Jury Weighs Death Penalty for Border Vigilante Shawna Forde

'Minutemen' Founder Faces Possible Execution for Home Invasion, Murders

Feb. 15, 2011— -- One day after finding border vigilante Shawna Forde guilty of murder in the deaths of a 9-year-old Arizona girl and her father, jurors in the case are now prepared to decide whether she should be put to death.

The Pima County Superior Court jury deliberated for 45 minutes Tuesday on whether to consider the death penalty as an option in the case, a move they unanimously approved. Lawyers from both sides will now present arguments on whether Forde should be executed or spend the rest of her life in prison.

Forde, 43, founded the Minutemen American Defense, a civilian militia group that seeks to combat illegal immigration along the border. She was convicted of orchestrating a violent May 2009 armed robbery of Raul "Junior" Flores, 29, who she thought was a drug dealer, to fund her group.

Prosecutors said Forde and two other men, who face separate criminal trials later this spring, burst into Flores' Arivaca, Ariz., home, shooting and killing Flores and his daughter Bresenia. Flores' wife, Gina Gonzalez, was shot three times but survived by playing dead.

The trial has been closely watched in Arizona and nationwide, both for the brutality of the crime and as an example of anti-immigrant extremism gone awry.

Gonzalez took the stand today to describe the emotional anguish she's felt since the loss of her daughter and husband, expressing exasperation at why Forde and her alleged accomplices targeted them.

"I don't understand how someone can have that much hate in their heart," Gonzalez said, according to the Arizona Star.

During the trial, jurors heard a recording of a distraught Gonzalez calling a 911 dispatcher with an eyewitness account of the attack. She used her husband's handgun to fight back.

"They're coming back in, they're coming back in," she tells dispatcher Tanya Remsburg. Several rounds of gunshots can be heard on the recording. "Get the f*** out of here, get the f*** out of here."

Gonzalez said that the family had been roused from their sleep by a trio dressed in camouflage, claiming to be law enforcement officers looking for fugitives.

"They told us that somebody had escaped jail or something, they wanted to come in and look at my house," she said on the call. "And they just shot my husband and they shot my daughter and they shot me. Oh, my God, ma'am, I can't believe this is happening. ... I can't believe they killed my family."

Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings

Forde's lawyer had argued his client was not in the house when Flores and his daughter were murdered, so she should not be found guilty.

"Essentially, this case is a doughnut, a lot of circumstantial evidence all around," Forde's attorney, Eric Larsen, had said in his opening statement. "There is a hole, and that hole is Shawna Forde not being there at that home on May 30."

But prosecutors said there was evidence from Gonzalez and other witnesses that linked Forde to the crime.

They presented text messages sent through Forde's phone and recorded conversations between Forde and other suspects, and they introduced pieces of Gonzalez's personal jewelry recovered during a search of Forde's property.

"She didn't put a gun to Brisenia's head ... but she was the one in charge," Pima County Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said in closing arguments. "Because of that you must hold her accountable."

Sentencing deliberations are expected to take several days.

Forde could become just the third woman out of 130 inmates currently on death row in Arizona, according to the state department of corrections.

ABC affiliate KGUN-TV in Tucson, Ariz., and The Associated Press contributed to this report.