Upon first gazing upon her, Jodi Arias appears to be a lovely young woman. She has that endearing charm and welcoming smile one sees in the carefree countenance of twenty-somethings whose world lies before them like an oyster. Speaking glibly and with unaffected confidence to interviewers, she draws in her audience as a skilled angler lands a catch -- without seeming strained or calculating in her mannerisms. That being said, one therefore would be hard pressed to believe that she is on trial in Maricopa County, Ariz. for murdering her ex-lover as brutally as any Taliban warrior ever could. Indeed, Ms. Arias belongs to the spectrum of sociopaths that walk amongst us; and watching her trial on TruTV is a study in mental pathology as criminal justice attempts to cut beneath the mask to where something malevolent lies in repose.
For the novice here: Miss Arias in June of 2008 decided that it was no longer possible that her ex-lover Travis Alexander should continue to live comfortably and peacefully without her affections. It became necessary to her peace of mind that the earth could no longer contain such a man who was done with her -- who had used her and had now set his gaze upon other prizes. While the details are perhaps known only to Ms. Arias and the deceased, it seems that the defendant made her way, after renting a car from Yreka, California, and travelled to Mesa, Arizona for a last fling before Travis was to go on a cruise with another lucky woman. Sometime later, after a round of torrid coupling, Mr. Alexander was photographed by Jodi showering in various positions. Shortly afterward, Travis Alexander lay in a blood-spattered bathroom with a bullet to the face from a .25 cal. handgun, 29 stab wounds to the upper torso and his throat slit from ear to ear.
It would be impossible to traverse the circuitous routes of the story in the space allotted here. Originally, Jodi informed the investigators that she had not been there, but when forensic evidence pointed otherwise, she changed her story on a dime to indict two ninja-like characters who surprised them and astonishingly let her escape. By this time, Ms. Arias was secured safely within Maricopa County Jail where she has been preparing her story for nearly five years. Not surprisingly, she changed her tale yet again and revealed that the killing was one of self-defense: instigated by the final brutal and abusive tirade by Mr. Alexander on a helpless young Arias who found it necessarily to slow the enraged attacker with his own weapon -- a weapon no one knew he had owned. Jodi Arias, it seems, had been all along covering up the dark secret of physical abuse and pedophilic tendencies of her ex-lover -- and only now can these allegations be told to inquiring and credulous minds.
As a rule, defense attorneys are loath to put their clients on the witness stand for obvious reasons. Her defense team, nevertheless, has no reasonable choice than to do just that since her plethora of police and media interviews has dug the young woman a hole the size of the nearby Grand Canyon. These interviews, viewed in the light of unimpeachable evidence by investigators who know the ins and outs of these events, reveal a mind that can weave mendacity like a fine cloth and can fabricate and keep a story relatively straight without the messy emotional "tells" that hinder people with moral consciences. Every difficult question offered to her has an answer delivered with that selfsame confident and assured demeanor. Even the hundreds of blatant inconsistencies, due to her multiple scenarios, have been explained away under oath in her direct and cross examinations. It seems that she had been protecting Travis' good name all along, we now learn. And this, we are assured, is the pristine truth -- at least that which she can remember, since the events of the killing left her in a semi-fugue state with serious memory gaps.
But it has been the relentlessly aggressive cross-examination by veteran prosecutor Juan Martinez that has caused Arias' mask to slip. The chameleon-like Arias donned the coy persona of a Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm for three weeks with her twelve-year-old girl coiffure and librarian glasses -- all under her lawyer's scripted tutelage. Under hostile questioning, however, Martinez began immediately to apply merciless pressure in order to reveal the real animal. Gone in a flash was the victim façade, as the jury was quickly presented with an intensely cagey individual who sparred with a seasoned prosecutor on the razor's edge of the lie. As a consummate liar, Arias lives in the world of equivocation between yes and no -- contending with Martinez in a passive-aggressive tango and only begrudgingly surrendering a salient point to him after minutes of wrangling and verbal contortion. Moreover, Arias feels secure in criticizing her opponent's prosecutorial manner and even corrects him when he asks a forbidden compound question. Watching the two spar can be the equivalent of an Abbott and Costello-like parley of "Who's on First." This transformation of personalities, I assure you, is not lost on the jury.
As she lets slip the guise of meekness under intense grilling, it is apparent that Arias has ever been a soul who would not be under the control of anyone -- parent or lover. So different from the silent victim she portrays, she energetically asserts herself both mentally, sexually and through the force of will that is able to size up weakness and exploit it towards her own end. It is a manipulation par excellence. In the end, the beauty's stunning downfall is that her string of boyfriends inevitably grow weary of her hollow and pandering personality. And when they attempt to disengage from her, they risk the wrath of a young woman who takes rejection all too personal. Generally speaking, the sociopath as a person is unable to offer genuine love and doles our just enough flattery to continue on receiving the attention they duly crave. When it is no longer forthcoming, the loss becomes a trigger for outrage and malice. Having been dead set on the life she desired above all things, Jodi could not move on.
Shockingly, after her murder of Travis Alexander, Jodi Arias sent the grandmother that raised him twenty White Irises -- the Iris signifying the name that Jodi and Travis once contemplated for their future daughter. Perhaps even more telling was the fact that after the butchering of her victim, Jodi drove north to Utah with bloodstained hands to visit Mr. Ryan Burns, whom she beforehand had set up as an alibi for her murderous trip. The man testified that Arias and he were affectionate and kissed one another tenderly while grinding in bed fully clothed. He had no idea what had occurred just scant hours before.
In one of her media interviews, it was noted that Arias competed in and won a talent show at the Maricopa County Jail. Dressed in horizontal stripes, she gave a rendition of the Christmas carol "O Holy Night." It was to this same interviewer that she later boasted "No jury will ever convict me" with a dead certainty that only a true believer can muster. Battling for her life in a death-penalty struggle, Arias is reminiscent of Casey Anthony; and indeed both young women possess that alluring attractiveness that magnetizes initially but with time grows rancid. I have no idea if Jodi Arias will escape the executioner's hand or if she will join Anthony and the host of sociopaths who have cheated the hangman in our American Justice Pantheon of Infamy. Arias testified that Travis Alexander once referred to her as his "kryptonite". It remains to be seen if a full measure of justice will vindicate him or if he is merely another casualty stemming from a reprobate femme fatale's fatal attraction.
On the surface, it would seem to me that sociopathy embeds itself in societies that are prone to narcissism and fluid situational moralities; but then again, perhaps the human heart has always been this way. Modern civilization, however, has the profound ability to silence that still small voice within us all with the vulgar scream of alienation and self-adulation that characterizes its own peculiar manifestation of Existential Man. Although it may be at first difficult to sear the human heart to become deaf to the calls of virtue and conscience, such collective spiritual depravity seems to be occurring as commonly now as the Daily Headlines -- where the features of inhumanity and callous disregard flow as freely as a sewer pipe to the sea.