The Pima County Superior Court jury deciding whether convicted double-murderer Jason Eugene Bush is sentenced to death or spends the rest of his life in prison was told Tuesday 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.”
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon before retiring for the evening. They are set to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
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.
Prior to starting deliberations the jury heard testimony from Dr. Marc Walter, a clinical neuropsychologist in private practice in Phoenix. Walter, at the request of Bush’s attorneys, had evaluated him and determined that he was a paranoid schizophrenic.
During testimony, Tuesday morning, Walter was asked about the numerous letters and certificates of praise about Bush’s imaginary military career testified about last week. “This is very unusual to see something like this,” he told the jury. “This is a very strong indicator of a delusional system very much involving the military.”
Walter asked, almost rhetorically, “Why would anybody need something like this?” His answer: “Anybody who is anchored in reality, who is living in the real world, the world of consensual reality would not need such a document,” he said. “It suggests that he took extreme effort to manufacture documents that would help him stay anchored in his other reality,”
Walter admitted that he still does not have the entire story about Jason Bush, that he just peeled back a few layers. “He, like most paranoids, was guarded with me. He did admit to some things but he didn’t go into all of this stuff with me,” he testified. “That’s not unusual.”
During closing arguments for this phase of the case, Parrish argued that everything the jury had heard in the evidence presented in this trial was relevant. “Some things have to be said about this case that nobody’s had the guts to say,” he told the jury.
|Raul and Brisenia Flores|
Parrish did recall a statement from the lone victim in the deadly home invasion that was not in evidence but part of the victim impact statement she read to the jury. “Gina Gonzalez said to you that she went to bed that night in heaven and she woke up in hell,” he said. “She had a drug dealer husband. She was living in a trailer in Arivaca on five or 10 acres. There was a loaded assault rifle in the nook of the front door. There was a loaded .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol near the stove. She knew enough to take that .40 caliber weapon, pull back the slide, undo the safety and shoot at somebody.”
Parrish talked about Oin Oakstar, an admitted drug dealer in Arivaca, who testified about the so-called Arivaca Rules. “He says we have different rules in Arivaca. Not the rules that you morons live by,” Parrish said. “We’re drug dealers. We smuggle illegal aliens. Some guy named Eddie gives the green light to these people to go kill Junior Flores because he was competition in the drug business. I don’t get it. That’s heaven?”
Parrish reminded the jury that some things he had to say may be found to be offensive. “We’re not supposed to say things like that because she suffered a tragedy and that is true,” he said.
Parrish reminded the jury that his client had suffered himself for a number of years. “Jason Bush has shown so much mental illness since the age of 10 and his mother says since the age of two, documented mental illness, how are they going to bring a doctor in to say that it didn’t happen,” he said. “He committed an unforgivable murder of a 9-year-old girl. You do the same thing to him. Murder him. That’s all it’s about.”
Parrish asked the jury to consider what justice actually is. “There is no definition of what justice is. You can’t define it,” he suggested.
Parrish described an evolution of the concept of justice for the jury using a pre-printed board in board English and Hebrew, as well as a little Greek. He said the oldest concept of justice was conceived about 1,000 B.C. “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth,” he said. “I’m sure that some of you have read the bible or actually seen one.”
Parrish suggested that when you get to the older portion of the Old Testament that justice became undefined. “It hath been told thee ole man what is good and what God requires of you to do justice and to love mercy,” he said. “This is an evolution 500 years later. Then in Leviticus it says thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. That is the ultimate definition of justice that is in the Old Testament.”
Parrish said 500 years after that the New Testament was published. “Some of you might even have seen that,” he said, referring to the Sermon on the Mount. “Justice is no longer conditional love as it is in the Old Testament. It hath been told me that you have heard that it was said an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist him who is evil, if he slaps you on the right cheek turn to him the other. Wow, that’s an awfully new idea.”
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 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.
Astonishing and offensive
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.”