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Arias defense works to restore expert credibility


March 20. 2013 5:39PM
Associated Press

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(AP) Jodi Arias' defense attorney worked Wednesday to undo any damage done to the credibility of an expert witness who diagnosed the defendant with post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia after a withering cross-examination that called into question his techniques and testing procedures.


Psychologist Richard Samuels resumed testimony for a fourth day Wednesday after telling jurors he diagnosed Arias with PTSD and dissociative amnesia, which explains why she can't remember much from the day she killed Alexander. He said he met with Arias a dozen times for more than 30 hours over three years while she was jailed.


Prosecutor Juan Martinez previously seized on multiple lies Arias told Samuels throughout the process of his evaluation, at one point getting the psychologist to acknowledge that he should have re-administered at least one test he used to come to his PTSD diagnosis.


Samuels also acknowledged that he made an error on the test but insisted his diagnosis was accurate since it was based on numerous other tests and interviews with Arias.


"The process of forming a diagnosis is not a simple process," Samuels testified Wednesday. "The fact is that it's necessary to obtain information from as many different sources as you can."


Martinez had also questioned Samuels' credibility, accusing him of blurring the line between objective observer and therapist when he bought Arias a self-help book about building self-esteem.


Samuels denied the accusation.


"Is there ever blurring of the lines between evaluator and therapist?" defense attorney Jennifer Willmott asked Wednesday.


"There should not be," Samuels replied, explaining that sending Arias a self-help book is not considered therapy.


Under cross examination earlier this week, the prosecutor also questioned how Samuels could have come to any definitive conclusion for a diagnosis based upon lies from Arias. Martinez reminded Samuels how Arias testified previously that on the day she says she killed her lover in self-defense, he first had tied her wrists to his bed as the two had sex.


Samuels notes indicated Arias told him Travis Alexander had tied her wrists and ankles to the bed.


Samuels indicated during testimony Wednesday that he may have merely misinterpreted what Arias told him in his notes, but that he didn't find that specific detail to be crucial to his eventual diagnosis.


Arias faces a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder in the June 2008 death of Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home. Authorities say she planned the attack in a jealous rage. Arias initially told authorities she had nothing to do with it then blamed it on masked intruders. Two years after her arrest, she said it was self-defense.


Alexander suffered nearly 30 knife wounds, was shot in the head and had his throat slit before Arias dragged his body into his shower.


Arias spent 18 days on the witness stand during which she described her abusive childhood, cheating boyfriends, dead-end jobs, a shocking sexual relationship with Alexander, and her contention that he had grown physically abusive in the months leading to his death.


She said she recalls Alexander attacking her in a fury and said she ran into his closet to retrieve a gun he kept on a shelf and fired in self-defense but has no memory of stabbing him.


She has acknowledged trying to clean the scene of the killing, dumping the gun in the desert and working on an alibi in an attempt to avoid suspicion. She said she was too scared and ashamed to tell the truth.


Since the trial began, none of Arias' allegations of Alexander's violence, that he owned a gun and had sexual desires for young boys, has been corroborated by witnesses or evidence. She has acknowledged lying repeatedly but insists she is telling the truth now.


Associated Press


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