Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shawna Forde is a ‘ghost’ who killed a 9 year-old and her father for a ‘handful of jewelry’

Shawna Forde
Defense attorney Eric Larsen told the jury hearing the murder trial of Minuteman American Defense founder Shawna Forde that she was best described 400 years ago by a famous English playwright William Shakespeare who had no idea that his words described his client.

Larsen quoted Act 5 Scene 5 of Macbeth when he said Forde’s life is “A tale
 told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

At the same time, Pima County Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay described Forde as a “common thief and a murderer” as he struggled for words to make sense of the murders of Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul. “What did she get out of this?” he asked, rhetorically. “ A handful of jewelry, a pocketful of jewelry.”


Hon. John S. Leonardo
Forde, 43, is charged with two counts of first-degree felony murder in the deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, as well as charges of one count of attempted first-degree murder; 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.

Unklesbay pointed to the “very chilling” words of Forde herself as they were recorded in the FBI phone call between Forde and Ron Wedow. “She talks about taking things to another level in order to have a whole new America,” he recounted. “She said welcome to the jungle. She could get to decide who lived and who dies. That’s not the vision of America that any of us wants.”

Unklesbay told the jury that the state was pursuing the charges against Forde because “We hold people accountable for deaths that are the result of their actions.”

In the same breath, Unklesbay said “No one is saying Shawna Forde pulled the trigger at 1 a.m. on May 30.”

Forde responsible

Rick Unklesbay
Unklesbay said it was clear from the FBI recording of the conversation with informant Ron Wedow that Forde planned the home invasion and recruited the people who carried it out on May 30, 2009. “People underestimate me all the time,” she said on the recording.

Prior to closing arguments, the final defense witness in the case was an expert on memory who suggested to the jury that persons who experience real world events face issues of perception and its affects on memory when asked to recall those events at a later time.

At least that’s the testimony of Dr. Geoffrey R. Loftus, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. “You get fragments of the event, bits and pieces in a disorganized fashion,” he testified, Thursday, at the double homicide trial for Minuteman American Defense founder Shawna Forde.

Unklesbay discounted the assessment of Loftus regarding the less than definite identification of Forde as the female who lead the invasion of her home on May 30. “Her 9-year-old daughter was slaughtered in front of her,” he reminded the jury. “In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.”

Unklesbay discounted efforts by the defense during the trial to characterize Forde as nothing more than a person who talks a lot but doesn’t follow through on her statements. “She might be full of hot air,” he said. “She might be a braggart, but this woman is a murder.”

Without mentioning his name, Unklesbay drew an analogy to Robin Hood. “Her targets are people they can take something from,” he said. “She’s not going to give money to the poor. The law says you must hold her accountable for what she did.”


Larsen began his closing argument by complimenting Unklesbay on this closing argument. “I owe the state a debt of gratitude,” he said, smiling in the direction of the prosecution who he has faced numerous times over the years.
Eric Larsen

Larsen said the state has argued the evidence so that it must be taken only in their context. “{They are submitting to you that this is the only possible context,” he said. “The only way you get beyond a reasonable doubt is if there is only one context to the evidence.”

As for the “confrontation call” between Wedow on behalf of the FBI, Larsen suggested that Forde had no idea that Wedow was working for the FBI. Larsen quoted from a transcript of the call. “Home invasions and shit like that is not up my alley,” Larsen quoted. “I sure as hell don’t do that kind of shit.”

Larsen reminded the jury that Wedow was a man the she trusted. “It is so unreasonable to believe her words in the context of this phone call,” he said.

Larsen reminded the jury that in the second call with Wedow that Forde said she didn’t know anything about the home invasion and that Forde was wandering around the community and not trying to flee. “Is this a woman with something to hide?” he asked, rhetorically. “The state is asking you to enforce the law. So are we. The state is held to a burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a horrible crime, but that doesn’t lessen the state’s burden of proof. It’s not a referendum on Gina Gonzalez, her husband or her daughter. Simply, the state didn’t meet its burden.”

Shifting blame

Larsen attempted to convince the jury that the short, heavy-set female that entered the Flores home was the girlfriend of co-defendant Albert Gaxiola, a woman known as Gina Moraga. Larsen even held up Moraga’s booking photo from the Pima County Adult Detention along side a picture of Forde with blond hair. “According to her sister, Shawna has been blond all of her life and that didn’t change,” he said.

In opening statements, Larsen told the jury that the state’s case is a donut of circumstantial evidence with a big hole. “They’re hoping that everything on the donut that is circumstantial will help you fill in the hole and convict Shawna Forde,” he said.

Larsen asked if the state placed his client in the Flores home on May 30 at 1 a.m. “Gina Gonzalez is our best witness,” he suggested. “She doesn’t like hearing that.”

As for the trustworthiness of the testimony of prosecution witness Oin Oakstar. “Would you buy a used car from him?” Larsen asked rhetorically.

To that Unklesbay suggested that when Oakstar finally got around to talking “he dumped on everybody eventually.”

Unklesbay said that Forde has lied and manipulated her way for months. “A 9-year-old girl and her father is dead because Shawna Forde wanted to be someone,” he said.

The jury began its deliberations around 4 p.m. and left shortly after that. They are scheduled to resume their deliberations at 10 a.m. Friday.
All pool photos are courtesy of Jonathon LeFaive