Jodi Arias Trial Update: ‘Expert Witness’ PTSD Diagnosis Full of Holes

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With Jodi Arias finally off the stand, her defense team is fighting an uphill battle towards influencing the final verdict and proving her "memory condition" and numerous admitted lies were caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and dissociative amnesia, and there's a glaring problem with those explanations according to one psychological expert: they're temporary conditions. 

A photographer from California, Arias is charged with the the grisly first-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in June 2008, when she stabbed the 30-year-old man 27 times, shot him in the face, slit his throat from ear to ear and left his bloodied corpse crumpled over in the bathroom shower of his home. Arias' fate depends on whether the jury believes she killed Alexander in self-defense, as she contends, or was actually a jilted lover exacting jealous revenge, as the prosecution argues.

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A psychologist and self-advertised "expert witness" on PTSD, Richard Samuels is the first part of the defense's attempt to demonstrate how Arias' purported foggy memory, bizarre behavior, and numerous admitted lies were a result of PTSD. Samuels has testified that his review of the case and Arias showed she was "depressed" and "in denial" after she killed Alexander, claiming that's just what caused her "mental condition." He said that Arias suffered acute stress disorder following the harrowing incident, which eventually evolved into PTSD.

According to Paul Mountjoy, an author on psychology, and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, the entire PTSD and amnesia diagnosis angle - which the defense's case largely now rests on - is suspect.

"Most every modern American Psychological Association (APA) reported study suggests the greater the emotion associated with a new memory, the greater the ability to recall such a memory," explains Mountjoy in an article for The Washington Times. "Every study this author viewed on PTSD and the amnesia Samuels claims has Arias in its throes, dissociative amnesia, or the loss of memory, perception or awareness, is a temporary disorder."

Arias has testified in court that she remembers shooting Alexander, but not stabbing him almost 30 times or slitting his throat. However, she's also said she doesn't normally have memory problems - something that was clearly a sticking point for many jurors based on their questions. Samuels has tried to explain how - due to PTSD - Arias' memory could be foggy the day she killed Alexander yet still retain some brief scenes from the day such as dropping the knife, putting it in the dishwasher, driving into the desert, etc.

Mountjoy says those psychological explanations sound all too convenient, especially considering the nature of Arias' horrific crime: "The most significant aspect of PTSD is the inability to forget a traumatic experience. Regardless of Samuel's psycho-nonsense, the issues of PTSD and amnesia are written from the standpoint of victim of trauma-not perpetrator."

Pressed to describe his professional opinion of what Arias had gone through when she killed Alexander in 2008, Samuels testified that he had "no doubt whatsoever" that she suffered trauma from the incident, citing his years of clinical professional experience as an expert at diagnosing PTSD. However, even that aspect of his testimony is dubious, according to Mountjoy. While Samuels has presented himself as a consummate authority on PTSD, Mountjoy reveals that the psychologist's background is actually primarily in sex therapy.

Samuels' credentials as an "expert witness" have been on trial since he took the stand. Prosecutor Martinez has already gotten him to admit "oversight" in his analysis of Arias earlier in the trial, noting that when the psychologist tested her for PTSD she was still been lying to people that Alexander had been killed by masked intruders. Martinez has also focused intensely on several instances he claims proved Samuels breached ethical guidelines, blurring the line between treating Arias as a therapist, and diagnosing her for the trial.

Arias faces the death penalty if convicted. 

Trial Schedule:
The trial resumes Monday at 1 p.m. EST. Latinos Post news coverage on the trial will resume on Monday as well.

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