A Pima County Superior Court jury has sentenced Minutemen American Defense Operations Director Jason Eugene Bush to death for his role in the May 30, 2009, shooting deaths of Arivaca residents Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9.
Judge John S. Leonardo immediately pronounced the sentence of death by lethal injection on Bush for the two counts and ordered that sentencing on the other six counts be set for May 13 at 9:30 a.m. Bush now joins co-defendant Shawna Forde on Arizona’s Death Row at the state prison in Florence.
It took the four male and eight female jurors approximately three-and-a-half hours of deliberation to reach their verdicts of death in the case. The jury left the courthouse without comment.
Deputy County Attorneys Rick Unklesbay and Kellie Johnson had no comment as well as they are scheduled to try co-defendant Albert Gaxiola starting with jury selection on June 1.
Defense counsel Chris Kimminau and Richard Parrish expressed disappointment at the verdicts noting there would be an automatic appeal of the sentences to the Arizona Supreme Court.
On March 25, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Bush, 36, 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.
Following that the jury confirmed that aggravating factors existed which make Bush eligible for the death penalty in this case.
During closing arguments on Tuesday the jury was told by defense counsel Richard Parrish that “If it were only the murder of a drug dealer and only injuries to the drug dealer’s wife, we wouldn’t be sitting here. That 9-year-old girl is an unforgiveable act.”
Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay took exception to that characterization by defense counsel Richard Parrish in closing arguments for the sentencing phase of the trial. “I guess we finally got a glimpse of what their real defense is,” Unklesbay said. “What they want you to do is to go back into the jury room and say the Flores family simply isn’t worth your time.”
Parrish then proceeded to an area that raised an objection from the prosecution. “There are 38 states that have the death penalty, 12 states do not,” he said. “The United States is the only Judeo-Christian country in the world that uses the death penalty.”
The objection to the statement by Parrish was sustained by Judge John S. Leonardo. “You were brought here to decide whether a man should live or die,” Parrish said to the jury.
Unklesbay appeared to be nearly speechless as he argued to the jury that the appropriate penalty was death. “It’s astonishing and offensive that a defense attorney would stand up here and say that they are not worthy of having the law applied equally to them,” he said. “When someone commits a crime like this, when someone can do to a 9-year-old what this man did unless you find something significant, unless you find something substantial that would mitigate somehow what he did then your verdict should be death.”