A Pima County, Arizona, jury has found Minuteman American Defense commander Shawna Forde guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree in the May 2009 killings of 9 year old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Junior Flores. Forde was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Gina Gonzalez, Raul's wife and Brisenia's mother, and of related aggravated assault and robbery counts.
Forde could face execution, pending upcoming jury deliberations in the penalty phase of the trial. Before delivering their verdict just before noon today, the jury deliberated a day and a half .
Forde, once a highly-regarded member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, was expelled from that group. She then formed a splinter group, the Minuteman American Defense, from which she masterminded the home invasion, robbery and murder of the Flores family for group funding. Forde's accomplices Albert Gaxiola and Jasonare scheduled for trial in March and June.
Solid evidence in the case included pivotal testimony from Gina Gonzalez who was shot in the incident but survived. Nevertheless, many in the Juan Varela and Daniel Rodriguez in , other recent white-on-brown crimes where race played a key role, this case was never classified as a hate crime, says Tucson's Three Sonorans.community had feared that the verdict would not serve justice, said Tucson's Derechos Humanos organization. The group says that this case, not an isolated incident, illustrates the anti-immigrant hatred that extremist groups organize. As with the cases of
Nine-year-old Brisenia Flores had pleaded, "Please don't shoot me," immediately before she was shot twice, point blank in the face in her Arivaca, Arizona home.
Shawna Forde was a key ally of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, who once spoke at a rally Forde organized. Gilchrist appears as a frequent guest on Fox News and made national headlines when he endorsed Mike Huckabee for President in 2007. In the months before the murders, Forde also became involved in the Tea Party movement. After Forde's capture by the FBI, as she was leaving the compound of the American Patrol, a decade-old "border protection" group, many groups who previously supported her distanced themselves.
UPDATE, 2/15/2011. After learning the verdict yesterday, Shawna Forde granted an exclusive video phone interview from her cell to Arizona journalist Terry Sterling Greene. For a glimpse into the mind of the convicted murderer:
"Shawna Forde Guilty of Murder: Exclusive Interview with Arizona Minuteman" http://bit.ly/h4jpx5