Home‎ > ‎


White and Railroaded!


In a typically misleading article, Kim Smith of the Tucson Arizona Daily Star reported that defense costs in the Arivaca massacre climbed to $951,000 during 3 separate trials. 

There was no mention of what the prosecutors of Pima County, AZ spent on trying the cases, or what the Pima County Sheriffs Office spent investigating them.  It seemed as if the reporter were blaming all of the defendants (two white and one Mexican-American), for costing the county so much money! 

It’s likely the real costs (including investigation and prosecution) could mount to $2-4 million, because the county chose to make the cases death penalty trials.  In fact, with appeals and incarceration, the hidden costs to the taxpayers will not be known for some time.  Convicted defendants have sometimes spent 20 years in solitary confinement on death row before being either executed or exonerated.

In the year and a half leading up to the trials, the biased media portrayed the murders as white against brown crime, convicting the white defendants with a constant barrage of damning articles, while saying nothing negative about the Mexican-American defendant.   

The murders of a drug smuggler and his 9 year old daughter occurred in Arivaca, just 10 miles north of the Mexican border.  The prosecution alleges that the murders were done by rival drug smugglers who supposedly employed Minutemen Shawna Forde and Jason Bush to do the killing to “eliminate the competition.”  Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a known friend of La Raza, claimed the murders were committed for the purposes of stealing money, dope and guns, and that Shawna Forde was the “mastermind.”  In the trials it was subsequently revealed that $4,000 was discovered in the victims’ home by Sheriff’s detectives, no guns were reported missing, and everyone in Arivaca knew the smuggler never stored dope on his property.  Gina Gonzalez, the smuggler’s wife, received non life-threatening wounds and testified at the trials, along with one of the rival smugglers and murder conspirators, a drug addict and twice convicted felon who made a plea deal with the prosecution to keep from going to prison.

Pima County, AZ where Tucson is located, is known to be heavily influenced by Mexico, and it derives a substantial portion of its revenue from human and drug trafficking.  The “mordida” (Spanish for bribe) goes all the way from the top to the bottom.  The Committee for Justice for Shawna Forde knew from the beginning that “the fix was in,” and Forde was going to be railroaded.  That’s why we said she was a “racially profiled, false arrested, political agenda prisoner.”  Left wing, Mexico-loving Pima County finally had achieved the victory sought by the left:  they had Minutemen in jail they could blame for the murder of Mexicans.  When they were convicted, if not before, these serious legal charges kept all the other Minutemen off their border. 

The deck was stacked against the defendants by a judge and court-appointed lawyers who could be counted on to work only within the “old boy system,” and who did not want to rock the boat.  Only the Mexican-American defendant, Albert Gaxiola, got two attorneys who appeared to really be working hard to defend him.  His defense cost 45% of the entire defense expenses.  The white defendants got predominately Hispanic juries, were convicted, and given the death penalty, while Gaxiola got life in prison, which given the circumstances, was a victory of sorts for him.

The Star reporter broke the costs down into several categories:  attorneys’ fees, paralegals’ fees, costs for mitigation specialists, transcriptions, investigators, reporters, witness expenses, and a mysterious category labeled other.  (Mitigation occurs after the defendant has been found guilty, and the attorneys plead with the jury for reduced sentences, claiming an abusive childhood, mental illness or other extenuating conditions.)  When you take all the expenses and put them alongside each other, as in this table, some things just jump out at you.

For example, why were there no paralegal fees in Shawna Forde’s case?  Her attorneys employed a paralegal named Evonne Calvillo, who went to the jail in her capacity as a Notary Public to witness Forde signing a false affidavit about an Arizona Bar complaint.  Didn’t she get paid for her time?  In a criminal case where the death penalty was applied, why were the services of a paralegal not required?  This is just plain whacky!

Why did white defendant Jason Bush require $15,201 in transcription fees while his two attorneys got paid a measly $112,192?  One of his attorneys, Richard Parrish, prepared three huge binders containing a brain-deadening 1,500 pages of medical and incarceration records to present in mitigation to the jury!  Bush’s attorneys did next to no work, since they provided no defense for him until after he was convicted.  Losing defense attorney Parrish told Smith, "It wouldn't have made a difference if we had spent $10 million."  According to the transcript, both attorneys were sick during the trial.  Could this have affected the outcome?  Presumably their strategy was planned long before.  Prior to trial, Bush had been told by his attorneys that they would present a vigorous defense for him, exposing exculpatory evidence.  He referred to the bullet fragments still lodged in his leg as part of his “affirmative defense.”

Jason Bush was the first defendant to be arrested.  He had a bullet wound in his leg for two weeks, and while he was very intoxicated and in extreme pain, he was interrogated for hours.  He only confessed after being convinced by his interrogators that they could protect his family from the drug cartel, and that they would take him for medical treatment, as he had been promised.  When he got to Kingman Medical Center the bullet fragments in his leg were not removed, despite the doctor’s recommendation that he go to surgery, and he was whisked away to Pima County jail.  This coerced confession, which was not obtained lawfully, and could not be admitted under the rules of evidence, formed the basis of the grand jury indictment for Gaxiola and Forde.  Bush's attorneys never made a motion to suppress his confession.  Only Gaxiola's attorneys challenged what they called Albert's incriminating statements to police.    Not one attorney asked for a new grand jury.

All the court-appointed attorneys made motions to eliminate evidence prior to trial, asked for a change of venue, for individual or small group juror questioning in voir dire, for directed verdicts of acquittal, and for mistrials.  Judge John Leonardo, who was part of the “fix,” denied all the motions, with the exception of separate trials for each defendant.  Not one attorney challenged Leonardo’s denials by appealing to a higher court!

The Star’s report continues:  “The defendants were represented by taxpayer-paid attorneys who were required to seek approval from the Pima County's Office of Court Appointed Counsel for their expenditures.”  Since the white Minutemen defendants were set up to go down from the beginning, one can only speculate if a more judicious application of money and fewer “team player” attorneys might have made a difference in the trial outcomes.  Any conscientious lawyer will agree that being able to pay the correct expert witnesses or paying for more thorough investigation might make a major difference in a trial outcome.  According to a 15 year former prosecutor, "the amounts spent by the Forde and Bush defense teams seem low, considering the cases are death penalty.  It's odd that one defendant spent so much more money, but was that because the other defense attorneys didn't ask for additional money?"

The Star was able to find two more attorneys to support the ridiculous assertion that money doesn’t make any difference in a legal defense.  "Money does not make the case outcome better," veteran defense attorney Laura Udall said.  "[What matters] is never giving up."  Everyone in the legal profession knows that having a good private attorney can make all the difference, and that “court-appointed attorneys” usually don’t give the vigorous defense a more highly-paid lawyer would.  According to one defendant, “when you enter the courtroom, you are alone.  Everyone there, including your own attorney, is working against you.”

Eric Larsen, Shawna Forde’s losing attorney, said money didn’t matter, either, and that he spent what he had to.  But he said it from his new home in Thailand after a sudden retirement.  Shawna Forde is the fourth defendant he has sent to Death Row. 

Is Pima County government guilty of racism against whites?  It seems like the Mexican American defendant got better representation and a more favorable sentence than the politically-active white Minutemen.  Did Albert Gaxiola get a better defense because he had much better lawyers, or were they motivated by cartel threats such as “plata o plomo?”  (Silver bribes or lead bullets)  If they were, we won’t find out about it.  Justice is elusive for Caucasian defendants in the Mexican colony of Pima County.

Read an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Blonde on the Border, all about the Arivaca massacre, by Laine Lawless.

Subpages (1): moneytable