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A Defense Shrink Makes Parody Blush

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I have been staying miles away from the Jodi Arias trial because there is only so much I can take.  To sum it up very briefly, Ms. Arias does not deny stabbing her boyfriend (or ex-boyfriend, it's not clear which) 27 times, shooting him, and then slitting his throat.  She is claiming "self-defense" and no, that is not a typo.

As is almost always the case, the defense has shifted away from what the killer did to what, supposedly, she was thinking.  This has the advantage, from the defendant's point of view, that, while that a guy with his head nearly cut off can show up in a photograph to be shown to the jury, the defendant's mind can't, so you can always spin some yarn about it if you're creative enough.

It also has the advantage of allowing the defense to call psychiatric "experts," one of whom I have disrespectfully labelled a "shrink" in the title of this post.  But I have my reasons: The shrink is now testifying about one area of her expertise, to wit, whether Snow White was an abused woman.  And no, I am not making this up.
This is part of the CBS coverage of the case, recounting an exchange between the prosecutor, Mr. Martinez, and the defendant's psychotherapist, Dr. Alyce LaVoilette:


The frantic scene outside trumped even the strange line of questioning by Juan Martinez, who spent nearly a half hour questioning [defense] psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette over her expertise and the techniques she used to determine Arias suffered violence at the hands of the lover she is accused of killing.

Martinez noted that LaViolette had given seminar presentations titled, "Was Snow White a Battered Woman?"

He then questioned her loudly about how she came to the conclusion that Snow White was abused, to which the defense witness replied that he was mischaracterizing her presentation.

Martinez explained how Snow White was banished to the forest to live in horrible conditions.

"She lived with the seven dwarves and according to the Disney version, she was pretty happy," LaViolette said.

"She lived in a shack, right?" Martinez snapped loudly.

"I thought it was a cute little cabin, Mr. Martinez," LaViolette replied.

"Objection, relevance, going this far into the Snow White story?" defense attorney Jennifer Willmott interjected.

"Mr. Martinez, are you angry at me?" LaViolette asked softly at one point. Portions of the gallery erupted in laughter, and the judge admonished spectators to keep quiet.

"Do you want to spar with me?" Martinez yelled.

He continued to question her about whether Snow White was a domestic abuse victim.

"I have no information about the relationship between Prince Charming and Snow White," LaViolette said as the judge called it day.


And who among us will blame the judge for calling it a day?

Yes, one might wonder whether the prosecutor was well advised to go after the "expert" for half an hour on this bizarre subject, but, I must say, if I'm the prosecutor, and the defense expert has given a seminar on "Was Snow White a Battered Woman?" I would be sorely tempted.

My rule of thumb was:  If the defense is a joke, it's impolite not to laugh along.

One way or the other, this case has to be Exhibit A on how completely out of control the law has permitted state-of-mind defenses to become.  I knew before today that they had wandered off into fairy tale land, but had hoped that I wouldn't be proven correct so literally.



4 Comments

It often seems that only the unethical experts get the work. The defense experts have been a train wreck in this case.

Steve,

I wonder whether it would be better or worse if the expert WERE ethical.

I am big proponent of the use of science in all areas of law, that being said I'm not sure how "experts" like this pass Daubert (assuming AZ follows it, I can't recall the Frye test).

This "expert" may not pass Daubert or Frye, but she passes Grimm Bros.

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