CRIME
05/02/2013 08:34 am ET Updated May 02, 2013

Arias Lawyers' Final Message To Jury: She Was Abused

In Session -- Pool Camera

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Jodi Arias' defense team attempted to launch the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass Wednesday during a marathon day of testimony by their final expert witness.

Psychologist Robert Geffner was called to the stand by defense attorney Jennifer Willmott, in what was another attempt to convince the jury Arias was abused by her ex-boyfriend and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Geffner said he based his opinion on materials that were provided to him by the defense, including the results of an MMPI psychological test. Those test results, Geffner said, are consistent with someone who was traumatized or in an abusive relationship.

"Based on just these objective tests, what kind of working hypothesis would you be looking at?" Willmott asked.

"I would be looking at anxiety disorder, PTSD and trying to find out what potential traumas may have occurred either currently or in the past. What types of things are going on that would produce those kinds of symptoms and try to define and get more clarification on what these are related to," Geffner said.

Defense lawyers say Arias, 32, was physically and emotionally battered by 30-year-old ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander and feared for her life when she shot him, stabbed him nearly 30 times, and cut his throat in his Mesa, Ariz., home on June 4, 2008.

During her 18 days on the stand, Arias told jurors she killed Alexander in self-defense after he attacked her for dropping his camera. Prosecutors say the murder was premeditated and fueled by jealously.

Geffner made it clear he has not diagnosed Arias with any disorders and is basing his opinion on her test results.

"I focused on the records ... that was my role," he said. "I tried to explain those records. I've not evaluated her, I've not met her, I've not reviewed her case, I've not seen the testimony, I don't know the interviews of her by others, I haven't met with her myself."

Willmott asked Geffner if it should matter that Arias had lied about killing Alexander at the time she took the test resulting in her PTSD diagnosis. At the time of the test, Arias was claiming two intruders had killed Alexander.

"If a person says they were attacked by a tiger but in reality they were attacked by a bear -- either way, they're telling you that they've suffered trauma. Is it going to matter one way or another?" Willmott asked.

"No, not for this test or for a diagnosis of PTSD. It's the reaction to the event that is assessed and goes into the diagnosis along as there is some type of traumatic event. The diagnosis requires there to be a traumatic event it doesn't require what it is. So either one of those would qualify but the test is focusing on the reaction to it," Geffner said.

Willmott asked Geffner about his expertise in neuropsychology and whether he agreed with the report by the medical examiner that Alexander would have been incapacitated moments after he was shot.

"A bullet that goes through -- even if it did go through the frontal area here and out the other side, it would likely cause some things happening but nothing in that part of the brain would incapacitate a person. That's not the area of the brain that does that. So there's no evidence from the report that that would cause that affect unless something else happened that we don't know about," said Geffner.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Juan Martinez pointed out that Geffner was basing his opinion solely on medical examiner's report.

"You're telling us that your opinion, as a neuropsychologist, is based on the reading of a report?" Martinez asked.

"And my knowledge of the brain," Geffner replied.

"And your knowledge of the brain ... if you really wanted more explanation, as to this particular issue, you would go to an expert yourself, wouldn't you?" Martinez asked.

"Yes sir," Geffner replied.

"I don't have anything else," Martinez said.

When Geffner stepped down Martinez called Dr. Kevin Horn, the medical examiner who performed Alexander's autopsy, to the stand.

Horn said Alexander's brain was like "tapioca pudding" when he examined it due to an advanced state of decomposition.

"With regard to this issue about blood in the trajectory of a bullet ... What does that indicate to you?" Martinez asked.

"It means a person may have already bled out from another injury or may have actually been deceased," Horn replied.

Horn's testimony is important to the prosecution in establishing Alexander was stabbed first and not shot, as the defense team contends.

The final witness called to the stand Wednesday was psychologist Jill Hayes. Testifying on behalf of the prosecution, Hayes said she disagrees with Geffner's assessment that Arias lies would not have affected her test results. Hayes said she would be very concerned about the validity of the test if someone was lying to the extent Arias was at the time they took it.

Shortly thereafter, court was recessed for the day.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday. Arias faces the death penalty if convicted.

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