WHY NOT KILL HER
#TravisAlexander & the Jodi Arias Retrial: A Juror’s Perspective
“PATH OF DESTRUCTION”
“Let’s talk about PTSD, for a moment,” Jennifer Willmott said to Dr. Geffner, the defense team’s psychologist. This was the second day of his testifying on his return visit. Jennifer Willmott was dressed in a business skirt suit with a dark aqua colored top. “Dr. DeMarte indicated PTSD was not present.”
Juan Martinez quickly objected to the misstating of evidence.
“Why do you believe her assessment is incorrect regarding PTSD?” she asked without looking at the prosecutor.
Dr. Geffner turned his chair toward the jury. He rubbed his white mustache with his forefinger and leaned slightly forward toward them. “It’s likely not correct with her saying PTSD is not part of her diagnosis. There is child abuse that goes back many years with the welts she suffered from a wooden spoon. When she was twelve or thirteen, she was threatened with a knife. Bobby Juarez supports this trauma. Her experience with Travis Alexander was very traumatic. I did not see a lot with Matt and Darryl but everything else is consistent with PTSD. And, don’t forget that she had a choking incident with both Bobby and Travis.”
Jennifer Willmott nodded and walked back to her podium and glanced at her legal pad. She took a couple steps to the left of the podium. “One of the things we talked about was avoidance. We said that Travis Alexander was the cause of her trauma. Her going to the memorial and then to his house is not avoidance, is it?”
“Oh, no,” Dr. Geffner answered. He turned toward the jury again. “There’s a coping mechanism that blocks out traumatic events. Disassociation exists as part of PTSD. Once you consider that domestic violence is part of a cycle of abuse, uh, she really is avoiding thinking about the incident.” He laughed. “She would even space out right in front of us.”
“Very good,” Willmott responded. “Are you aware of Dr. DeMarte saying that Jodi had intrusive thoughts?”
Dr. Geffner nodded knowingly. “Again, it’s not an accurate description saying she has intrusive thoughts. Negative thoughts define her. That is much more accurate. She even has nightmares.”
“What of depression?” Willmott prodded.
“She does have depression,” he answered.
“Tell me, doctor., can you have two disorders at the same time?”
Dr. Geffner turned toward the jury, again. “One can have concurrent disorders with complex PTSD in conjunction with depression.”
“Did Dr. DeMarte give us anything of value?”
He did his quarter turn in his chair toward the twelve in front of him. If one did not know any better, he could have been telling you a story in your living room with a beer in hand. He rubbed his mustache and went into his narrative. “You really have to question the test results from her. They are from 2011 and not updated with fresh results. I have to tell you, she did not review the sixteen thousand pages of documents that I reviewed. And, well, she did not look at the whole picture. No one will ever know what happened. Uh, she still has flashbacks and nightmares. You have to think that it’s a very tragic situation and, in all likelihood, something we could have prevented,” he finished.
“No more questions,” Jennifer Willmott said. She marched back to the defense table after she got her notes from the podium.
Juan Martinez was out of his seat walking toward the witness without hesitation. He was dressed in a charcoal black suit, white shirt and a mauve and gold striped tie.
“Let’s talk about the choking incident. One of the things about that incident is that Travis Alexander got on top of the defendant. Right?” he began.
The air had changed the moment the prosecutor stormed toward his position in front of the witness. I do not think a juror missed the fact that Dr. Geffner’s affect changed. It was as if he suddenly was on guard. The echo of Juan Martinez voice loomed resonantly in the moment that this doctor began stalling in his answer.
“Uh, well,” he began, “if you were to consider…”
“Yes or no!” the prosecutor barked at him.
The doctor sat forward and adjusted the microphone so it faced more toward Juan Martinez. “I believe she was straddled.”
“One of the things that had been said was that she had lost consciousness,” Juan began. He started pacing a four-foot path as he questioned the witness. When he asked a question, he would stop and while Dr. Geffner answered, he would pace as he constructed the next question. Its speed and efficiency was almost mesmerizing. For a day and a half it felt like a lazy drive down rehash highway and when Mr. Martinez took over the driving, it was the smell of burning rubber and sense of speed as he raced down an information freeway.
The jury’s rapt attention could not be denied.
“You indicated in your testimony that Dr. DeMarte was wrong when she said that it was more than unlikely that a victim in fear of her life would stop and think of her attacker. You further indicated that there was a problem with that because it was not in her notes from 2011. Am I right?” Juan Martinez asked, stopping and looking at the doctor.
