No decision yet on death penalty in Forde case

  • By Dave Ricker Green Valley News
  • Saturday, February 19, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

TUCSON, Ariz. — Shawna Forde’s life has featured plenty of pain and suffering and her attorneys Friday argued that ought to be enough to spare her from a death sentence.

Forde, 43, was found guilty Monday of leading a deadly raid at the home of Raul Flores and Gina Gonzalez in Arivaca, Ariz. When the May 2009 home-invasion robbery was over, Gonzalez was bleeding from bullet wounds. Flores was dead, as was the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia.

Jurors on Friday began deliberating whether Forde should receive a death sentence. They were scheduled to resume deliberations Tuesday. The panel spent much of the week listening to testimony about the former Everett woman’s life, including the defense’s recounting of a childhood marred by abandonment, abuse and street crime.

Before the jury began deliberating, defense attorney Eric Larsen spoke to them about the 1989 science fiction movie, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”

Larsen recalled how in that movie, Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, used his ability to reveal and heal the innermost pain of a person in order to gain the trust of key members of the crew of the Enterprise. While Dr. McCoy and Spock accept Sybok’s help, Capt. James T. Kirk refuses the Vulcan’s offer, telling him that his pain is what makes him human.

“Pain is what makes Shawna Forde who she is,” Larsen said. “We carry it with us today the same way we carried it as a child.”

Larsen reminded the jury of testimony that Forde’s difficulties as a child has influenced her conduct as an adult.

“You can only be happy from the inside,” he said. “She doesn’t know that.”

Forde’s other defense attorney, Jill Thorpe, essentially conceded that her client had participated in the crimes visited upon the Flores family.

She argued that Forde’s low intelligence limited her client’s ability to orchestrate another outcome.

“When she was in the Flores home when Junior was shot, when she was in the back room as Brisenia was shot by Jason Bush, does she have the ability to develop a different strategy?” Thorpe asked.

Asked later if her statement to jurors was an admission that Forde was guilty, Thorpe said, “It is what it is.” She added that her remarks were offered without Forde’s agreement.

The attorney also told jurors that a death sentence would only feed Forde’s ego.

“Shawna would be a celebrity,” she argued. “Give her life and she will fade into the prison community and she will be a nobody.”

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay told jurors Forde must be held accountable.

“There comes a time in your life when you have to take responsibility for your actions,” he argued.

Forde is not alone in having faced a difficult childhood, Unklesbay told jurors.

“You would think as a victim herself that she would recognize that you don’t victimize others,” he said of Forde.

Unklesbay said Forde is morally culpable for the damage done to the Flores family, “Yet, her ego is the most important thing in her life.”

As he spoke, the prosecutor was unaware that Forde on Friday had offered, through her attorney, to grant interviews to any reporter who showed up at the jailhouse, so long as they came with a check.

“There is not an ounce of evidence that she should be shown leniency,” Unklesbay told jurors. “All we ask is that you do justice.”

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