The jury in Shawna Forde's trial for the murders of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul, spent nine hours deliberating the case before delivering its verdict today in Pima County Superior Court, and it was clear there was little doubt in their minds: Forde was found guilty of all eight counts in the case, including two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder for the shooting of Brisenia's mother, and an assortment of burglary, robbery and aggravated assault charges.
I was there to observe. The jury's verdict came in relatively short time this morning in Tucson, and it was an efficient affair: Forde, wearing a light plaid suit jacket and pants, entered with her attorneys, looking confident and smiling. The jury then filed in, and delivered their verdicts to the judge. The court clerk then read them aloud, along with the jury's findings: guilty, guilty, guilty, with no doubts at all about any of the qualifying issues.
Strangely, Forde was almost perfectly emotionless: She looked straight ahead, chatted with her attorneys, and even smiled occasionally. Indeed, she continued to exude the bravado that has been her style from the outset -- even as she was led back out of the courtroom to her awaiting prison cell.
There were plenty of emotions flowing, though -- much of it directly in front of me. As the verdicts were announced, Brisenia's mother, Gina Gonzalez -- who not only survived the shootings, but delivered damning testimony in the trial -- began weeping softly, as did her sister and mother, who accompanied her.
Now the trial heads to the penalty phase, with a hearing tomorrow to discuss mitigating factors in the sentencing, which will be followed by deliberations to determine whether or not she ends up on Arizona's death row. (Arizona currently has only one other woman facing the death penalty -- Wendi Andriano, convicted in 2004 of murdering her husband. (Arizona's preferred method of execution is by lethal injection.)
As Presente observed in its press release praising the verdict:
Though we received a verdict that condemned these atrocious murders, we also recognize that the Brisenia Flores’ case is not the isolated incident that some media reports make it out to be. Rather, it has galvanized the attention of the entire Latino community across the country as it reflects the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hatred organized by extremist groups. Latinos – the fastest-growing and largest ethnic minority group in the U.S. – understand and experience the phenomenon of hatred that has rapidly expanded in the nation. In fact, Latinos are closely watching media outlets that provide a platform for hatred promoted by extremist groups like MAD and the Federation for American Immigration Reform – a group Forde represented on a PBS show, for instance. Latinos are closely watching those media outlets that irresponsibly allow hateful groups attack to Latinos and immigrants, fanning the flames of fear and violence in our communities.
The details revealed in the murder trial have touched us all in a deep and unique way. These important details reflect the deepening and mainstreaming of the most noxious and dangerous strands of hatred in the United States. They move us to continue efforts to make sure there are no more hate-crimes and to take action in condemning media outlets that help disseminate hatred.
Kim Smith at the Arizona Daily Star has the complete wrapup.