Shawna Forde: Penalty Phase of Trial Underway

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By Chuck Larlham
Gather | February 17, 2011

The jury recommended to the judge that Shawna Forde, convicted murderer of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores, be eligible for the death penalty. There are ‘eligibility’ requirements for the death penalty when two First Degree Murder convictions are perched right there with the defendant’s shoulders? Who knew? Nonetheless, she is eligible, and now the defense is trying to persuade the jury to spare her life.

The defense has brought in a Dr. Sullivan, a PhD forensic neuropsychologist, who testified that Shawna Forde really wasn’t terribly intelligent, and that she suffers from several personality disorders. However, under cross-examination, he agreed that none of his tests could determine whether she knew what she was doing was wrong. He also said that he doubted Ms. Forde’s claim that she “faked” the IQ tests so the doctor and jurors would think she was too stupid to have planned and executed the crimes. Asked if he could have faked such a result, the doctor said he could not. He also said he didn’t believe she would have, because, “Her ego is much more important to her than anything else.”

Further discussing the tests, the doctor said that they indicate her brain has “suffered damage and as a result, she is unable to change courses once she sets them, has problems making executive decisions and is unable to read the environment around her and respond appropriately.”

Birth mother of Shawna Forde, Rena Caudle, testified by video that Ms. Forbes claimed to have been molested by one of her step-fathers from the age of five, claimed to have been regularly beaten, and that she was such a problem child that the Jehovah’s Witness group to which they belonged recommended she be given up for adoption, which she was. Her sister testified that their mother often played the two against each other.

This phase of the trial is expected to last into next week.

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