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Victims' Rights are Fatally Flawed advocates the review of  Victims' Rights laws in each of the 32 states that have them.      
Victims' Rights are Fatally Flawed
supplies information and offers thoughts for consideration.
Victims' Rights are Fatally Flawed
does not offer legal advice or respond to requests for help.
Questions and comments are encouraged and they may be published at this site.

Here are questions which may determine if this site has information useful to you.
#1 Did a victim, at trial, identify the defendant as the perpetrator? If yes, continue.
#2 Was the victim's identification of the defendant as the perpretrator important in getting a conviction?
If yes, continue.
#3 Was the victim, unaided, able, prior to the trial, to identify the defendant as the perpetrator?
If no, continue.
#4 Prior to the trial being gaveled to order, was the victim in the courtroom and did the victim see the
defendant, restrained and police-escorted, into the court room and taken to the defense table?
If yes, this site may have information useful to you.
#5 During the trial and before the victim testified, was the victim present while
someone pointed at the defendant and claimed the defendant to be the prepetrator?
If yes, this site may have information useful to you.

A reversal of a conviction is needed to prompt a review and corrections to Arizona's Victims' Rights Law

I made a trip to Tucson, Arizona to see the Arizona-Mexico border on a five day jaunt in January 2011. I saw the border, visited with border patrol agents, ranchers and sheriffs.
My flight home was to depart several days later. That gave me several more days in the Tucson area. I filled the last day before flying home going to the first day of the Shawna Forde murder trial.
The trial itself was a border event. I only knew the case involved Minutemen, drugs, money, revenge, and murder. I didn't know my day at the trial would ignite strong concerns about Victims' Rights.
Victims' Rights in my mind permitted victims to make impact statements during sentencing and not much more. Who could object to a victim making an impact statement?
However, the first day of the Shawna Forde murder trial showed me that Victims' Rights, at least in Arizona, create a wide variety of privileges,
far beyond the right to make an impact statement. That first day convinced me those privileges sometimes deprive defendants of "due process."

Victims' Rights are viewed as an unchallengeable, always-positive concept. No lawmaker will initiate a serious review of Victims' Rights. But a serious review is needed.
The reversal of a conviction linked to Victims' Rights would trigger reviews and revisions.
The more unpopular and notorious that reversal, the more likely needed changes will be made to Victims' Rights law.

Victims' Rights played an oversized and inappropriate role in convicting Shawna Forde.
Shawna Forde's public persona is loathsome. Some bloggers, as representatives of the public, despise and hate her. The case has the elements
needed for a reversal, a new trial and perhaps freedom. More importantly, if her case is reversed,
the Shawna Forde haters would clamor for revisions to Arizona's Victims' Rights laws to prevent a recurrence.
Those revisions are what this site wants.



The Basics
Arizona Constitution, Article 2, Section 2.1
2.1 Victims' bill of rights

Section 2.1. (A) To preserve and protect victims' rights to justice and due process, a victim of crime has a right: . . .
3. To be present at and, upon request, to be informed of all criminal proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present.

Crime Victims Service - Arizona Criminal Justice System -What to Expect
. . .
Victims are allowed in the courtroom during the entire trial.

The Origins of Victims' Rights

Brooks Douglas is likely the originator of Victims' Rights. He authored roughly 20 pieces of Victims' Rights legislation.
For more on Brooks Douglas and Victims' Rights go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks_Douglass

The Shawna Forde Case

Arivaca and the murders
Arivaca is an isolated and dusty dirt-road town in Arizona, ten miles north of the Mexican border. The strip of Federal land next to the border is closed to public entry bcause of border dangers.
In the hills near Arivaca, people refrain from usimg cell phones.
Drug scouts might think the caller is contacting police.

A drug trafficker planned to resolve a dispute with an Arivaca drug trafficker, Raul Flores. The plan expanded to stealing cash from Flores' Arivaca home
where he lived with his wife, Gina Gonzalez and their daughter , Brisenia.
The invasion of the Flores-Gonzalez home in Arivaca began at one in the morning on May 30, 2009. Soon it reached maximum violence.
The invaders killed Raul Flores and Brisenia Flores. Gina Gonzalez was wounded, but she survived and called 911.
Later Gonzalez was an invaluable prosecution witness.

