A Pima County jury convicted Jason Bush Friday in the slaying of a 9-year-old girl and her father and deemed him eligible for the death penalty. Next week, his attorneys will begin to pre-sent evidence they hope will persuade the jurors to spare his life.
The jurors agreed with prosecutors there are three reasons why they should consider the death penalty for Bush: Brisenia Flores' age; he was convicted of killing another person, her father, Raul Junior Flores; and he committed other serious crimes the same night.
Defense attorneys Richard Parrish and Chris Kimminau said that when the sentencing hearing begins Thursday they intend to call about half a dozen witnesses to present mitigating evidence. That includes testimony from his biological father, foster parents, two former lovers and two doctors, one of whom ran tests on Bush's brain.
Bush was placed in a mental institution at age 11 by his father, Parrish said.
Bush was part of Minutemen American Defense founder Shawna Forde's plan to fund her border protection group by robbing and killing people she suspected were drug smugglers, according to prosecutors.
On May 30, 2009, Forde and Bush pretended to be U.S. Border Patrol agents to gain entry into the Floreses' Arivaca home and, once inside, Bush shot Raul Flores, 29, and Flores' wife, Gina Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 32, testified that as she pretended to be dead on the floor, Bush reassured the couple's youngest daughter she would be fine, but then he shot her twice.
Forde, Albert Gaxiola and others ransacked the home and left, but Forde came back to retrieve a gun they'd left behind.
Gonzalez told jurors that when Forde ran to tell Bush to "finish her off," she armed herself and was able to fend Bush off.
Bush's blood was found in the Floreses' yard, his DNA was found on the getaway van and various other items, and he confessed to detectives.
Bush's attorneys gave neither opening statements nor closing arguments. Nor did they cross-examine many witnesses.
Although they said nothing to the jury, they conceded Bush's guilt to prosecutors and Pima County Superior Judge John Leonardo at the start of the trial.
The defense attorneys said they wanted to preserve their credibility with the jury for the mitigation phase of the trial.
At the time of Bush's arrest, authorities discovered Bush had convinced Forde, his girlfriend and others he was a highly decorated master sergeant in the U.S. Army who had served in Afghani-stan, Iraq and other locales. Detectives found fake commendations and other Department of Defense documents in his belongings.
Bush has never served in the military.
It took jurors about four hours to convict Bush and 15 minutes to decide he was eligible for the death penalty.
Forde was convicted after seven hours of deliberations and sentenced to death last month. Gaxiola's trial is scheduled for June 1.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org