its circumstances. The law of probability states that the defendants’ answers should be correct approximately half the time.
This is how it works. If the admitted or accused criminal, really has no memory of the crime, then they should get half the answers right and half wrong. But if they really do remember what happened, they will know how to answer the questions. They will know which answers are correct and which are false. Since they want to give the illusion that they do not remember, they will deliberately pick the wrong answer. Thus, when the test is scored they will have too many “wrong answers.” In other words, if you or I took the test and since we were never at the crime scene, we would get about 50% right and about 50% wrong. We don’t know the answer. We have two choices. It’s like flipping a coin. A 50-50 chance.
The person who claims not to remember, but actually does remember, will get more than 50% wrong. He knows the right answer and is deliberating picking the wrong answer. This test is commonly used to determine if someone is lying.
It most certainly should have been used by Dr. Samuels but it’s not mentioned in his court testimony. Research supports the use of this test.
Another method of detecting malingering is the Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology (SIMS).The SIMS is a self-report questionnaire where defendants answer questions about their amnesia. The theory behind the SIMS is that a malingerer (liar) will exaggerate their symptoms. This was also not testified to by Dr. Samuels and it would have been most helpful in determining whether or not Jodi Arias is lying about her amnesia or the” fog.” Past research, published in peer-reviewed journals, has shown that the SIMS correctly identified 90% (or more) of the malingerers. Its use would have been most helpful in determining whether or not Jodi Arias is lying about her memory loss.
Its use, would have helped the expert to determine if she was lying. It’s lack of use, might suggest that the expert does not want to determine if she is lying. Here’s a line from Dr. Samuels website.
“……..case analysis and research contributes to a succinct report which often will result in a more favorable outcome for your client.”
This is a line for which he has received much criticism, and a line which might suggest a lack of objectivity. Is it a selling point of Dr. Samuels, to say that his work “will often result in a more favorable outcome for your client?” Is that something he strives for? Is that his goal, to produce a report that has a favorable outcome for your client? Shouldn’t he be producing a report, whose sole goal is to be thorough, complete and impartial? Whether or not the report “produces a favorable outcome for your client” should be irrelevant.
Those who believe strongly in the concept of justice, would both hope and expect that an expert witness would testify impartially, that the testimony of the expert would be unbiased and his highest professional opinion. There should be no attempt, by an expert witness, to mislead or misrepresent to the jury or to testify only to support the argument of the side that is paying him. At least that’s a hope.
Another widely used measure is The Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M-FAST), a 25-item scale designed to screen for feigned mental health disorders (Miller, 2001). In studies, the M-FAST has been shown to be highly reliable in detecting malingering in forensic populations. This is yet another test, which is commonly used when making an assessment, that was not mentioned in the testimony of Dr. Samuels.
Having used at least one, and hopefully more than one of these additional psychological tests, would have greatly enhanced the assessment and diagnosis provided by Dr. Samuels.
Dr. Samuels is a clinician. There is no indication that he is a researcher, yet he was providing, explaining and presenting, research to the jury. The research that he presented, explained the impossibility of someone remembering anything that occurs during trauma because the hippocampus is flooded by hormones, thus making the encoding of memories physically impossible. He talks of this theory as if it is a completely accepted scientific fact. It is not.
In fact, many people remember events that occurred during trauma, with amazing accuracy. That is a fact that is not debatable. All researchers and clinicians know that many people remember very well the events that occur during trauma. Dr. Samuels would have us believe that this is impossible. It might be fairer to state that Dr. Samuels would like us to believe that. When cross-examined by prosecutor Juan Martinez, he might well acknowledge that some people do and some people do not remember events that occurred during trauma. That is tantamount to saying that Jodi may not remember or Jodi may well remember and is simply lying. We know that the veracity of Jodi Arias is not in question. At least it should not be.
It would not be surprising if Jodi Arias were lying. In fact when considering the extremely long history of outrageous lies and deception that Jodi Arias admits to, it would be surprising if she were even capable of telling the truth.
Cases of Trauma In Which Victims Have Unimpaired Memories
Dr. Samuels noted that people in high stress situations experience strong emotional reactions and thus are subjected to memory loss and amnesia. However, there are instances in which people are subjected to horrifying experiences and yet don’t have amnesia. Kuch and Cox (1992) studied 124 Jewish Holocaust survivors and found that only 3.2% reported having amnesia. Merckelbach, Dekkers, Wessel & Roefs (2003) examined reports of amnesia from a sample of 31 survivors of World War II Japanese concentration camps and found that only a minority reported amnesia. Their finding, combined with other similar studies, led them to conclude “taken together, these findings cast doubts on the idea that amnesia is a common consequence of repetitive, prolonged, and severe trauma.”
