Delays and Trial
As the trial of Shawna Forde was about to start in Tucson, the city was rocked by another shooting with national implications. On January 8, 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at a "Congress on your Corner" event at a local Safeway, shooting U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the head. Loughner also turned his gun on the crowd, shooting nineteen people resulting in six deaths. Among those killed was Christina Taylor-Green, a nine-year-old girl, the same age as Brisenia Flores.
After a few weeks' delay, the trial of Shawna Forde in the Pima County Superior Court finally began. On Thursday, January 25, Forde, 43, took her place at defense table to face two counts of first-degree felony murder for the deaths of Raul "Junior" Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, She was also charged with the attempted first-degree murder of Gina Gonzalez, and several lesser counts: burglary in the first-degree, two counts of aggravated assault, armed robbery, and aggravated armed robbery. The two first-degree murder charges were the most dangerous for Forde: If convicted, she would be eligible for the death penalty.
Due in large part to her work with her Minuteman American Defense group, Shawna Forde had an adamant group of defenders. Laine Lawless, a friend and Minuteman supporter, started a website called Justice for Shawna (http://www.justiceforshawnaforde.com/home) featuring the banner "racially profiled, false arrested [sic], political agenda prisoner". Lawless made news herself during the first week of the trial when she entered the courtroom wearing a wig and trench coat. Because she was listed by the prosecution as a potential witness, she was barred from sitting in on the trial (this is a common practice, known as witness sequestration, intended to prevent witnesses from changing their story to fit others' testimony). Lawless complained that she was a "citizen journalist" and as such had a First Amendment right to be in court. Judge John Leonardo threatened to jail her for contempt if she tried to enter the courtroom again on her own initiative.