The fate of accused double murderer Jason Eugene Bush is in the hands of a Pima County Superior Court jury.
Bush, 36, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, at their home in Arivaca, 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.
Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay presented the jury of five males and 10 females with closing arguments this morning. The defense, which rested yesterday without calling any witnesses, waived its closing argument in this phase of the trial. “The defendant’s guilt is really beyond any doubt based on the evidence that you’ve heard,” he said. “In the early morning hours of May 30th, he along with Shawna Forde and Albert Gaxiola made their way into the Flores household and once inside the defendant used his gun to slaughter two people.”
Ultimately, the state is seeking the death penalty for Bush, but that determination needs to be made in phases after the jury has heard all of the relevant evidence in the case. “This is not a time that the jury reflects or decides or deliberates on any potential penalty,” Unklesbay said. “This is the time when you decide whether or not the state has proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant killed Raul and Brisenia, tried to kill Gina, was engaged with the others in armed robbery and aggravated robbery as well. This is not a time that you deliberate to decide what should happen to Mr. Bush. This is a time that you decide that the evidence supports the legal instructions that the court is going to give you.”
Should the jury find Bush guilty of the murders of Flores and his daughter the trial would move to the phase where the defendant could become eligible to receive the death penalty. “If and only if you find Mr. Bush guilty then we will proceed on to phase two which is the jury’s determination as to whether or not Mr. Bush is eligible for the death penalty,” Unklesbay counseled the jury.
Yesterday, the jury was told by lead case Det. Juan Carlos Navarro that Bush had initially claimed that he had not participated in the murders. Bush then changed his story and told Navarro that he committed the murders with motivation from co-defendants Shawna Forde and Albert Gaxiola who wee pointing weapons at him giving him a choice, their lives or his life. “One thing you are not going to get is an instruction that tells you that there is some justification if a person claims that he was forced to commit murder by the acts of someone else,” Unklesbay said. “In other words, even though he first denied to Det. Navarro having anything to do with the murders, denied that he was armed with a weapon when he eventually admitted shooting Brisenia, Raul and Gina he added the additional element that he only did it because Shawna and Albert were going to shoot him. You’re not going to receive any sort of instruction because it isn’t the law. If someone claims that they were forced to commit murder by someone else because of a threat on their own life and that’s somehow justified it’s not the law.”
Unklesbay argued to the jury that Bush was engaging in damage control when he told Navarro he reluctantly committed the murders. “I suggest that Mr. Bush, when he was talking to Det. Navarro, was simply trying to mitigate his own involvement, make it seem to be somewhat less than what it really was,” he said. “The evidence before you was that Mr. Bush was not only a willing participant in this home invasion and these murders but that he was eager to do so and relished it.”
The jury was also told yesterday by Medical Examiner David Winston that one of the two gunshot wounds to the head suffered by Brisenia had been a contact wound where the muzzle of the gun makes contact with the victim’s skin at the time the trigger is pulled. In his statement to Navarro Bush claimed he was no closer than three feet and closed his eyes before pulling the trigger. “What he did was horrific,” Unklesbay argued. “He wasn’t three feet away from Brisenia when he put that gun to her head. What this man did was take a powerful, .45 cal., semiautomatic handgun and put it to the head of a 9-year-old and pull the trigger, not only once but he did it twice. What he did was horrific and we are asking you to hold him responsible for those murders.”