Dr. Samuels’ testimony would have us believe that amnesia is common after trauma. Another set of researchers, Rivard, Dietz, Martell & Widawski (2002) noted that “to date there is little empirical evidence that a person’s memory for a traumatic event becomes so impaired that they fail to retrieve the memory (i.e., dissociative amnesia) when presented with specific cues of the traumatic event.”
We must remember that Dr. Samuels is a clinician and not a researcher. Many would say that he is not qualified to present research on amnesia, research that he did not perform and was not involved in. He is qualified to talk about amnesia in his own patients but not about research studies done by others.
Psychopaths and Crime-Related Amnesia
Claims of amnesia among defendants can be sincere but psychopaths are a different story. Psychopaths are characteristically egocentric, manipulative, callous, not remorseful or empathic. Please remember that many professionals have offered opinions that Jodi Arias is a psychopath. Keep in mind that many professionals use the terms psychopath, sociopaths, and antisocial personality disorder, interchangeably.
Stephen Porter and colleagues (2001) noted that psychopathic offenders, because of their ability to be manipulative, deceive and lie, are likely prone to false claims of amnesia when they perceive it as benefiting their personal situation. Research has also shown that psychopaths may in fact have superior memories of traumatic events, when compared to non-psychopaths. They often have vivid memories of their violent acts, especially in cases of premeditation. Psychopaths also have profound emotional deficits which can make them immune to anxiety, depression and trauma. Porter et al., (2001) assert that claims of dissociative amnesia, among psychopathic offenders, are “very likely to be fabricated.”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Dr. Samuels also diagnosed Jodi Arias as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) One of the hallmark features of PTSD is repeated, intrusive memories of the traumatic event. Often those with PTSD have vivid dreams of the event and flashbacks during waking hours. Individuals with PTSD characteristically have unwanted memories of the event which causes them great distress.
Jodi claims to have almost no memory of what she did to Travis Alexander. She claims to have no memory of stabbing him 29 times, or of slashing his throat ear to ear. No memory of dragging Travis Alexander from the bedroom down the hall and then placing Travis in the shower stall. She claims to have no memory of deleting pictures from the camera. No memory of putting the bed linen in the washer with bleach. No memory of cleaning blood from the crime scene. No memory of putting the camera in the washing machine. No memory of leaving the murder scene and driving hundreds of miles. She also states that her memory of this event has not improved over the five years that have elapsed since the murder.
Dr. Samuels made a diagnosis of PTSD for Jodi Arias based on a number of facts. One was the fact that she was having trouble sleeping in prison. It’s not hard to imagine that she, or for that matter anyone, might have trouble sleeping in prison.
In addition, he went on to say that she was having flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. It is however, hard to imagine how someone can be having flashbacks and intrusive thoughts about events that they cannot remember. As stated earlier, a hallmark characteristic of persons with PTSD is that they repeatedly experience some form of recollection of the event, including images, thoughts or perceptions.
How expert was Dr. Samuels? Well the thesis of his argument was the inability of the hippocampus to encode memories during stress. He did however, once refer to the hippocampus as the” hypothalamus.”
While selling us on the inevitability of amnesia and how common it was, speaking specifically of transient global amnesia, he put up a short slide with a few paragraphs of information. Perhaps inadvertently he read out loud a statistic. The statistic stated that only 3 to 8, out of 100,000, people would experience transient global amnesia after having endured a traumatic event. He did not misspeak, because the same information was printed on the slide. I think he meant to impress us with the great likelihood that Ms. Arias has amnesia but if you think about it, looking at those numbers alone, it is immensely likely that Ms. Arias does not have amnesia. She is much more likely to be one of the 99,992 out of 100,000 people, who do not experience amnesia after a traumatic event.
The odds of her suffering amnesia after a traumatic event: 3-8 out of 100,000. The odds of her being struck by lightning in her life: 1 out of 5000. Perhaps Dr. Samuels should have said aloud, that which was stated in the text of the slide, “Jodi Arias is many times more likely to be struck by lightning, than to have amnesia.”
Kuch, K. & Cox, B.J. (1992). Symptoms of PTSD in 124 survivors of the Holocaust. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 337-340.