“I am not sure what you’re asking. If, uh, you were saying that I said it was not in the notes, you would be correct,” he chuckled.
“It’s in no one else’s notes. What you’re saying is Dr. DeMarte got it wrong. Right?”
“I, uh, was just saying that it’s problematic. Not right or wrong. Just problematic,” he answered as he shrugged his shoulders.
Juan started pacing while he looked toward the carpet. One could feel the wheels were spinning. “One of the things we spoke of was this alleged choking incident that occurred at three-nineteen in the afternoon. She, in fact, told a jury the whole thing. Didn’t she?”
Dr. Geffner shifted in his seat. It looked as if was physically uncomfortable. “Well, no. Maybe. I don’t know.”
Juan Martinez walked briskly to the judicial assistant and had exhibit numbers 955 and 956 entered as evidence. He walked to the defense table and gave them a copy and gave Dr. Geffner a copy. “Look at those and tell me if that isn’t what she said,” he ordered the witness.
I could see the doctor as he leafed through a very thick manuscript looking document. The jury would not realize the power of the evidence until they studied it line by line in the long dark days of secret deliberation. They do not know that Jodi Arias was not coming back to the stand.
The testimony of Jodi Arias had just been entered as evidence, the testimony she had given to the last jury in 2013. It looked like a thick packet. Was it the complete testimony when she was on the stand in 2013? It looked like a pretty thick packet. If so, then this jury would spend days going through it word for word. It was worth a lot more than the sixteen thousand pages that Dr. Geffner boasted of.
Juan waited for the doctor to thumb through the documents. He had his hands crossed behind his back. He would look up at the witness and then look down. He rocked on his heels. He looked back up at Dr. Geffner while he appeared to study a page carefully.
“That’s what she said, right?” Juan asked, tired of waiting. “It talks about Jodi Arias being unconscious and it also speaks of what she did with her hands, right?”
“Oh, no, it doesn’t say anything about her hands,” Dr. Geffner answered.
“Go ahead,” Juan directed. “Look at exhibit 955. It’s in your hands. What’s the date?”
“March 5, 2013.”
“The witness’ name is? Look at it. It’s right on top.”
“Look on page seventy-nine. Mr. Nurmi says: Did you feel you could get away? Do you see that?” Juan asked emphatically.
“I do,” Dr. Geffner answered.
“Was there anything else she could claw with aside from her hands?” Mr. Martinez asked. The volume of his voice was steadily rising.
The doctor evaded and dodged. “Not that I could think of.”
“Read it. What does the defendant say?”
He followed instructions by reading her words, words that Arias had spoken to another jury a long time past. “I did not feel I could gouge his eyes out. I just remember passing out.”
Juan Martinez paced his path. “In terms of blacking out, this is the only incident like this. Right?” he asked loudly.
“There are no other incidents.”
“It is inconsistent with what she said. Isn’t it?” Juan Martinez accused.
“No. She only thought about it. It’s not what she actually did,” the doctor sidestepped.
“She was,” Juan emphasized, “thinking about it. Right? You just told me that. Right?”
The doctor shifted in his chair and cleared his throat. “Um, I don’t know exactly.”
“She never even told you, did she? It is inconsistent. You are deficient because you never asked, did you?” Juan Martinez asked. The words almost echoed in the courtroom.
The doctor did his best to be as vague as possible. In all the time we had seen him, even going back to his prior appearance before Christmas, this was the first time we had ever seen him visibly shaken. The answers were no longer flowing narratives but rather stutter steps in confusion and fog. The words eluded the good doctor while the questions allowed the truth to rise.
Their jousting became confusing for the court reporter, Marla. She could not keep up with the furious pace of Juan and looked toward the judge imploringly.
Judge Stephens saw the frustration and told both Juan Martinez and Dr. Geffner to slow it down. I do not know that it ever slowed the prosecutor down except for a minute or so.
“You knew about this issue since 2013. You knew it from Dr. DeMarte’s report but chose to ignore it. You know about the choking incident, don’t you?”
“I may have.”
“You should have. Right?” Juan asked.
“Possibly. I suppose it would have been helpful to remember that.”
Juan Martinez stopped pacing and turned to face the doctor. “Do you think clawing or not clawing is minor?”
