Thursday, July 07, 2011

Gaxiola juror observed sleeping during testimony

One member of the Pima County Superior Court jury that is charged with deciding if former Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola will spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed by lethal injection was observed, Thursday, dozing off during testimony.

Last Friday, Gaxiola, 44, was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Raul “Junior” Flores and his daughter Brisenia, as well as six other charges. Earlier this year, Jason Eugene Bush and Shawna Forde were found guilty on the same charges in separate trials. They both ended up with death sentences imposed by the juries hearing the evidence of their crimes.

After the jury was sent to lunch, defense counsel Steven D. West raised the issue of the sleeping juror number four. “One time, I observed juror number five wake him up because he was sleeping,” West said. “We can’t have a juror not paying attention in the courtroom.”

“I agree,” said Judge John S. Leonardo. “I haven’t observed that.”

“I’ve been watching the jury,” Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said. “I have not once seen any jurors in the position that Mr. West is describing.”

Unklesbay said he had been watching that juror during previous testimony in the trial. “That juror, in particular, in the past has paid particular attention,” he said. “He’s had some facial reactions at times.”

After lunch, the same juror was observed apparently sleeping. One observer in the courtroom said the juror almost fell off of his chair in the juror box. As the jury was leaving the courtroom for the afternoon break, Leonardo summoned juror number four to a bench conference with the attorneys. The juror was still in the box after the break and listened to testimony until the evening recess.