Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bush trial will begin the penalty phase on Thursday

Jason Bush with defense counsel Richard Parrish
and Chris Kimminau. 

Convicted double murder Jason Eugene Bush, 36, will soon find out if he was face life in prison or death by lethal injection after he was convicted by a Pima County Superior Court jury of four men and eight women last Friday.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on 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. The jury further found that the murders were premeditated and were also committed while Bush was engaged in other felony activities, including 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.

Eligible for death penalty

Then on Friday afternoon it took the jury 15-minutes to find that:
  • The defendant has been convicted of another offense in the United States for which under Arizona law a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable.
  • The defendant has been or was previously convicted of a serious offense, whether preparatory or completed. Convictions for serious offenses committed on the same occasion as the homicide, or not committed on the same occasion but consolidated for trial with the homicide, shall be treated as a serious offense under this paragraph.
  • The defendant was an adult at the time the offense was committed or was tried as an adult and the murdered person was under 15 years of age, was an unborn child in the womb at any stage of its development or was 70 years of age or older.

As with the first phase of the trial, the defense presented no evidence or argument during the second phase of the trial.

Penalty phase
During the penalty phase that is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday before Judge John S. Leonardo the defense will present evidence from two doctors who have evaluated Bush.

Dr. Marc Walter, a neuropsychologist from Phoenix, is expected to testify that the defendant meets the criteria for paranoid schizophrenia.

The second doctor is Dr. B. Robert Crago, clinical director of Neurobehavioral Health Services in Tucson, who performed a quantitative EEG, which is a scientifically established method for evaluating brain function based on brain electrical activity mapping. Crago is expected to testify that his evaluation of Bush produced results that are consistent with schizophrenia and traumatic brain injury.

Defense counsel Richard Parrish provided a preview of the other mitigation evidence anticipated in the third phase while arguing a motion designed to prevent the prosecution from presenting evidence of prior alleged bad acts. “We have not subpoenaed personal witnesses from Idaho, but his natural father and natural mother have guaranteed us that they will come,” he said. “There are other individuals who have known him through his early years that have told us they will come.”

No fallen angel

Parrish said that evidence anticipated during the penalty phase should have no bearing on the guilt or innocence of Bush. “The entire thrust of this has nothing to do with the innocence of this man. It has to do with mental problems that began very early in his life,” he explained. “His father and mother basically disowned him, terminated their parenting of him at the age of 11. His father committed him to a mental institution.”

Parrish also mentioned they may talk about law enforcement contacts his client has had over the years. “We have records of a long series of contacts with law enforcement,” he said. “There are 1,562 pages of documentation about this.”

Parrish also revealed that Bush had invented a fictional life for him self. “There is an entire carton of framed certificates, testimonials from the department of defense, the president of the United States, special forces, photographs of Mr. Bush in a Marine uniform with weapons, jumping out of an airplane an doing various things,” he said. “It is all in the imagination of Mr. Bush. He was never in the service. He created an identity, which he backed up with some astonishingly real looking certificates. There are about 25 of them.”

Parrish made it clear that they were not going to paint their client as an angel. “We are certainly not going to maintain to the court or this jury that peacefulness is the nature of this man,” he said.