When juror Angie Thomas woke up on the second day of the Shawna Forde capital murder trial, she didn't want to go back to court.
Thomas forced herself to return. And yesterday she talked to the news media about how difficult it was to both convict Forde for the murders of Brisenia Flores, 9, and Raul Junior Flores, 29, and yesterday's jury decision Forde should be executed for what she did.
Thomas said Gina Gonzalez's testimony on the first day of trial had been heartbreaking and the mother of two wasn't sure she could handle anymore.
Still, she returned to court telling herself things couldn't possibly get any worse. She was wrong. That was the day prosecutors showed the autopsy and crime scene photos of the girl and her father.
Nearly a month later Thomas still can't get the images of Brisenia out of her mind - the pictures showing the devastation wrought when a gun is pressed to someone's flesh and fired.
The Floreses died May 30, 2009, after Junior Flores let a couple pretending to be law enforcement officers into his home in Arivaca. Gonzalez testified she and Junior, her husband of 13 years, were shot after he expressed doubts about their identity.
The gunman assured Brisenia he wasn't going to shoot her, but then shot her twice while she pleaded for her life, Gonzalez testified.
Jurors were told Forde, 43, needed money for her border protection group, Minutemen American Defense, and recruited some men to rob drug smugglers near the border. All the invaders got was a handful of inexpensive jewelry that was later found in Forde's possession, prosecutors said.
Thomas wouldn't provide specific details of what went on during deliberations, but she did say it wasn't easy for the jury to either convict Forde or sentence her to death.
"We considered every argument the prosecutors presented us with and every alternative and every derivative of every alternative," Thomas said.
That includes the defense's theory that a co-defendant's girlfriend was in the house that morning, Thomas said.
The jury felt the death penalty was "fair" considering Brisenia Flores will never see any of the milestones most of us take for granted and her sister and mother will suffer with their losses the rest of their lives, Thomas said.
The entire jury was shocked to hear Forde called a press conference after her conviction last week, during which Forde said if people don't want their kids to wind up dead they shouldn't deal drugs, Thomas said.
"That's galling," Thomas said. "That's unmitigated gall."
Forde's defense attorneys told jurors Forde wasn't present at the house that morning during the guilt and innocence phase of the trial.
After she was convicted, they asked the jury to spare Forde's life, saying she was a "broken person" who suffered repeated acts of sexual and physical abuse and abandonment as a child.
But Thomas said Forde's childhood was no excuse for what she did.
Defense attorney Eric Larsen told reporters Tuesday that people used to question how the government can kill people to teach people it's wrong to kill people. Now he says, "we're in the process of killing people who haven't killed people to teach people not to kill people."
Forde is entitled to an automatic appeal, Larsen said, declining to comment further.
Deputy Pima County Attorneys Rick Unklesbay and Kellie Johnson declined to comment, noting they have two more co-defendants to try in the case.
The jury met privately with Gonzalez afterward to ask her questions and extend their sympathies, Thomas said.
"There wasn't a dry eye" in the room during the meeting, Thomas said.
The 31-year-old ITT Tech student said the case was on her mind "every second of every day" since jury selection. She worries her grade point average has suffered and could result in the loss of her scholarships.
She said at least half the jury inquired about post-trial recovery counseling, a service not provided in Pima County.
Thomas said her state of mind is nothing compared to what Gonzalez and her surviving daughter are going through, and will continue to go through, though, Thomas said.
Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo sentenced Forde to die by lethal injection. She will be sentenced April 25 on additional attempted murder and various burglary, aggravated assault and robbery charges.
Alleged gunman Jason Bush is scheduled to go to trial March 15 and Albert Gaxiola June 1.
They, too, face the death penalty.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org