Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mitigation specialist questioned about stolen jewelry

Forde speaks with attorney
Eric Larsen.

Mitigation specialist Margaret DiFrank denied Thursday that she knew the contents of letters convicted double murderer Shawna Forde had sent to her children soliciting their testimony in this case.

The jury found, Monday, that Forde was guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, the attempted first-degree murder of Gina Gonzalez, the wife of Raul Flores and mother of Brisenia Flores, as well as one count of burglary in the first-degree; one count of aggravated assault, serious physical injury; one count of aggravated assault, deadly weapon/dangerous instrument; one count of armed robbery; and one count of aggravated armed robbery. Tuesday the jury found that Forde was eligible for the death penalty on the two first-degree murder counts.

The jewelry
Jaszmin and Devon Eddy
During the first phase of the trial there was testimony that Forde had sent letters to her son, Devon Eddy, and her daughter, Jaszmin Eddy, soliciting their testimony to identify pieces of jewelry found Forde’s purse at the time she was arrested as her own. The jewelry had previously been identified as belonging to a victim in the case, Gina Gonzalez.

During cross-examination, DiFrank was asked by Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson if she and defense attorney Jill Thorpe had shown pictures of the recovered jewelry when they visited with Jaszmin Eddy prior to the start of this trial.  “I took some notes while Ms. Thorpe showed her photos,” she said. “She identified some of the items as her mother’s jewelry.”

Johnson asked DiFrank if she was aware of the letters sent by Forde to her daughter soliciting testimony in her favor. “I knew it existed, but hadn’t seen it,” she admitted.

Johnson noted that Forde’s daughter had been scheduled to travel to Tucson to testify during the trial. “Shawna called and told her not to come,” DiFrank said.

Fond memories

Earlier, DiFrank read a declaratory statement from Forde’s son Devon Eddy (who prefers to use surname of his stepfather James Duffy, Forde’s fourth husband). In the statement, which was read by DiFrank, Forde’s son said her mother was a “great cook,” had made an effort to participate in special times like going to movies and playing catch with a baseball. He also commented on her skills as a hair stylist. “My friends would go to her because she was great at cutting hair,” the statement said.

Devon Eddy’s declaratory statement concluded with a plea to the jury. “I don’t want my mother to be sentenced to death,” the statement said. “I need my mom.”
Full of holes
Margaret DiFrank
Earlier in her testimony, DiFrank had testified that she had compiled a 52-page mitigation report on behalf of the defense in preparation for this trial. Johnson asked her about how much of the report is based upon known facts and how much was based upon her analysis and conjecture. “This is your opinion,” Johnson said, while asking a question. You had to take inconsistent information and decide which is true.”

Johnson made reference to DiFrank’s comments on direct examination about trying to sort out legend from fact. “Not all of your report is legend and unverifiable,” she said to DiFrank. “Much of it is.”

Johnson asked DiFrank if there was any verification of the allegations Forde had leveled at her adoptive father Harold “Jeep” Breitgham. DiFrank replied that she was unable to locate any police or court records and that the child protective agency in Washington refused to provide any records. “I never stated that he was indicted,” DiFrank clarified. “There was a police report. There was an investigation.”

DiFrank then explained that Everett Police Department records from that era had been shipped off for storage and that no one was able to locate them and they were likely to have been destroyed. “Some of the things do come from Ms. Forde,” she said. “The details about what kinds of things that were done to her is an abusive situation come from Shawna Forde.”

Johnson pointed out another inconsistency between DiFrank’s report and the testimony of Sharon Mooreland, a counselor at Echo Glen Children’s Center. DiFrank’s report quoted Mooreland described Forde as “bright, articulate and intelligent.” Johnson asked DiFrank if Mooreland denied saying that during her testimony, Wednesday. “That’s correct,” she admitted.

Cousin Joey
Joseph Chlebik

The jury also heard pre-recorded testimony from Forde’s cousin Joseph Chlebik during the morning session Thursday. Chlebik defended the honor of Harold “Jeep” Breitgham against allegations that he had sexually abused consistently between ages five and 12.
Pool photos courtesy of Jonathon LeFaive