Merckelbach, H., Dekkers, T., Wessel, I., & Roefs, A. (2003). Dissociative symptoms and amnesia in Dutch concentration camp survivors. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 44 (1), 65-69. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/comp.2003.50011
Miller H. A. (2001). Manual for the Miller Forensic Assessment of Symptoms Test (M- FAST). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Porter, S., Birt, A.R., Yuille, J.C., & Herve, H.F. (2001). Memory for murder: A psychological perspective on dissociative amnesia in legal contexts. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 24, 23-42. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0160-2527(00)00066-2
Rivard, J.M. Dietz, P., Martell, D. & Widawski, M. (2002). Acute dissociative responses in law enforcement officers involved in critical shooting incidents: The clinical and forensic implications. Journal of Forensic Science, 47(5), 1093-1100.
Rogers, R., Sewell, K. W., & Gillard, N. D. (2010). Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms, Second Edition: Professional manual. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Smith, G. P. (2008). Brief screening measures of the detection of feigned psychopathology. In R. Rogers (Ed.), Clinical Assessment of Malingering and Deception (3rd ed., pp. 323-339). New York, NY: Guilford.
Tysee, J. (2005). Note: The right to an “imperfect” trial-amnesia, malingering, and competency to stand trial. William Mitchell Law Review, 32: 353-87.
A PSYCHOSOCIAL ANALYSIS OF WHAT JODI ARIAS MAY HAVE BEEN LIKE AS A YOUTH
In the taped interrogation videos, Detective Flores told Jodi that he had spoken to her parents and they believed that she had “something to do with Travis’s murder.” The fact that her parents believed their daughter was involved in a murder says a lot. Who knows Jodi better than her parents? Parents are supposed to side with their children, yet in this case they sided with the law. Why? Jodi’s parents know much more about her than we do. They had a great deal of trouble with Jodi and knew her. They raised her. They would know best if she could or could not murder. They would also know if she was capable of stabbing someone, stabbing them 29 times and cutting their throat from ear to ear. Was this their Jodi? They told police detectives, that they did believe that she was involved in the murder. That must be very, very hard for a parent to contemplate silently in their own mind but unthinkable to speak aloud.
Many people speculate about the psychological disorder(s) that Jodi Arias may have. The only legitimate diagnosis is, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). A hallmark feature of ASPD is pathological lying. One of the most striking features about Jodi Arias is the way and degree to which she lies. Most people only tell “white lies,” lies that are of relative minor consequence. For example, if your friend has a new haircut you might be inclined to say that it “looks nice” even if you find it unflattering.
People who lie about important things are qualitatively different than people who lie about small things. In certain circumstances, we expect and are even accepting of deception. We expect the car salesman to inflate the price of the car. We however would not expect or accept the car salesman, knowingly selling us a car that he anticipated would soon to be in the junkyard. Jodi might be considered the consummate liar because most people would not attempt her level of deception. She fabricated several elaborate cover stories to protect herself from having to face the consequences of the murder of Travis Alexander. First she wasn’t there when it happened, then later two ninja’s did it. She lies with an ease that is characteristic of the antisocial. The lies she told in the 48 Hours videos are perfect examples of this. The type of lying Jodi engages in, is pathological.
As an adult, Jodi is a pathological liar but what’s less clear is what she was like as a youth. The following details are what we know about Jodi’s youth.
Jodi Arias’ babysitter Beth Hawkins reported that as a child Jodi was quite aggressive. In one incident, Ms. Hawkins reported that Jodi hit her younger brother with a baseball bat on his head. Ms. Hawkins spoke about Jodi as being an exceptionally aggressive child.
Alleged Child Abuse
Jodi testified that she was “severely beaten” by her parents after the age of seven. She claims that her mother beat her with a wooden spoon. She testified that the beatings were very intense and increased in frequency as she got older. She detailed one occasion in which her mother broke her brother’s hand when he attempted to block one of her blows. She also claimed that her father never beat her with his fist but that he would shove her into furniture. During one of the shoving incidents, Jodi said she was knocked unconscious.
Jodi testified that her father slapped her after an incident in which she was caught sneaking out and staying out all night. Upon her return her father questioned her about where she had been. She responded “I don’t know” whereupon he allegedly slapped her twice, knocking her to the ground.
As it stands, there has been no corroborating evidence that Jodi’s parents were abusive. Why didn’t her family testify about the abuse? It would have brought a great deal of credibility to her testimony of childhood abuse. To date there has not been any objective evidence to support Jodi’s claims of abuse but her parent’s testimony could be a game changer. All we know of Jodi Arias is that she admittedly told elaborate lies about what originally happened to Travis. Everything she said was a lie. We cannot be expected to believe an admitted liar.
