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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Massad Ayoob


Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The County Prosecutor in Arizona has announced that he will not re-try Harold Fish, who spent years behind bars for shooting a younger, stronger man with a violent past who came at him on a hiker’s trailhead, swinging his fists and screaming threats.

The gunnies on here will remember that the prosecutor made a huge deal of Fish using a 10mm Kimber pistol and Federal hollow point ammunition to protect himself, convincing at least some on the jury that the large caliber gun and the somehow extra-deadly bullets were indications of malice. The appellate court didn’t argue with that, apparently feeling that such arguments are within an adversary’s purview. Lesson there: be able to articulate why you, like most cops, choose a powerful handgun and effective ammunition to defend yourselves and your loved ones.

The high court, in reversing the conviction and remanding it for a new trial, noted that the instructions given on self-defense to the trial jury were imperfect. Moreover, the appellate judges found fault with the trial court’s failure to allow the jury to know of the dead man’s frequent, violent attacks on others, in a pattern much like the one that Fish described.

Meanwhile, honest Arizona legislators, spurred by calls and letters and emails from outraged citizens, recently passed legislation to make the state’s new self-defense law retroactive to the time of this shooting. This would, in essence, have forced the prosecution to prove that Fish didn’t fire in self-defense. In a case where the original lead detective had outspokenly called the shooting self-defense (and suffered for it), the prosecutor apparently knew he couldn’t meet that burden.

As we celebrate Harold Fish’s freedom, let’s not forget that he and his family are half a million dollars in debt from the legal costs of the defense and the appeal. Fish is a retired schoolteacher. The defense fund can be found HERE.

And all of you who did contribute – and who wrote to the Arizona legislators – give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. You helped to do justice.

11 Responses to “FISH ORDEAL – OVER?”

  1. Jim from Detroit Says:

    Unfortunately Mas the Arizona AG has anounced that their office is not happy with the ruling of the court and will be investigating the case and may appeal.

  2. ecolon Says:

    I live in Puerto Rico and even here we heard about this case. I could not believe that the judge had not allowed the dead man’s violent history to be heard in open court. One would think that the job of the prosecutors is to help prosecute the guilty not jailed the innocent, but that is only the naive in me. Mr. Fish should be given praise for having the courage to go to the police after the incident and report it. I wish him the best and that he somehow finds a little peace in his late years.

  3. Bill Says:

    Never fails to amaze me that despite the pillar of our legal system that someone is “innocent until proven guilty”, that in the case of self-defense where the victim uses deadly force to repel an attack, that the law seems to change and you are “guilty until you can prove yourself innocent” of defending yourself. Again, the victim becomes the criminal at a personal, emotional and financial costs. Enough said… the rest is “obvious” and another reason why someone like Judge Sotomayor does not belong on the Supreme Court when she lacks the intestinal fortitude to state that someone has the right to defend themselves.

  4. Jason Says:

    This is great news for all gun owners. The DA should be out on his butt the next election year.

  5. Dean J Says:

    I’d feel a lot better about giving the poor guy money if the website to collect it would just go straight to paypal, instead of collecting my personal information (unnecessarily) first.

  6. James E. Griffin Says:

    Thanks for posting the link to the legal defense fund. I’ll be donating.

  7. Paul Says:

    Half a million in debt, and they are still not done with him?

    There comes a time when a person has to realize the criminal “justice” system has declared war on you, and there’s no longer any point in meekly working within the system. Time to run up the black flag…

    Government is run by violent criminals. See to understand how this is so. One should try to understand the true nature of the world.

  8. Fox Says:

    Since the guy is declared innocent, can he sue back and recover the costs from AZ court system?

  9. Mas Says:

    Unlikely, Fox. He wasn’t declared innocent, just determined not to have received a fair trial, and the prosecutor has announced that he won’t re-try.

  10. The Sparrow Says:

    Is Goddard trying to galvanize opposition to his political ambitions or want? I don’t understand. I Fish had been willing to do a plea deal, he probably be have been out by now any way.

  11. Mike Says:

    There’s something incredibly wrong about the fact that it costs a half million dollars to prove yourself not guilty, especially in a case where it seems that the original lawyer did a very poor job of proving his point!

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