Reuters: Death Sentence For Anti-Immigrant Vigilante

This week, an Arizona jury returned a death sentence for Shawna Forde, founder of the Minutemen American Defense group, for her role in the 2009 shooting deaths of Raul Flores and his nine-year-old daughter, Brisenia. (See Arizona Jury Condemns Anti-Immigration Activist to Death, Reuters, 22.Feb.2011.) Earlier this month, Forde was found guilty on two counts of first degree murder, Reuters reports, and on related charges of aggravated assault, robbery, and attempted first-degree murder, for the shooting of Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzales, who was shot three times in the leg, and survived by pretending to be dead. (See Border Vigilante Shawna Forde Sentenced to Death for Home Invasion, by Dean Schabner, ABC News, 22.Feb.2011.)

The murders took place during a home invasion that Forde was found to have orchestrated with two other men – a white supremacist and a convicted drug dealer – who now face separate trials, ABC News reports. Prosecutors alleged that Forde believed Flores to be a drug dealer who kept large amounts of cash in the house – cash she apparently hoped to rob him of “to fund her border watch group,” according to ABC News, which noted, “the family had been roused from their sleep by a trio dressed in camouflage, claiming to be law enforcement officers looking for fugitives.”

According to Reuters, prosecutors argued that several aggravating factors called for a death sentence in this case: “multiple murders, a victim under age 15 and monetary gain” as the motive for the crime. The graphic testimony of Flores’s wife, who saw her family murdered, also appears to have played a role, according to ABC News.

This is far from the last we will hear about this tragic story; before the death sentence can be carried out, Forde’s case will automatically be reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court, Reuters notes. If anything, perhaps we should hear more about this case to underscore the danger of people taking the law into their own hands, and to prompt some serious soul-searching on the part of anti-immigrant activists whose violent speech – as we have learned – can lead all too easily to violent actions. The grotesque irony here is that anti-immigrant vigilantes often claim to be upholding the law – immigration law, at least – by going after people they perceive to be foreign, even while they ignore every other principle of the American legal system. Striking birthright citizenship from the 14th Amendment seems to be only the first item on the agenda; judging by Forde’s actions, the border vigilantes don’t have much use for the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection guarantees, either.

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