Jodi’s First True Love
Jodi’s “first true love” was Bobby Juarez. She left her parent’s house to live with Bobby when she was only 16. Jodi moved because she was “frustrated with her parents and how they treated her.” Most 16-year-olds would never move out of their parent’s home. It is irresponsible and impulsive. It’s a sign of someone who is not able to grasp the “big picture.” Most teenagers would not leave the safety and protection of their parents. It also shows a high level of disrespect for her parents and their authority. Jodi failed to see the importance of finishing high school or following her parents advice and had trouble accepting their rules.
Bobby was three years older than Jodi. He was a “vampire hunter,” which is indicative of his immaturity and psychological instability. Her judgment was clearly lacking. He was unfaithful and allegedly attempted to strangle her and break her arm during an argument. That makes the second person Jodi claimed tried to strange her. After she and Bobby broke up, she began a romantic relationship with Bobby’s roommate.
Jodi’s High School “Friend”
A woman who attended high school with Jodi was interviewed by a major news organization. She described Jodi as being a “good girl” who was popular. Most took that to mean that there is nothing in Jodi’s past to suspect a history of trouble but if you listen carefully to the interview, she said nothing of consequence. Did she know Jodi or did she simply know of Jodi? Many people knew Jodi but were the two close friends? How often did they interact? She seemed to know very little about Jodi and in fact had moved away from the school district. They were merely acquaintances and thus her opinion of Jodi should hold little value.
Understanding Jodi Arias
ASPD is only diagnosed in individuals over the age of 18. People under 18 who have ASDP-like symptoms would be diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD). CD is the “child or adolescent version” of ASPD. Individuals with CD are callous, aggressive, fail to accept responsibility for their actions, lack guilt or remorse, are impulsive, irresponsible, and have unstable interpersonal relationships. Females with CD have histories of narcissism and impulsivity.
Moving out of one’s home before the age of 18, is impulsive. Jodi’s parents obviously could not control her. Most parents would not allow their teenage daughter to live with an older man. It shows a lack of control.
Jodi is evidently narcissistic. She’s constantly focused on herself. All of her lies were self-serving. She continuously minimizes the brutality of her crime. On the stand, she discusses the murder in this way: Travis “passed away…” after he “died…” and I know what I had done “was wrong” or that “something bad had happened…” It also proof of her unwillingness to take responsibility for her actions.
Though narcissists, on the surface, seem to have a high level of self-esteem, it’s fragile and unstable. Jodi testified that she has low self-esteem. She was desperately seeking the approval of others. Each time she dated a new man, she practiced their religious beliefs. She was baptized as Mormon after only six weeks of dating Travis Alexander. Jodi morphed herself in whatever her latest love interest desired.
Individuals with CD who are narcissistic also tend to be aggressive, dominant and manipulative. Jodi was aggressive in life and in her relationships. When she wanted to move out of her parent’s home, she did. When Jodi learned that Matt McCartney was cheating on her with a woman named Bianca, she drove an hour and a half to confront the woman. Most people try to avoid confrontations and do not seek them out. Jodi often arrived unannounced at Travis’s home, even when they were no longer officially dating and he had begun dating other women. Virtually every friend and relative of Travis’s, who was interviewed by Detective Flores, independently described Jodi as being an obsessed stalker.
If Jodi was in fact demonstrating characteristics of ASPD in her youth, she would have been a nightmare for her family. People with CD are aggressive, angry, hostile, rule-breakers, manipulative, feel easily slighted, and disobey authority. They throw tantrums and can be physically abusive with peers and family members. Maybe that is why Jodi’s parents told Detective Flores of their belief that she had something to do with Travis’s murder. She not only had something to do with it, Jodi Arias shot and nearly decapitated her ex-lover, a man she claimed to love unconditionally.
Jodi alleges a long history of severe abuse by her parents yet no member of her family has testified about the abuse. The family is in the court room every day and could easily take the witness stand. They are not listed as defense witnesses. They apparently have no plans to testify in defense of their daughter. The problem is that if they were to testify, then they would have to be cross examined.
The prosecution would then be free to question her parents about Jodi’s childhood. Keep in mind, that Jodi could greatly use her parents confirming the fact that they did indeed abuse her when she was a child. It’s a part of the battered woman defense which they are using to explain the savagery of her killing. But her parents are not going to testify. Perhaps the truth about Jodi’s childhood, which the prosecution would reveal upon the cross examination, would be much more harmful to Jodi.
