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Monday, April 15, 2013

Cleaning the Bathroom - Jodi Arias Murder Trial

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Seated between two criminal defense attorneys on the one side and domestic violence/high conflict divorce attorney on the other side Sunday afternoon during the Jay Lawrence show on KTAR, a question occurred to me. (In case you don't know, I attend the trial in person. Follow my live tweets @CamilleKimball)

Is there a gender issue in the Jodi Arias case that doesn't relate so much to the sexual or dating aspects of the case but to something much more mundane?

Michael Kimmerer is roundly acknowledged in Arizona to be the top of his field, criminal defense. Dwane Cates is well-known to audiences of HLN and Nancy Grace. Both of these men argued in studio that Jodi Arias might get a Second Degree Murder conviction because of the rage displayed in the savage butchering of Travis Alexander. 

If the killing were so pre-meditated with the various steps such as acquiring gas cans, stealing a gun, dyeing her hair and turning the license plate upside down, then why didn't she do an easier job of it, the defense attorneys asked?  Why not shoot her target while he was sleeping or otherwise unawares in bed, leave the house quickly and not risk leaving any further evidence?  Why wait till he was conscious and alert in the shower, they asked, shaking their heads to signify it was a preposterous idea. 
Inside the KTAR studios. Jay, Mike, Dwane and me

 Arias left an actual cavalcade of physical evidence at the scene, including her own blood and prints not to mention the infamous camera.  This bonanza, the two defense attorneys argued, showed that she was in a disordered state of mind, a sudden passion which would disqualify her for First Degree. 

To me, though, it makes perfect sense that a premeditated murder would take place in the shower. We know for a fact that Jodi Arias did attempt to clean up the scene. After incapacitation, Travis's inert body was dragged into the shower. The bed was stripped and the bedclothes placed into the washing machine and the machine turned on. The knife was placed in the dishwasher. Why wouldn't it have been part of the pre-meditated plan all along that she could minimize the disarray by keeping the action confined to the bathroom? This plan would possibly delay discovery of the body as well as give her a chance to remove traces that she had been there. It may even have pleased her sensibilities to leave his home, in which she had served as maid once or twice, as neat as possible. A bit of a final "so there!" to her victim? 

Why then, the defense attorneys asked me, did she leave so much evidence there? 

I argued that she became overwhelmed. 

The attorneys joined by host Jay Lawrence all said in unison, that's second degree murder right there. 

But what I want to highlight is that couldn't she have become overwhelmed at the sheer mess not at the crime? 

While these highly experienced and educated fellows seemed to find it not credible that a person would commit a pre-meditated murder in the most dramatic fashion possible as opposed to the most efficient, the thought that the victim could be lured into the shower for ease of cleanup came to me instantly, years ago when the the murder first happened. 

Not all men, not even most men are oblivious to housework issues. And far from all women are tidy. But deep in our cultural DNA, can we admit there's a reason the spokesperson for Pine Sol is a woman and the models using the Swiffers are women, too?  Something in the smell of ammonia and bleach makes our XX chromosomes quiver just a bit the way Tim Allen tried to tell us a hardware store did for the Ys. 

I have no trouble picturing a mess so colossal that, even with so much at stake, a female killer would start with the easy stuff--strip the bed--then lose heart. We know she lingered at the scene for some time as it is. Doing the laundry, using Travis' phone to check his messages (and to call herself).  At some moment, she would have at last stood there looking at blood spatter on the walls and carpet, realizing she could only do a smeary job at best. She would have decided Plan B, abandon the scene with the door shut, would be a better use of her time. 

To me, a killer could easily want to Make Someone Pay. Simply taking the life efficiently would not be nearly as satisfying as making sure the target knew exactly who was killing him and why. Especially if, as defense witness Alyce LaViolette claimed, Jodi Arias felt Travis in the power position in their relationship. The scenario of a woman scorned who kills in revenge becomes much more satisfying to the killer if the target can see for himself for at least a few minutes just who is in the power position now. Each stab wound would have come with statements from the killer, letting the victim know how he had "earned" his fate. "This is for the time you x! And this one is for the time you y!"  Seeing the astonishment and fear in his eyes would be part of the pre-murder planning and relishing. Planning the statements would, too. Underestimating the amount of mess that would be left could easily have been part of that planning stage, too.

To the right of me in studio was domestic violence/high conflict divorce attorney Kaine Fischer. He described his clients as timid, frightened women with downcast eyes not the confident, smiling Jodi Arias we have all come to know. While not a criminal defense attorney, he seemed to me have a bit better grasp of female behavior and did not support Kimerer's and Cates' analysis of the bloody crime scene.
Leaning into my seat while I take the photo, Kaine Fischer surrounded by the same crew

Which leads me to the question, is it possible men in general may view the bathroom as an entirely different piece of evidence than women do? Or perhaps women watching the trial, who are themselves not killers, see more in the bathroom than is there? 

