(pool photo by Benjie
The Pima County Superior Court jury hearing evidence in the trial for alleged double murderer for Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola will resume on Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, 9. Additional charges include: 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.
Both Forde and co-defendant Jason Eugene Bush have been tried and convicted on the same charges. Forde received two death sentences plus 65 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections and Bush received two death sentences and 78 years in prison.
The defense had requested that the Pima County Attorney’s Office provide copies of evidence seized from Bush and Forde at the time of their arrests. The Bush material, according to Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay, included copies of fake military credentials and materials advocating white supremacy. “These are items the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department took out of Mr. Bush’s house,” he told Judge John S. Leonardo.
Among the items are the fake identification cards created by Bush, as well as white supremacist literature. “I would concede the potential relevancy of the items found in Mr. Gaxiola’s house and the items found in the Honda,” Unklesbay said.
Unklesbay said the prosecution objects to the relevancy of the fake ID cards and white supremacist information taken into evidence in Mohave County. “There is no relationship between that material and Mr. Gaxiola,” he told Leonardo.
The big picture
Defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale told Leonardo that they believe the jury needs to have the entire story. “The state is portraying my client as potentially having some sort of relationship with Mr. Bush even though clearly the evidence that’s coming in it seems like the relationship is with Ms. Forde,” he said. “We believe that all of the white supremacist materials and the things that were located among the Bush property are relevant to how unlikely it would have been that any sort of a serious relationship would be required to commit this crime would be occurring between this self-proclaimed white supremacist and our client. We believe that the jury should be able to evaluate all of this in light of all of the other testimony.”
Leonardo suggested that Det. Juan Carlos Navarro, the lead detective for the Homicide Unit at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, could be called back to the stand to testify as to how many fake credentials were taken into custody during the investigation. The judge suggested that the white supremacist materials are a different issue to consider. “I don’t think there is any connection to white supremacy in this case. This is the third trial and I haven’t heard anything about it up to this point in the trial,” he said. “I’m not sure about the relevancy of that material.”
Lansdale had disclosed earlier in the trial that the defense had intended to call Forde’s half-brother Meryl Metzger as a witness to testify regarding discussions he had with Forde prior to the home invasion. At last report, it appeared that Metzger has health issues preventing him from traveling to Tucson. “It looks like he is going to evaporate,” Lansdale said. “In his statement, he had talked about Shawna Forde being a white supremacist, but that’s apparently not going to come in. Mr. Bush clearly is a white supremacist. We all know that he is.”
Leonardo suggested that ties between Forde and Bush to white supremacist activities are not clear. “He and Forde both may have been, but I don’t recall any ties between activities in this case and white supremacy,” he said.
Lansdale pointed out the obvious. “I, obviously, have an Hispanic client,” he said. “How unlikely would it be that a hardcore white supremacist would be engaging in a close partnership to do what has been alleged to have been done in this case? It’s one more piece of evidence in this giant scheme of things that we should be allowed to argue.”
Leonardo pointed out that Gaxiola probably should have known the beliefs of Bush and Forde. “I would assume that your client was aware that they were white supremacists,” he said. “The fact that they were has no relevance to the case at all even in the way that you suggest.”
“It may well be that he wasn’t aware that they were white supremacists and that he wasn’t aware of what kind of people they were and what they were capable of doing,” Lansdale replied.
The defense has scheduled a full day of witnesses on Tuesday and an expert witness scheduled for Wednesday morning. The defense has also recorded a video of the drive between Arivaca Junction and Arivaca to demonstrate what the drive along the Arivaca Road looks like.
Closing arguments in this phase of the trial are anticipated for Thursday, June 30.