Shawna Forde, the defendant, was accused of masterminding and participating in the invasion of the Flores-Gonzalez home.
At trial, she was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The First Day of the Shawna Forde murder trial


I went to the first day of the Shawna Forde murder trial in Tucson, Arizona as the
conclusion to a visit to the border. I knew only that the case involved Minutemen,
drug trafficking, murder and revenge, all part of life near the border.
A day at the trial would be the perfect conclusion to my visit to the border.

I arrived in the Tucson court room half an hour early. Gonzalez, the survivor of the home invasion, was already there,
seated between two victims' rights supporters.
Generally, witnesses are barred from the courtroom until after they have testified. However, Gonzalez is a victim and
Arizona's Victims' Rights laws give her the right to be present during the trial, even if she is to testify.

The prosecution did not have evidence that put Shawna Forde at the scene during the home invasion.
And the prosecution needed such evidence to get a conviction.
During the 911 call, the best Gonzalez could do was say the invading woman was white, short, and fat.
Gonzalez murmured " I didn't even pay attention Ma'am," when the dispatcher asked Gonzalez if she knew the color of the
invading woman's hair and whether she wore a hat. A few days after the 911 call, Gonzalez
could not identify the invader from a photo-lineup of only six blonde women which included the defendant, Shawna Forde.
But on the first day of the trial, Gina Gonzalez was asked if the female invader was in the court room.
Now the prosecution got a miracle.
Gonzalez immediately and with certainty picked the defendant as the woman who invaded hr house.
Why did Gonzalez's fogged memory suddenly and vividly clear nearly 600 days after the murders?

Here is why her memory cleared. Uncontrolled Victims' Rights , ensured Gina Gonzalez knew who to convict.

Before the trial was to begin and before the jury entered, a burly guard brought the defendant, Shawna Forde, hands manacled to her sides,
into the court room and frog-marched her to the defense table. After the manacles were removed, Forde sat down at the defense table.
Everyone watched the parade and everyone watched as the manacles were removed. And that includes Gina Gonzalez, who was about ten feet from me.

Some time later the judge gaveled the trial to order.
Shortly, the prosecutor, wearing a pin-striped black pant suit, fifteen feet in front of Gonzalez,
struck a dramatic pose and pointed at the defendant. She held the point and then loudly and stridently
identified the defendant.

So that is how, minutes later, Gonzalez came to aggressively put her newly-gained knowledge to use,
claiming with certainty the defendant to be the home invader. She impressed me and likely the jury.

But Gonzalez should not have been present during the parading of the defendant and the
the prosecution should not have been permitted to identify the defendant before Gonzalez testified.

Gina Gonzalez had no law-given victims' right to be in the courtroom prior to the start of the trial.
Her right to be present existed only once the trial began.
Equally bothersome is that the prosecution was allowed to identify the defendant as the invader while
Gonzalez was present and prior to her critical eye witness identification of the defendant.

The result: a wrongful deprivation of liberty rights, and eventually life rights, for the imprisoned defendant, Shawna Forde. She was sentenced to death. A new trial is a must.

How many other defendants in Arizona were wrongly convicted because of Victims' Rights?
How many such injustices have happened in the other 32 states with Victims' rights laws?
Each state must review, and if necessary, revise their Victims' Rights laws.

*Written by James McDonald who is a member of the United States Supreme Court bar. He has served on six juries, twice as foreman.
None was as serious as the Shawna Forde murder trial.

From the 14-minute mark of the Gonzalez 911 call . . . "I didn't even pay attention Mam."

Dispatcher" "Can you remember anything about the people that you saw that would make them stand out?"
Gonzalez: "She was really short and fat . . . "
Dispatcher: "And were they wearing any masks?"
Gonzalez: "No."
Dispatcher: "Could you tell what color hair she had, did she have a hat on?"
Gonzalez: "I didn't even pay attention Mam."


Gina Gonzalez' 911 call
The 911 call is 18 minutes and 53 seconds in length. Until recently, the recording existed at
http://nysiaf.org/2011/02/06/listen-to-the-9-11-call-from-the-mother-of brisenia-flores/
You will hear the intruders return and at least ten gun shots.