Two days ago, it was reported that an ardent supporter of convicted double murderer Shawna Forde had filed a complaint with the State Bar of Arizona against Deputy County Attorneys Rick Unklesbay and Kellie Johnson.
The complaint filed by Laine Lawless, Mesa, Ariz., has been posted on the website Justice for Shawna Forde. State bar policy is to not confirm the existence of complaints until some disciplinary action, if any, is taken. However, Unklesbay confirmed the complaint when he told Pima County Superior Court Judge John S. Leonardo that he and Johnson were scheduled to have a conference call at 3 p.m. on Friday with officials at the state bar. “Ms. Lawless filed a bar complaint against Ms. Johnson and I for keeping her on the witness list,” Unklesbay said. “The claim in her bar complaint is that we kept her out of the courtroom even though we didn’t intend to call her as a witness. We don’t feel that is true because she kept inserting herself into the case. She was a witness all the way through.”
Lawless, a witness who was subpoenaed to testify in the trial for Forde and is also on subpoena for the trials involving co-defendants Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola, claims collusion between the attorneys and Judge Leonardo. “I am filing this complaint because I was purposely prevented from attending Shawna Forde’s trial (beginning Jan. 14, 2011 in Tucson) by the prosecution team (Kellie Johnson and Rick Unklesbay) in collusion with the judge. The prosecution put me on their ‘witness list’ so that I was not able to attend the trial. Then, they refused to use me, and in fact, I believe, never intended to use me as a witness, possibly because my testimony might conflict with that of Chuck Stonex,” the complaint states.
The Lawless complaint asserts that her rights were abridged. “As a citizen-reporter, and a writer on Arizona border issues, I have all the same rights as any mainstream media; my only disadvantage is that I do not have a high-priced legal team to enforce my exercise of my constitutional rights. A public trial is open to the public, and anyone, including online writers and non-mainstream media, are allowed to cover it. I am a member of the public and I am a member of the media. The fact that I am writing a book rather than for a periodical doesn’t invalidate my position as a member of the media.”
Has she been subpoena?
|Judge John S. Leonardo|
Discussion of the bar complaint occurred when Leonardo asked Unklesbay if Lawless was subpoenaed as a potential witness in the case against Washington state native Jason Eugene Bush who goes to trial starting next Tuesday. “She is under subpoena for this trial,” Unklesbay confirmed. “As was the case in the first trial, Mr. Stonex will be testifying again after his contact with Ms. Forde and Mr. Bush in Arivaca the morning after and Ms. Lawless was there so she’s potentially a witness.”
Earlier this week, 225 prospective jurors were summoned to superior court to fill out questionnaires in regards to the trial of Bush. Based upon answers to those questionnaires attorneys agreed to dismiss 113 jurors from further service on this trial leaving 112 prospective jurors who will begin voir dire on Tuesday.
Jury selection is expected to take three days with opening statements anticipated the morning of March 18. Defense counsel Chris Kimminau told the court Friday afternoon that he will likely reserve his opening statement for the start of the defense case, which could start as early as March 30 or April 1. “We do not have a robust defense in this case since there was a confession,” said co-counsel Richard Parrish.
The confession by Bush was reported in a July 8, 2009, story in the Green Valley News. “It was quite a lengthy interview with him,” Pima County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Michael O’Connor said. “He admitted to both murders. He murdered a little girl. I think that was hard on him.”
Bush, 36, 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 one count of the attempted first-degree murder of Gina Marie Gonzalez; 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.
Co-defendant Shawna Forde was recently convicted of all of these charges and was sentenced to death by a superior court jury.
Unklesbay admitted, during the hearing Friday afternoon, that the prosecution would rather not call Lawless as a witness, but they may not have a choice. “We would rather not call her as the court saw why we wouldn’t want to call her,” he said. Unklesbay was referring to an attempt by Lawless to sneak into the courtroom in disguise during the death penalty trial for Shawna Forde.
There was testimony during the Forde case that Lawless was present the morning after the shootings when Stonex treated Bush’s bullet wound in his leg. “We are reluctant to release from subpoena in case something would happen to Mr. Stonex,” Unklesbay said. “She’s under subpoena. Our druthers would be not to call her as a witness, but we really don’t want to excuse her.”
Leonardo indicated that it was likely that Lawless would be excluded from the courtroom for the Bush trial. “Obviously, if somebody invokes the rule she as well as any other potential witness will be excluded unless you want to work out something else,” he said.
Unklesbay indicated that the court would be asked to exclude potential witnesses from the courtroom. “As the court probably realizes, we would be very reluctant to excuse her because of her actions at the last trial coming into the courtroom in disguise, attempting to insert herself into these proceedings,” he said. “We don’t need that kind of activity going on in a case like this. We’re not trying to interfere with her ability to do whatever she has a right to do as a citizen, but she is a material witness. She put herself in a position of being a witness and she continued to do so for months after the shooting.”