This is great news for Harold and great news for victims of crazy people.
Retrial ordered in fatal shooting of hiker
by Michael Kiefer - Jun. 30, 2009 03:08 PMThe Arizona Republic
The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday threw out a murder conviction of a hiker who claimed self-defense when he shot a man to death on a hiking trail north of Payson in May 2004.
Harold Fish, 62, was convicted of second-degree murder in June 2006 for shooting Grant Kuenzli, 43, after Kuenzli ran at him waving his arms because Fish had fired a warning shot into the ground to scare away Kuenzli's aggressive dogs. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
But the Court of Appeals sent the case back to Coconino Court Superior Court to be retried because the trial court judge had not given adequate instruction on what constituted self defense.
And the panel of appellate judges scolded Coconino County Superior Court Judge Mark Moran for not answering a jury request to define the word "attack." The panel remarked that the jury may not have understood that someone can commit aggravated assault on another person without actually touching him.
Fish's contention was that Kuenzli's three dogs ran at him and put him in fear for his safety. He fired a shot into the ground in front of the dogs and scared them away. But then Kuenzli ran at him shouting and waving his arms and refused to stop.
The panel also noted that the lower court had "sanitized" evidence of prior incidents in which Kuenzli had become enraged and had frightened people during encounters with the dogs. Many times, in criminal trials, such "prior bad acts" are excluded. But in this case, the appellate judges felt it was relevant, especially since there were no witnesses to the event.
The appeals court also felt that Moran could have allowed the defense to classify dogs as potentially "dangerous instruments," furthering Fish's self-defense claims.
Two weeks after Fish's trial began, the Arizona State Legislature rewrote the state's self-defense statutes to force prosecutors to better disprove self-defense claims. And although the Fish case was a catalyst for the law, it could not be applied retroactively. That change in the law, however, coupled with the strong wording of the ruling may factor into whether the Coconino County Attorney decides to retry the case or whether Fish goes free.