LAW & ORDER
The three people accused of killing an Arivaca girl and her father in May will likely be tried during at least two separate trials.
In Pima County Superior Court, Judge John Leonardo agreed Monday to try Jason Bush separately from his co-defendants. Leonardo scheduled Bush's trial for Nov. 2, 2010, and the trial of Shawna Forde and Albert Gaxiola for Jan. 4, 2011.
Forde's and Gaxiola's attorneys want their clients to get their own separate trials, too, but Leonardo declined to split them up, defense attorney Eric Larsen said.
Larsen, one of Forde's attorneys, said he has been given permission to ask for a severance again in the future.
The three are accused of killing Brisenia Flores, 9, and Raul Flores, 29, and trying to kill Gina Marie Gonzalez.
Gonzalez called 911 on May 30 to report that several men and a woman claiming to be police officers forced their way into her home. She told authorities that one of the men killed her daughter and husband, and wounded her in the leg.
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said at the time that Raul Flores was suspected of being a drug dealer, and the three suspects targeted the house with the intention of stealing money and drugs.
Forde's relatives said Forde had talked about robbing drug traffickers on the Arizona-Mexico border to fund a group called Minutemen American Defense to fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Bush, another member of Minutemen American Defense, also is charged with two murders in Washington state.
Forde's and Gaxiola's attorneys believe separate trials are needed because it would be impossible for a jury to believe one of the defendants "without excluding the defense" of the other.
According to court documents, Larsen said if Gaxiola points the finger at Forde, she would want to tell jurors about Gaxiola's drug ties and convictions.
She also would point out a friend of Gaxiola's, who has not been charged in this case, "most fits the description" of the man who was seen with Gaxiola "scouting the victims' residence."
Larsen also said text messages were sent that morning saying the "competition" was gone and "cops on scene, stay low." The text messages were sent from a phone Forde said she could prove was "associated" with Gaxiola and in the possession of one of the home invaders, Larsen wrote in his motion.
Even if Gaxiola and Forde's defenses aren't "mutually exclusive," the trials should be separate because Gaxiola would probably want to "inflame the passions" of the jury by telling them about Forde's association with the border defense movement, Larsen said.
Gaxiola's attorneys, Jack Lansdale and Steve West, contend Gaxiola wasn't inside the house when the victims were shot.
They want a separate trial because Bush told police he shot the victims under duress from Gaxiola, and they believe Forde probably will say the same thing.