The capital murder trial of Shawna Forde came to an abrupt halt this morning when a witness in the case - one of Shawna Forde's biggest supporters - came into the courtroom in disguise, violating a court order that all witnesses remain outside the courtroom.
Laine Lawless, wearing a black wig, short trenchcoat and sunglasses, was immediately spotted by reporters and detectives. One of the detectives alerted prosecutor Rick Unklesbay, who immediately asked to approach the bench of Judge John Leonardo.
The jurors were quickly ushered out of the room and Leonardo asked Lawless if she did not understand him when he told her on Tuesday that she and all other witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom until after the attorneys release them from their subpoenas.
Lawless told the judge she understood his order, but objected to it as she is a "citizen reporter" who has a right to be in the courtroom. She insisted she was told she was not going to be called as a witness, something the attorneys for both sides denied telling her.
In fact, prosecutor Kellie Johnson told Judge Leonardo she has exchanged e-mails with Lawless since Tuesday reiterating she is still under subpoena and can't be in the courtroom. Johnson said she told Lawless if she objected to the court order to take it up with the judge.
Lawless said she doesn't remember what the dates on the subpoena are and believes those are relevant.
At prosecutor Rick Unklesbay's suggestion, Judge Leonardo told Lawless that she is not only banned from the courtroom unless or until she's called to testify, but she's banned from the courthouse. In answer to her question, the judge said she can get someone else to file any motions she has objecting to his ruling.
Defense attorney Eric Larsen told the judge Lawless, sans disguise, brought him clothes for Forde earlier this morning. He told the judge Lawless has continued to violate another court order prohibiting her from discussing the case on the Internet, radio talk shows and with people in general.
Lawless told the judge she has not discussed her testimony with anyone and the judge said his order pertained to the case in general.
He also banned Lawless from talking to Forde, who remains in jail, and when Lawless asked why, he replied, in part, "Because that's the court order."
Lawless said she wanted to make sure she understood the judge and asked if he was imposing a gag order on her. The judge told her to call it what she likes.
He told her if she violates his order again she's going to jail.
Detectives and deputies then escorted Lawless out of the courtroom and the courthouse.
Lawless is the founder of numerous pro-Forde websites, including www.justiceforshawnaforde.com
Lawless and someone claiming to be Shawna Forde (complete with picture) have been posting comments on the trial on Facebook. Forde clearly doesn't have access to computers in the Pima County jail but her Facebook persona posted this on Tuesday: "Today was only the first day of my trial, and already the Prosecution's case is falling apart. The jury doesn't believe the witnesses. I haven't slept well at all during this time, so I'm happy to see things look like they are going my way."
Lawless interrupted the testimony of Forde's sister, Melanie Aranda, who will resume her testimony after lunch.