“It is a detail,” Geffner answered slowly and thoughtfully. “Its importance is up for debate. In the big picture, this detail is probably not that important. I won’t argue it could be considered.”
Juan waited a moment. “Are you done?”
“Oh, yes,” he answered.
“You called the doctor, ‘asinine’, didn’t you?” Juan Martinez asked.
“I said absurd,” he answered, chuckling.
“Is something funny to you?”
The jury watched and waited for an answer. I cannot help but say that the looks on their faces did not yield surprise, but rather an intensity that begged for a serious answer. I did not have to be in the jury box to know that all of them were tired of this witness and his seemingly carefree and jovial approach. They did not want to be friends with him, they wanted answers and their days had been long with little fruition of useful information. The jurors did not find anything amusing.
“You laughed all day yesterday. What is so funny?”
“Nothing is funny,” he answered humbly. “Everything is very serious in this tragedy. I apologize for coming across that way.”
“We have no need for an apology,” Juan Martinez said flatly.
“I might have smiled a couple times,” the doctor defended. “I don’t recall laughing.”
“You laughed when talking about validity scales yesterday at three-oh-six PM,” Juan reminded him.
“I don’t recall that.”
Juan Martinez took three steps forward and stopped. His hands were behind his back. He rocked on his heels slightly and spoke at the witness. “You smile to ingratiate yourself with the jury. So, let me ask you this. Was something wrong with the microphone yesterday?”
The doctor scratched the side of his neck. “Uh, no.”
“Why did you keep moving the microphone yesterday?” Why were you moving toward Juror #1?”
Jennifer Willmott objected vehemently for the twentieth time of the day and it was followed by a bench conference. I looked over at Juror #1. She showed no emotion but I could bet she was doing her best to remain stoic. It is rare that a juror is called out in a box, just as it is rare for an attorney to call out a person from the gallery. I can only imagine how uncomfortable she felt while the white noise silenced the sidebar. I am certain she had no idea what Juan Martinez was talking about. Her only crime was sitting in her seat and being a lamb to the law.
Juan returned to his position in front of the witness. “Were you aware that you kept moving your chair to the right?”
“Yes,” he answered.
The next half hour that followed was a taking apart of Dr. Geffner’s assessment and the DAPS examination. It was clear that the document instructions stated that only one event was to be used, but the defendant had used two events in answering the questions of the test, thus making the results invalid. The doctor’s thirty -five years of experience seemed to be working against him. Juan told the doctor read the test instructions aloud.
“Read it,” Juan commanded.
“During this experience, did one of the following happen?” Dr. Geffner set the Exhibit down in front of him.
“That clearly does not ask for more than one event, does it?”
Juan Martinez walked to the prosecution table took a sip of water from a Styrofoam cup. He set the cup down, turned around and walked toward the witness with his arms crossed in front of him. “One of the things we reviewed was that Dr. DeMarte had interviewed Chris and Sky Hughes. You or one of your staff could have interviewed them but you didn’t, did you?”
“No,” Dr. Geffner answered, somewhat cautiously. One could not ignore that it seemed that every series of questions were likened to a baited trap and he was the prey. It could not have been very comfortable at the defense table, in spite of the multiple objections throughout the day.
“You were the person who made the decision not to interview them, right?”
“I don’t really recall,” he said, as if pensively.
“Do you remember Jodi Arias standing outside a restroom when Travis Alexander was in there at the residence of Chris and Sky Hughes?” Juan asked, raising his voice.
“Uh, no, not that I remember. I would have to go back and look.”
“You don’t remember Jodi Arias spying on them?”
Dr. Geffner rubbed his mustache. “I don’t know. There may have been something. More or less…”
“You decided not to interview Chris Hughes, right?”
“No, it was discussed….”
Juan cut him off. “Chris Hughes used the word ‘gutted’ in reference to losing Travis Alexander. You did not think it important to interview him? How about Lisa Andrews? Did you interview her?”
“Yes, er, no, we didn’t,” he answered.
Juan stopped pacing and turned toward him. “You said, ‘we’. What do you mean?”
“It’s my whole staff that makes the decision. There’s Dr. Platte…”
“Isn’t it true that Chris and Sky Hughes were Travis Alexander’s closest friends both professionally and personally?”
The court was silent as Juan Martinez waited for the witness to answer. The momentum shift was as perceptible as the air was thick before a thunderstorm.
“I don’t know,” he finally answered.
“They had a lot to contribute, didn’t they?”
