Shawna Forde, Facing Arizona Murder Trial in January, Strategically Prefers Cell to Courtroom

The Arizona murder trial of former Seattle prostitute and Everett city council candidate Shawna Forde is set to begin in a few weeks, followed in a few months by the murder trial of accused triggerman Jason Bush of Wenatchee. Bush is thought to have admitted his role and may be seeking a plea deal, while Minuteman leader Forde has denied any part of the May 2009 slayings of Raul Flores Jr. and his 9-year-old daughter during an attempted drug-money robbery to fund Forde's anti-immigrant fight. As part of the defense strategy, it turns out, Forde has been avoiding public appearances in court.

Yesterday, for example, she talked to a judge by phone from jail during some pre-trial proceedings. Her attorneys think that since Flores' widow, the only surviving eye-witness to the shootings, was unable to pick out Forde from a photo lineup, the less Forde shows her face in court, the better.

The widow, Gina Gonzalez, who was wounded in the attack, will be on the stand shortly in another pre-trial inquiry to determine if she should be allowed to testify about seeing Forde at the crime scene. Forde and a third person, her lover Albert Gaxiola, were thought to be outside the home when the shootings took place, though Forde denies any part in the plan to rob Flores, a suspected drug dealer.

Gonzalez, the state's key witness, actually has seen Forde once since the shootings - when the accused made a rare court appearance in September. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Gonzalez told a detective that she recognized the chunky, hard-looking blond by her "evil eye."

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