Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gaxiola’s fate is now in the hands of the jury

Albert Gaxiola
(pool photo by Jill
Daily Star)
The Pima County Superior Court jury that will decide if former Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola spends the rest of his life in prison or is executed by lethal injection will begin deliberating that issue on Thursday morning..

On July 1, 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.

Closing arguments

The jury was told, Thursday afternoon, that Gaxiola make some bad choices when he became involved with Forde and Bush and especially with his drug smuggling buddy Oin Oakstar. “Albert’s mistake is associating with these people,” said defense counsel Steven D. West.

West also suggested to the jury that they needed to carefully consider his client’s moral culpability in this situation. “What shaped his morality and value systems? How did he get here? How was he damaged?” he asked, rhetorically.

West suggested that the bottom line is that Gaxiola is far from being the worst of the worst. “Our society has reserved the death penalty for the worst of the worst. The people who you just don’t want to take a chance that they will ever get back out into society,” he said.

Moral culpability

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay admitted to the jury that the defense had proven that Gaxiola had endured a less than ideal childhood. “They’ve done that and I’m not going to suggest otherwise,” he said. “You get to decide what weight, how much weight any of these factors merits in light of the circumstances of the murders. More importantly, you get to decide is moral culpability in light of the circumstances of the murders what weight are you going to give to things that happened to this defendant when he was two, three or four in light of what he did when he was 42.”

Unklesbay pointed out that Gaxiola made some very fateful decisions two years ago that landed him in his current predicament. “At age 42, when he began making plans to do away with Junior Flores. At 42 years of age, he was making that hitless in his notebooks, When he was 42 years of age he met Shawna Forde and the two of them getting together bringing in Jason Bush to commit these crimes,” he told the jury. “That factors in, I would suggest to you, to the defendant’s moral culpability.”


At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence in the penalty phase of the trial, the defendant is given the opportunity to allocate, which according to is “The procedure during sentencing when a judge gives a convicted defendant the opportunity to make a personal statement on his own behalf to mitigate the punishment that is about to be imposed.”

The statement by Gaxiola was unsworn and not subject to cross-examination. “Flores Family. Gonzalez Family. There’s nothing that I can do or say that can relieve the pain and suffering from the loss of a loving husband or the loss of a precious daughter. All I can say is that I am truly sorry.”

Defense counsel Jack L. Lansdale reiterated his client’s statements during final closing arguments to the jury. “He feels very bad about what happened to this family,” he said.

Lansdale asked the jury to do what it right when deciding the fate of his client. “We feel at the end of the day that when you evaluate all of the facts and circumstances you have the right to use that term mercy,” he said. “This is not an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth situation. This is not a cold-blooded killer. This is not a worst of the worst situation.”