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.