“You considered Travis Alexander manipulative in his relationships, but you did not interview his two closest friends?”
Dr. Geffner stumbled through his answer. He rambled for a minute or so while Juan waited patiently.
“Are you done?” Juan Martinez asked, in a flat but sarcastic tone.
“Yes. I just think some of this mischaracterizes what I have said,” he answered. Ancient visions of Dr. Fonseca surely flashed through the jurors’ minds. It was familiar and alienating. The word was the scratching of nails on a chalkboard of times long past.
The decimation of the psychologist continued after lunch. The jury did not carry the lazy and distant look they carried the day prior. The note-takers were ready.
“One of the things we would like to talk about is exhibit number 623. I’m sure you remember this as the Valentine’s Day email that Arias sent to Travis Alexander. Isn’t there a lie in there?”
“It was just a letter trying to make herself feel better. She might have been upset,” Dr. Geffner faltered.
Juan Martinez walked over to the projector and laid the exhibit under the light. It could be seen throughout the courtroom on various screens. The jury watched the largest screen directly across from them.
“Read it with me,” Juan Martinez directed the psychologist. “She wrote that she smashed windows, kicked holes in walls and broke down doors. Do you see that?”
“Uh, yes,” he responded quietly.
“And it says she’s broken things. It also says ‘My anger is very destructive’. But, according to you, this is untrue even though it is in her words. So, this is a lie?” Juan asked in rapid-fire succession. His prey was caught in a trap with the defendant’s own words.
“Uh, all I remember is she once kicked a wall as a teenager.”
“So, everything she wrote is a lie? Is that what you are saying?”
“Maybe,” Geffner answered.
Juan would not let it go. He continued his assault mercilessly. “It doesn’t seem to be a Valentine’s ‘I love you’ note, does it?”
“Doesn’t this show that she has anger issues?” the prosecutor asked.
“Maybe,” the doctor responded. “A little.”
Juan Martinez pulled the exhibit off the projector screen and put up the letter manufactured by Arias for Travis, in the name of her old acquaintance, Abe. He was remembered as the date she had a year prior to the letter. The letter was made to look like her relationship with Abe something it was not.
“You remember a letter from Abe?” Juan Martinez asked. “If this letter was never sent to Abe but was sent to Travis Alexander, would that be an untruth or not?”
Jennifer Willmott objected and the lawyers went through their machinations.
“Would it be a lie?” Juan Martinez asked the second they broke from their sidebar.
“Yes,” Dr. Geffner answered.
“Wouldn’t that be manipulative?”
“Yes,” the doctor conceded.
“What year was the defendant born?” Juan asked. He liked changing gears quickly. It certainly kept the jury on their toes.
“Yet, the defendant states that she had temper issues in 2007. She states her anger is very destructive. She would be twenty-six years old. But you say that she had low self-esteem issues and has no anger in her. Isn’t that confirmatory bias?”
The doctor showed some irritation at having his words come back for a visit from the day prior. Although he answered, some thought the question rhetorical.
It did not take long for Juan Martinez to move to the resurrection of Dr. DeMarte and make waste to the statements her counterpart, Dr. Geffner, had laid out for the jury. Juan expertly moved through the evidence of dates and proceeded to make Dr. Geffner read the code of ethics law for his profession. He admitted he might have gotten confused over some semantics and gave in that the behavior may not have been interpreted correctly as unethical.
“Isn’t it true that your opinion includes a component of physical violence?” Juan Martinez asked.
“Yes,” Geffner answered.
“Isn’t it true that this comes directly from the defendant?”
“Well, uh, yes, and Bobby Juarez.”
“Tell me where you found a photograph, documentation, or even a medical record that domestic violence existed. For example, do you have any support for her alleged broken finger? Any documentation whatsoever?” Juan asked piercingly.
The jurors watched with rapt attention.
“I, uh, I guess not,” Dr. Geffner answered.
“The female psychologist wrote in her report that the domestic violence incident with the broken finger occurred on February 5th.
However, in your report, you documented the incident as having occurred on January 22nd. It is possible that your date is wrong, isn’t it?” Juan opened both of his arms as if to welcome an answer from the witness.
“Maybe she wrote it wrong or one of us made a mistake. I should check the records on that,” Geffner answered. His self-assuredness had disappeared an hour before.
Juan Martinez started counting with the back of his hand to the open palm of the other. “There is nothing in the journal about the incident. There is no medical record. There is no photograph and there is no police report. Is there?”
