At the Courthouse: Some decisions delayed in Forde case

2011-01-05T14:14:00Z 2011-01-06T08:49:15Z At the Courthouse: Some decisions delayed in Forde caseBy Kim Smith Arizona Daily Star
January 05, 2011 2:14 pm  • 

Judge John Leonardo denied a defense motion to delay Shawna Forde's murder trial Tuesday, but held off making other key decisions in the case.

Forde is charged with first-degree murder in the May 2009 deaths of Raul Flores and his daughter, Brisenia.

On Tuesday, the attorneys in the case argued a key motion under the assumption that Forde will be convicted. (And, no, that doesn't mean her attorneys are conceding, it just means attorneys and judges have to be prepared for anything.)

When someone is convicted of murder in a capital case, attorneys present what are called aggravating and mitigating factors.

The aggravating factors, as one might guess, are those things that might make someone more inclined to vote for the death penalty. Mitigating factors are those that might cast the defendant in a more favorable light -- dysfunctional childhood, low IQ, substance abuse issues, etc.

Late last month, defense attorneys told prosecutors they want jurors to hear that Forde was sexually abused as a child, raped in December 2008 and shot in January 2009 and all of these things led her to suffer from PTSD.

Prosecutors responded by saying they want jurors to know there is no evidence of any of that. Forde is the main source for the childhood abuse and police closed the rape and shooting cases, saying there was insufficient evidence.

Moreover, prosecutors want jurors to know Forde reported the rape and shooting shortly after police in Washington began investigating her in the shooting of her estranged husband.

As if that's not enough, prosecutors also want jurors to know that while Forde's attorneys may cast her as a patriotic woman who does a lot of charitable works, she is also a suspect in two crimes that took place in California after the Flores' were slain.

Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay said that although he would rather not get into it, he may also have to call two witnesses to the stand who would testify Forde told them she killed one of her children in Alaska several years ago.

Forde's attorneys asked Judge Leonardo to either ban all of those aggravating factors OR postpone the trial to give them a chance to do more investigating.

Forde has not been charged in the California crimes, Jill Thorpe pointed out.

There's also a difference between "insufficient evidence" and "staging crimes" — which is what the prosecutors are hinting at, Thorpe said in regards to the shooting and rape.

The judge denied the motion to postpone the trial and said he'd take up the rebuttal evidence as it comes up in the punishment phase (again, assuming there will be such a phase.)

 

 

 

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