|Lawless in disguise violating|
the court's order regarding
An ardent supporter of convicted double murder Shawna Forde lost a bid Friday morning in Pima County Superior Court to have a prosecution subpoena requiring her testimony at the trial of alleged double-murderer Albert Robert Gaxiola quashed.
The motion to quash the subpoena was brought by Internet blogger and would-be book author Laine Lawless, a resident of Mesa, Ariz.
Gaxiola, 43, faces 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. 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. If convicted, Gaxiola faces the same potential penalties as his co-defendants.
The motion requesting the subpoena be quashed was heard by Judge Richard S. Fields, presiding judge of the Criminal Bench at superior court by Judge John S. Leonardo who has presided over the previous two trials and is currently presidng over the trial for Gaxiola. Lawless had previously filed a complaint against Leonardo at the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, as well as complaints against Deputy County Attorneys Rick Unklesbay and Kellie Johnson at the State Bar of Arizona.
Unklesbay provided Fields with background regarding the involvement by Lawless in the deadly home invasion that took place shortly before 1 a.m. on May 30, 2009. “Later that same day on May 30th, about 8 o’clock in the evening, Ms. Lawless went to Arivaca with another gentleman by the name of Chuck Stonex,” he said. “Mr. Stonex has testified on the events that he and Ms. Lawless were involved in Arivaca during the evening hours on May 30th.”
Unklesbay said Lawless has been interviewed by detectives and the lawyers involved in the case. “Ms. Lawless has admittted to law enforcement that she came into contact with Shawna Forde, a co-defendant in this case at a home that belonged to current defendant Albert Gaxiola,” he said. “Mr. Gaxiola was not present at that time according to Ms. Lawless and Mr. Stonex.”
Unklesbay said that Lawless did a favor for Forde on the evening of May 30, 2009. “Ms. Lawless admits that Shawna Forde gave her a set of car keys and asked her to deliver them to Tucson,” he said. “Our evidence will show that Mr. Gaxiola was in Tucson at the time and that Ms. Lawless gave a statement to detectives that she delivered those keys to a person by the name of Albert. Our defendant in this case is Albert Gaxiola. Ms. Lawless has subsequnetly indicated that the Albert she gave the keys to was not Albert Gaxiola.”
Unklesbay also told Fields that Lawless has visited Forde and Gaxiola after they were taken into custody. “She, in fact, has visited Mr. Gaxiola at the jail,” he said.
Whether or not the person Lawless delivered the car keys to in Tucson was Gaxiola, Unklesbay told Fields that there are text messages showing he had the keys. “Mr. Gaxiola was involved in some text messaging in which he indicated to Shawna Forde that he had received the car keys and would be driving Ms. Forde’s vehicle down to Arivaca,” he said.
Unklesbay said it is possible Lawless will be needed to testify in this case. “In the past two cases we ended up not calling Ms. Lawless as a witness because we got the information we felt that we needed from Mr. Stonex,” he said. “That may or may not be the case in the current trial.”
An indicator may be if the defendant testifies. “We don’t know if Mr. Gaxiola is going to testify in his own defense,” Unklesbay told Fields. “It’s possible that if Mr. Gaxiola testifies it’s possible that we may have to cll Ms. Lawless in our rebuttal case.”
Unklesbay assured Fields that they were not trying to prohibit Lawless from exercising her rights as a journalist. “It is not our intention to unnecessarily keep Ms. Lawless out of the courtroom, but she is a fact witness in this case,” he said. “It is not as if she was some journalist that had been investigating the case. She inserted herself into this case on the very day that the murders occurred and had contact with at least two of the defendants and arguably all three of the defendants, taking potential evidence from one location to another.”
Unklesbay also reminded Fields that Lawless has violated the witness exclusion rule during the Forde trial. “Ms. Lawless violated that order and came into the court in a disguise,” he said. “She was removed from the courtroom and banned from the courthouse unless she was called as a witness.”
Fields asked defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale if he felt that Lawless should be excluded from the courtroom since she was under subpoena. “I’m a true believer that Mr. Unklesbay be allowed to present his case the way he wants,” he said. “The evidence he has decribed is not the best evidence, but it is relevant. He has a right to call her as a witness and he has a right to subpoena her. There are no exceptions that I know of.”
Lansdale assured Fields that he had no plans to call her as a witness.
Lawless represented herself during the hearing. “Are we under oath?” she asked Fields. “I think that everyone here needs to be under oath because I have already heard some falsehoods told.”
“Let me worry about that,” Fields replied.
Lawless then argued that her rights under the constitution were being violated by her exclusion from the courtroom. “My contention is that I am being excluded based on the content that I have written,” she said. “I have been critical of the prosecution. I have been critical of a number of people involved in this business.”
As to her violation of the court’s order during the Forde trial she told Fields that she was doing what a number of people in this country had done through the years. “I engaged in an act of civil disobedience when I entered the courtroom,” she said. “I was standing up for my rights. I was willing to go to jail. Why I didn’t go to jail, I wasn’t sent there, I don’t know.”
In denying the motion, Fields said that Lawless would be allowed into the courtroom when the prosecution had determined that she would not be called as a witness. “Mr. Unklesbay, you will advise Ms. Lawless as soon as your decision is made not to call her,” he said.
Turning to Lawless, Fields said: “You will be free to attend the trial after you are informed by the state that they don’t intend to call you.”