Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The defense intends to call Forde’s half-brother as a witness

Albert Gaxiola (pool
photo by Mamta Popat/
Arizona Daily Star)
Prior to the start of testimony Wednesday morning for alleged double murderer Albert Robert Gaxiola the defense informed Pima County Superior Court Judge John S. Leonardo that they intended to call Shawna Forde’s half-brother as a witness.

“We intend to call a Meryl Metzger. He is Shawna Forde’s half-brother,” said defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale.

Gaxiola, 43, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Flores and his daughter. 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.

 Lansdale said they had contemplated calling FBI informants Ron Wedow and Bob Copley until Deputy Pima County Attorney Kellie Johnson advised them that securing the testimony of Wedow and Copley was not an easy thing to accomplish. “They are under the control of the FBI and they are difficult in making arrangements for,” she told Leonardo. “What happened in the Shawna Forde trial they were less than pleased with the way in which they were compensated for their travel time. I was not sure how cooperative they would be about coming down again.”

Lansdale said Metzger would testify to “analogous facts” to what would have been the testimony of Copley and Wedow. “In the presence of Mr. Metzger, she discussed her plans to do rip-offs of cartel members and other things in order to fund her Minuteman organization,” he said. “I will admonish him not to testify to any of the things that happened after the home invasion. I will probably ask that he be admonished outside the presence of the jury before he testifies.”

Lansdale said he and co-counsel Steven D. West have faced a logistical nightmare arranging for Metzger to travel to Tucson. “He doesn’t fly and wants to drive, probably two-or-three days each way,” he explained. “The Office of Court Appointed Counsel is giving Mr. West and I nightmares on the funding of getting him here. They just won’t advance me the funds so I’m going to have to advance him the funds out of my own pocket”

As for Copley and Wedow Johnson pointed out “These two also don’t fly.”

Johnson stressed that her office was not trying to be uncooperative in securing the testimony of the FBI informants. “We never tried to suggest that we couldn’t make them available to the defense.”

Johnson also suggested that Metzger might be a better witness for the defense. “There are downsides to the defense calling those two because during the Shawna Forde trial she was telling them she had a contact in Arivaca helping her scout out locations,” she added.