Acute stress disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and transient global amnesia combined to wipe out Jodi Arias' memory of all the events which transpired after the gun she was holding fired a messenger of death into the head of Travis Alexander in his Phoenix apartment, according to a defense expert who testified in front of the jury today in the death penalty murder trial in Arizona, according to HLN. HLN has been covering the dramatic trial live on national television.
Arias is charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of Alexander in his Phoenix apartment in 2008. She is claiming self-defense despite the fact he was shot in the head, stabbed an estimated 27 times and had his throat slit during that tragic day.
After 18 days of answering questions from the prosecutor, defense attorneys and jurors, Arias appeared exhausted as she sat slumped in her chair today while psychologist Richard Samuels took the stand in her defense. Samuels is currently an Arizona-based expert who said he only handles forensic cases now after he did therapy for 34 years.
The drama was thick in the courtroom as the genial Samuels told why in his opinion Jodi Arias' memory vanished the minute the gun she was holding fired a messenger of death into her boyfriend's head.
Samuels told the intent jurors that when a person finds herself in a stressful situation the body prepares to fend off harm as a protective device. He explained that hormones and adrenaline which are released in such a situation block the brain's ability to retain memory.
Samuels further testified that after meeting with Arias 12 times over a period of three years he concluded she initially suffered acute stress disorder which can last anywhere from two days to four weeks. After that, her condition morphed into post traumatic stress disorder which can last for years.
"She met the criteria for PTSD in my opinion," he said, making eye contact with the jurors as he spoke.
He further told the jury that he also diagnosed her as suffering from transient global amnesia which " between three to eight of 100,000 people suffer."
He said that transient global amnesia can be caused by several factors including "emotional or psychological stress, immersion in hot or cold water, physical exertion or even having sexual intercourse."
In addition to visiting with her on 12 occasions in jail, he said he reviewed journals she'd kept since junior high school and gave her two tests including the Milan Test and the PTSD Test.
He said the hippocampus, which organizes and stores memory, is affected when it is flooded with chemicals caused by stress. He also said the flooding of the hippocampus can cause some memories to be foggy even when some of the memory eventually may return.
He also compared the PTSD which Arias suffered to what many soldiers suffer in Afghanistan. During World War I it was referred to as shellshock.
Thursday ended with Samuels still on the witness stand. The jurors were excused by Judge Sherry Stephens until Monday morning when Samuels will continue with his testimony.
However, there is scheduled an extremely significant hearing outside the presence of the jurors for Friday morning as Judge Stephens must decide whether or not to allow the psychologist to testify to certain matters to which prosecutor Juan Martinez has objected.
Defense attorney Kurt Nurmi wants to ask Samuels to give his opinion as to whether this case is an example of an instrumental homicide or a reactive homicide. In legal terms instrumental homicide would be equivalent to pre-meditated murder which is first degree in Arizona and reactive would be something akin to sudden passion or second degree murder. The importance of this issue is that if Arias is convicted of first degree murder she could be executed. However, a conviction for second degree murder would take the death penalty option off the table.
Judge Stephens is the only person on the face of the earth who knows how she will rule on this crucial matter. The prosecution only heard for the first time yesterday that Samuels intended to testify on this issue. Samuels has breezed through his testimony so far often reading from a diagnostic book propped on the edge of the witness stand in front of him.
During the 18 days of her testimony over a six week period she told jurors she'd been abused as a child, suffered through cheating boyfriends and abuse from Alexander. Playing into her self-defense claim is her testimony that her former Mormon boyfriend became physically abusive during the months prior to his death. She claimed on one occasion he choked her until she was unconscious.
In support of her self-defense claim Arias has said she does recall Alexander attacking her on the fateful night of June 4, 2008. Her version was that she ran into his closet where she knew he kept a gun. She said she fired the .25 caliber handgun at Alexander because she feared he would kill her.
Potentially damaging to Arias' defense is that her grandparents reported a .25 caliber handgun stolen from their Northern California home a week before the death of Alexander.
The prosecution will argue it was the same gun that killed Arias and that shows pre-meditation. Martinez will also argue the fact she filled up several cans of gasoline in Utah before entering Arizona shows pre-meditation. He will tell jurors in closing argument she was trying to avoid buying gasoline in Arizona so no one could prove she was in the state on the night of the killing.
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