JODI’S MOST CONDEMNING ANSWER
During juror questioning, the part where Jodi Arias has to answer questions submitted by the jury, she was asked why she bought the 9MM handgun. This is the handgun that she bought just weeks after admittedly shooting Travis Alexander in the head. She answered that people at work were planning a camping trip and she thought that it would be fun to go. She wasn’t exactly sure of all who would be going but she was sure that two men, that she knew from her work, would be going. She said that she didn’t know these men “all that well” and was buying the gun for protection from them.
This camping trip was not mandatory. It was not a part of her work. It was purely an attempt on her part to have fun. She acknowledges that going on a camping trip, into the woods, with two men that you don’t know “all that well” could be potentially dangerous. That is a reasonable conclusion on her part and for that matter it is a reasonable conclusion on the part of anyone.
Having come to that conclusion, a normal person would react to this potential danger by simply not going on the trip. Remember that the trip was not mandatory. She had no reason to attend the trip other than just in an attempt to have some fun. Also remember that she had correctly concluded that a woman planning to camp with two men that she didn’t know all that well, could be dangerous.
Rather than cancel the potentially dangerous trip, she devised a way to make the trip safer for herself. She decided to go out and buy a 9MM handgun. She would then bring that gun with her on the trip. If one or both of the men were to try something funny, she would point the gun at them, as she had with Travis. If they would not stop, as she claims Travis did not, then she would shoot them, just as she did Travis. Her intended approach, to deal with potentially dangerous camping partners, might well result in her killing one of them or both of them.
Or she could have completely negated the potential danger that these two men presented to her, in another way. The other way to have completely negated all danger to herself, would have been to just not go on the camping trip. Yes, Jodi would miss out on some fun by not going but by missing out on this fun she would be eliminating the potential necessity of her killing two more men.
We know what she chose. She wasn’t giving up her fun, even if it meant having to kill two more people. Remember she had already admitted, at that point in time, that she had already shot one man (Travis Alexander) and that she bought the 9MM just in case she might have to shoot two more.
In other words, she was planning to take the gun with her on the camping trip in the event that she would be attacked and she wanted to be prepared. Here’s how she answered the jury question: “I’d rather have it [the gun] and not need it than need it and not have it.”
Most people, if faced with this potentially dangerous situation, simply wouldn’t go on the camping trip. They would want to avoid a potentially dangerous situation and they also would want to avoid the possibility of taking the life of another. They would not be willing to kill simply so they might have some fun on a camping trip.
Instead of choosing not to go on the camping trip, and foregoing the pleasure of camping, Jodi decided to purchase a gun for her safety. This gun would provide her safety from her two camping companions…the very ones that she thought would be fun to go camping with. She in essence is admitting that she is quite willing to kill again.
The time of the planned camping event is important to consider. This camping trip was to occur just weeks after she had savagely killed Travis Alexander. The trip never happened; she was arrested just before it was to occur.
We already know that Jodi is a killer. Her sworn court testimony clearly states that fact. Her answer to that jury question, asking why she bought the 9MM, is very telling. It shows her potential willingness to kill again.
FOR THOSE WHO DISAGREE THE IMPORTANCE OF JODI”S GUN-TOTING CAMPING TRIP
A Twitter respondent disagreed with the idea of Jodi purchasing a gun to take with her on the camping trip.
My article has nothing to do with whether or not it’s okay for someone to own a gun. Almost all people who own hand guns never shoot anyone. This includes the vast majority of police officers. The point of my article is that shooting someone should be avoided, and avoided with the greatest of efforts. Ask any police officer.
What would you be willing to personally sacrifice to avoid having to kill someone? Would you kill someone to prevent them from throwing an ice tea in your face? I hope not.
Here is a question that best illustrates my point. If you are asked to go on a camping trip, a trip that might be fun but was with six men who you did not know very well, would you : A) choose not to go, or would you B) choose to go and shoot someone if necessary?
Normal people find the idea of killing abhorrent. They would be very reluctant to voluntarily enter a situation in which they might have to kill someone. Jodi’s answer gave the jury insight into the question: “Under what circumstances would you kill again?” In essence, her answer was “if I have to kill someone so that I can enjoy a camping trip, I will.” A healthier answer, and better for her defense in this ongoing trial, would have been “I will avoid, whenever voluntarily possible, any situation where there is a risk that I may have to kill again.” That’s a normal answer, a healthy answer but it wasn’t her answer.