The State v. Jodi Arias Defense team called its first “expert witness,” Dr. Richard Samuels. He took the stand to testify to “acute stress disorder” and “PTSD.”
As for him as a witness I thought he was actually easy to understand and I walked out of there with a basic understanding of “acute stress disorder, PTSD,” the hippocampus and the physiological effect of stress on the body. Some commentators on various shows thought it was ridiculous that he was reading directly from the DSMIV-R (a manual used for diagnosis) but that did not bother me. If I was on the stand I would want to read a statute itself rather than attempt to read it word for word from memory. The point is to educate the jury not to show that he can remember things word for word from the manual. Anyway, I think he did educate the jury on some issues.
He stated he met with Jodi Arias 12 times over 3 years starting in December 2009. I do not know if that is enough or acceptable in his professional community to render a diagnosis of this magnitude. He explained some basic characteristics and that Jodi Arias had those characteristics to diagnose her with PTSD.
Dr. Samuels explained that when a body is a stressful situation it kicks into “fight or flight.” This often results in an increased heart rate, increased respiratory function, and, among other things, a release of adrenaline for alertness and muscle stamina. He also explained that the hippocampus (a part of the brain responsible for memory) shuts down as resources are allocated to other parts of the body. As such, persons are physiologically unable to either create memories or retain memories of the event. That makes sense to me. After the event passes and the body starts to calm down, the hippocampus kicks in again and may remember some of the memories that were stored, but it could always be that the memory is “spotty” or “foggy,” sound familiar? Also, afterwards the person typically “shakes” due to the adrenaline.
In his testimony he also explained “In moments of extreme stress, the brain does NOT ALLOW FOR CONTEMPLATION; it does not process new information the way it normally does. The more advanced parts of the brain that handle decision making go off line.”
All of this is well and good and could convince the jury that Jodi Arias’ memory loss is normal in these circumstances and SHE DID NOT HAVE TIME FOR PREMEDITATION WHILE IN THE CLOSET. No time for contemplation. Remember, there only needs to be a couple seconds of contemplation to meet the “premeditation” requirement.
As I was sitting for Nancy Grace we learned that Dr. Samuels was in fact fined in New Jersey for bartering with a father in a custody case and for failing to interview the mother. Normally I would say that bartering is not bad in and of itself but something must have been wrong if he was actually fined for it. This could really hurt his credibility. It may not show that he is wrong about PTSD and Jodi Arias but it could show he has or had bad judgment. That could be enough to turn a jury off.
I also learned today that another prosecutor had a trial where he was the defense expert and he denied the NJ issue. When asked about it he denied that he had been sanctioned and when he was confronted with the paperwork showing the fine he became angry. This could be that he believed a “sanction” does not equal “fine.” Or, it could be that he knows this is a big problem.