“Not that I can think of,” the doctor relented after pausing a moment.
“So there is nothing to support either January 22nd or February 5th except what she told you. You decided it would fit into your puzzle. Right?”
“The big picture has variables. Well, it doesn’t make sense.”
“It doesn’t make sense because it’s not true and there is no record to prove that it is,” Juan Martinez said. He paused a moment. “How many patients did you see last week?”
I thought it interesting that it took the doctor a long time to answer. One figured it might have been a sizable number and he was working out the details in his head.
“I don’t know,” he said, thinking. “I guess, two, maybe four.”
“That’s because you are an administrator, aren’t you?”
Dr. Geffner shook his head. He stumbled a bit as he spoke. “Look, uh, I saw patients for twenty or thirty years. I have a staff that does that. We have meetings and I am on a lot of Boards so it does not leave me a lot of time.”
Juan Martinez rocked slightly on his heels, looking toward the floor. I wondered if he had made a four-foot path in the carpet. He had had walked miles and his search for information yielded gold. He waited patiently while Dr. Geffner tried to qualify himself.
“Are you done?” Juan finally asked. The sarcasm was not hiding from the jury.
“No more questions,” Juan Martinez stated. He walked briskly back to the prosecution table.
The jury watched as Jennifer Willmott tried to resurrect her witness, but I did not have to look at them to know that her efforts were futile.
Then, the jury spoke, a tone of sarcasm prevalent in many of the questions they had submitted in the wire basket. One wondered if they had learned from Mr. Martinez along the way.
Judge Stephens directed each question toward Dr. Geffner as she peered over the top rims of her glasses.
“When was Jodi Arias diagnosed with PTSD?”
“2010,” Dr. Geffner answered.
“Is it common for someone to fill in the answers for the person taking the test?” Judge Stephens asked for an anonymous juror, her tone flat, as she avoided the tone of sarcasm.
The doctor thought for a moment. “Well, if there are language issues, there might be occasion for that to happen.”
Judge Stephens changed papers in her hand. “How common is it for victims of child abuse or trauma to have internalized anger?”
“That’s very common.”
“Would an absence of internalized anger be consistent with PTSD, Bipolar Disorder or domestic violence?”
“Well, it does not work quite that way,” Dr. Geffner answered as he turned toward the jury. “Internal anger is a symptom. A lot of people react differently so it’s hard to define.”
Judge Stephens took a moment to read the question before she read it aloud. “Would you classify Jodi as having secondary gains with doing interviews on television after her incarceration?”
Dr. Geffner thought about it for a moment. “Well, uh, yes. I guess you might take that into consideration.”
The questions were completed and both Jennifer Willmott and Juan Martinez re-crossed Dr. Geffner. I do not know that the jury learned a lot from it because Juan Martinez had carved a path beginning early in the day. A path of destruction that leveled the psychologist, using the words of Jodi Arias, had been relentless and unforgiving. The jury acknowledged the damage within the words of their questions.
Each juror knows the end is near. None of the jurors want to say it aloud, but each knows they have heard all they need to hear. They will arrive on time on Monday as lambs to the law and some will realize that they may be in deliberation within a week’s time. The tension of becoming an alternate would bother each one because of the time and heart they have invested in it.
There is only one witness that they are waiting for before they make up their minds. They are certainly not waiting for Dr. Fonseca nor do they want to hear from another computer expert. They do not need evidence. They need words of truth. They are expecting to hear words of remorse. They fervently need to hear a heartfelt admission of guilt. There is only one person who can do that.
The jury witnessed a path of destruction and out of the rubble there came a man named Travis Alexander who had good best friends and a life ahead full of hope and dreams. Juan Martinez had brought him alive in his piercing of the great and experienced Dr. Geffner. The harm was not in his being affable but rather his apparent misdiagnosis of the defendant. There were some jurors who would surmise that he believed his own rhetoric and, in that belief, he had been manipulated by the defendant, as well.
Most of the jury would not be so easily manipulated.
It was a tremendous day in a prosecutor’s search for justice for Travis Alexander…
“Every good relationship that has developed as a result of this trial is the manifestation of the Spirit of Travis Alexander.”
Justice 4 Travis Alexander…
Justice for Dale Harrell…
Paul A. Sanders, Jr.
The 13th Juror @The13thJurorMD (Twitter)