We are all guilty of viewing the evidence through our own mindsets. I just wonder if in this case there's a gender fault line that, at it's core, is about housekeeping?  Am I way out of bounds? Let me know your thoughts!


  1. Wow...I think you have been watching too much HLN or hanging with their staff. I am female and think this is a sexist view. In regards to the crime scene and the injuries to Mr. Alexander I have always felt that this was not premediated. Include the gas cans,gun issue and license tags etc. and it does not add up because if she premeditated she had to know all these things would be looked at. That's the problem, on one hand supposedly Ms. Arias thought all this out and then she left a huge trail of evidence. Her offer to plead to 2 degree should have been accepted by the prosecutor. BTW you theory has assumptions that have not been proven.

  2. Fair enough. I knew some would take it that way. But as to your point that she "had to know" that things such as the license plate being upside down would be "looked at" so therefore she didn't pre-meditate, I cannot agree. Murderers always believe they have thought of everything but they rarely have. Making mistakes in your planning is not a defense. I do appreciate your speaking up. I knew I might be twisting in the wind on this one, but I did want to hear other thoughts. Thanks!

  3. I rest my case with your statement " murderers always believe". I believe this is for the jury to decide.

  4. You are absolutely correct that jurors are the triers of fact and each case is different. But sitting in on as many trials as I do, trends do present themselves. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

  5. I cannot disagree with you Camille on your above statement. BUT- sitting in a courtroom and dealing with the media circus that was created on this Arias case makes me believe this is more of a gender issue.

  6. So, Anon of May 11, you are agreeing that there may be a potential gender divide in interpreting the crime scene as it pertains taking place in the bathroom? Also, I hope you will follow up on your remark about the "media circus," not sure I understand exactly what you meant?

  7. Camille, I think you are 100% right about this. She just did not know it would be so messy and after the high of the revenge stabs is over, there would be a definite drop in energy and mood. She may have felt some stress to get on out of there as well, as she did not know who would be coming home? It would have been too much to clean in too little of allotted time. I really don't think most males would "get this." On another related topic, I seem to recall Samuels saying in his testimony that the reason for dragging Travis into the shower was to wash away any co-mingled DNA, and I wondered how he knew that. Was he speculating or did he know from Jodi. Nothing ever seemed to come of that, so perhaps I don't remember correctly. Anyway, I get the cleaning theory and believe it to be true. Thanks for your reporting.

  8. Yes, yes, YES, Camille. I see it the way you do! She hoped to kill him in the shower, but he didn't cooperate. He got out. Thus the blood WAS NOT confined to the shower. As she said, she had never killed anyone before. Novice's bad luck, I guess. I always thought she pictured it as much easier to accomplish than it ended up being. You also hear defense-oriented people (and Alyce LaViolette) remarking that they don't believe the murder was planned because she would have had a better alibi. But JA thought that she would just be able to say that she was never there and who wouldn't believe that? ~patty

  9. Patty, and Anon, thank you so much. Yup, that's exactly what I think: she would wash her DNA off his body, clean up the mess, he wouldn't be found until he failed to show up for the Cancun trip and she would have a long trail of other places she'd been during that time. I appreciate your chiming in to support my theory and your sharing your interesting thoughts here.

  10. This is an oldish post but I've only just found your blog and this relates to one of my pet irritations among the theories argued by Jodi Arias supporters. It's ridiculous to think she would have shot Travis in his sleep! This wasn't meant to be a "hit" to eliminate him. This was a revenge/satisfaction killing. She wanted to hurt him and wanted him to know she was killing him. She wanted to say everything she hadn't yet said. I completely agree with you, Patty and the Anons who understand this about human nature and the fury of scorned women. She probably didn't think it would be so hard to kill him..remember in her ninja story? He just..wouldn't die. She also likely thought the whole thing would be contained in the shower, a perfect place to limit his movements and wash off evidence after. It was messier and took longer than she expected and no doubt she was concerned about his housemates. Finally, why bother with a wonderful alibi if you are convinced you don't "look like a murderer" (we now know she was right about this!), if you are loved and believed by all and if you are just the smartest person in the world as well as the cutest..? She just wasn't worried, not even after being arrested. Fearlessness is typical of sociopaths. Alyce and defense were so obviously proud of saying that if JA were such a good liar, she would have had a better alibi. But that only makes sense for regular "mortals", Stabby Einstein wouldn't need to worry her ponytails over it.
    So glad I've found you, Camille..I love your writing and the way your mind works.

  11. I totally agree with you Camille K.

  12. Joan
    I believe Jodi Arias planned Travis's murder. The gas cans the licence turned upside down. The theft of the gun from her grandparents home. This one evil Psychopath!!!