Defense attorney Richard Parrish tried to convince the jurors to spare Jason Bush’s life Tuesday afternoon by questioning the state’s motives, hammering on his client’s mental illness and quoting from both the Old and the New Testaments.
The Pima County jury sentenced Bush to die after deliberating nearly four hours over two days. Bush showed no reaction at sentencing this morning.
Bush, 36, was convicted of first-degree murder last month in the May 30, 2009, deaths of Arivaca residents Raul Junior Flores, 29, and his daughter Brisenia Flores, 9.
Bush was part of Minutemen American Defense founder Shawna Forde's plan to rob and kill drug smugglers to fund her organization, prosecutors say. Forde, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death in February.
Bush shot Junior Flores multiple times in the neck and torso and he shot Brisenia Flores twice in the face at point blank range as the girl begged for her life, according to Gina Gonzalez, 32, the sole survivor in the attack that killed her husband and daughter.
Parrish told jurors prosecutors showed gruesome photos of every wound inflicted, not to prove Bush’s guilt, but to get them to hate Bush enough to kill him.
In 1500 BC the Old Testament spoke of an eye for an eye, but the New Testament talks about turning the other cheek, Parrish said.
Prosecutors wanted jurors to go back 3,000 years and “murder” Bush for killing Brisenia “despite overwhelming evidence this is a very sick guy,” Parrish told the jurors.
“If this was only the murder of a drug dealer, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” the defense attorney said.
Parrish warned jurors what he had to say might seem “distasteful and cruel,” but he had to question Gonzalez’s statement that she went to bed May 30 “in heaven and woke up in hell.” Gonzalez was living on several acres of land with a drug dealing husband, a $60,000 Hummer in the front yard and with loaded weapons in the house she clearly knew how to use and were easily assessable to her young daughters, Parrish said.
“I don’t get it. That’s heaven?” Parrish told jurors.
Bush has a documented history of mental illness going back to when he was 10 years old and his parents put him into a mental institution for criminal behavior, Parrish reminded jurors. Bush was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Parrish and co-counsel Chris Kimminau did not give opening statements or closing arguments in the guilt and innocence phase of the trial, but jurors were not told why until the punishment phase began.
Parrish told jurors he and Kimminau never lied to them about Bush’s guilt knowing that if they did, the jurors would not believe the mitigation evidence they presented.
“They want you to think that the Flores and Gonzalez family simply isn’t worth your trouble,” Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday.
The fact the defense attorneys don’t think the victims are worthy of having the law applied equally to them is “astonishing in it’s offensiveness,” Unklesbay said.
The prosecutor told jurors he and co-counsel Kellie Johnson had an obligation to prove their case; they didn’t set out to make anyone hate Bush.
Unklesbay called into question the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, noting two sets of prison doctors decided Bush was faking symptoms of mental illness in 1998.
However, even if Bush does suffer from that ailment, it didn’t cause him to paint his face black, don a tactical vest, drive to the Flores house and open fire, Unklesbay said. It wasn’t paranoid schizophrenia that made him try to shoot Gonzalez again upon learning she was alive.
“He made choices. He made choices every step of the way,” Unklesbay said.
Bush showed off one of the bullets Gonzalez fired at him the day after the slayings, Unklesbay reminded jurors.
That “tells us so much more about Jason Bush than any of the people who have come in here the past few days,” Unklesbay said.
Bush was also found guilty of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and multiple counts of robbery and aggravated assault. He will be sentenced on those counts May 13.
Co-defendant Albert Gaxiola, who could also face the death penalty, is scheduled to go to trial June 1.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org