Jury selection during the first day of the death penalty trial for Washington state native Jason Eugene Bush was dominated by questions concerning the penalty phase of the trial.
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.
During a pretrial hearing last Friday, defense counsel admitted that they were not concerned with the quilt/innocence phase or the aggravation phase of the trial since their client had confessed to the murders shortly after they were committed. “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.”
Parrish filed a motion with the court on March 14 seeking to keep evidence of prior alleged bad acts by their client from being introduced during the penalty phase of the trial. In reference to the charges Bush is currently on trial for Parrish wrote in his motion: “He has no guilt phase defense to these charges. Not only is the evidence overwhelming, but he was wounded in the leg in the home invasion, and he was arrested in a hospital in Kingman while being treated for the leg wound.”
The motion goes on to state: “He confessed to these murders. The defense in this case will not contest his guilt, believing that if they did so, both defense attorneys would entirely lose their credibility before the jury, which must then be engaged in a defense effort to mitigate the penalty imposed on Bush.”
The alleged prior bad acts in question are the murders of Hector Lopez and Jon Bumstead in state of Washington during 1997. The day after Bush was arrested in Kingman he was indicted in Washington on the Lopez murder, but he has never been indicted for the murder of Bumstead. “The introduction by the state of any evidence of the other murders will simply turn this case into the trial of a serial killer who has never had the opportunity to defend against allegations arising from murders which occurred 14 years ago,” the motion stated. “To do so would be breathtakingly prejudicial and distracting to the jury.”
The prosecution has not yet had an opportunity to reply to the motion nor has a hearing been set on the matter.