Skip to comments.10 Years for Harold Fish
Posted on 08/04/2006 8:32:31 PM PDT by marktwain
10 years for Harold Fish Fish calls sentence 'terrible miscarriage of justice'
By Max Foster, Roundup staff reporter
Friday, August 4, 2006
Harold Fish will spend the next 10 years of his life in prison unless the Arizona Supreme Court decides a new state law more sympathetic to self-defense applies to his case.
Harold Fish was convicted of second-degree murder in June.
Fish, a 59-year-old retired schoolteacher and father of seven, received the mitigated minimum sentence for second-degree murder yesterday in Coconino County Superior Court in Flagstaff.
For Fish to receive a new trial, the Supreme Court must rule that a new
law signed last April by Gov. Janet Napolitano should be retroactive to May 2004 when Fish shot 43-year-old Grant Kuenzli to death at a trailhead north of Strawberry.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Mark Moran ruled before Fish's trial began that the new law did not apply to the fatal shooting of Grant Kuenzli.
The Supreme Court will decide Sept. 26 if the new state law, which shifts the burden to the state to prove the use of deadly force in self-defense isn't justified, applies to the Kuenzli shooting.
Fish was convicted of second-degree murder in June.
In sentencing Fish, Moran gave him the minimum sentence allowed by law but denied a motion, known as a 603 L, that would have allowed Fish's attorneys to appeal his case to the Arizona State Board of Executive Clemency.
Moran said that in order to allow the appeal to the board of clemency he would need to rule that the length of the sentence was "clearly excessive" and he could not do that.
In handing out the minimum sentence -- state law mandates 10 to 22 years for second-degree murder-- Moran ruled there were several mitigating factors in the case including the fact that Fish was under substantial duress and feared for his own safety.
"I believed you reacted out of fear," Moran said.
The judge also noted that Fish had no criminal history, had been a successful public schoolteacher for 28 years, cooperated with authorities and had strong family, church and community ties.
He called the case one "that gives new meaning to the word tragedy' for both families."
The sentencing of Fish, in front of a courtroom of his friends, family and Kuenzli's sister, Linda Almeter, allowed the former Tolleson High School teacher the opportunity to vividly and emotionally tell for the first time in public what happened on the trailhead the day he shot Kuenzli three times in the chest.
Fish did not take the stand during his trial.
Dressed in prison garb, handcuffed in leg shackles and looking gaunt from his days in jail, Fish -- during a 30-minute speech -- vigorously defended himself.
"I don't think the trial was fair," he said. "I feel that I am innocent and I should not have been convicted.
"If the jury had been given all of the facts, they would not have convicted me."
Fish was speaking of a ruling Moran had made early in the trial that Kuenzli's mental health records, statements from dozens of people describing troubling encounters with him and testimony from a former girlfriend -- who alleged Kuenzli terrorized her -- were not admissible.
Fish also said the guilty verdict was a "terrible miscarriage of justice."
"I told the truth (to investigators)," he said. "My word is precious to me."
Fish claimed the shooting was in self-defense and "there was no doubt in my mind (Kuenzli) was going to kill me."
The shooting took place moments after two dogs under Kuenzli's care charged Fish after he was wrapping up a late-afternoon hike.
Fish said he yelled for the dogs to stop, yelled for Kuenzli to control his dogs, but Kuenzli continued to run towards him yelling obscenities and threats.
"I never took a step toward him, I stepped back until I knew I could not retreat any further," Fish said. "(Kuenzli) never stopped or slowed. His arms were flailing."
There were no witnesses to the shooting which has drawn national attention partly because the National Rifle Association has contributed to Fish's defense fund.
After the trial, jurors said they didn't believe Fish's claim of self-defense, mostly because testimony from a medical examiner indicated Kuenzli's wounds were probably defensive.
He testified that Kuenzli's side was turned towards Fish when the first shot struck him.
NBC's "Dateline" has also followed the case for a future episode which examines the issues of safety in the national forests, dogs running free and the appropriate use of firearms.
-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail email@example.com.
But Harold Fish has paid the price for a politically motivated antigun prosecutor (he wanted the jury to know that part of the defense was paid for by the NRA - as part of the prosecution!)
Northrn Arizona BUMP
One of the most deeply troubling aspects of our legal system is the role of the government prosecutor. In every case of which I have personal knowledge the prosecutor has assumed the guilt of the charged party. The power and resources of the government are such that an assumption of guilt by a government prosecutor is tantamount to a finding of guilt.
The cost and the difficulty of proving innocence are beyond the means of nearly every citizen charged with a crime. The simply and awful truth is that in our system guilt is always assumed and innocence must be proven.
Government prosecutors are judge, jury and executioner in virtually all cases that come into our court system. This is not a system based on justice. It is a bureaucratic system that rewards conviction over justice and seeks guilt over innocence.
Kind of reminds me of Durham County (NC) Prosecutor Nifong. Another case that should never have been prosecuted but was for purely political reasons.
This stinks. The prosecutor is the one who should be doing time and 10 years sounds resonable to me. As pointed out elsewhere all judges are moral bankrupts as they must agree to lie to the detriment of a fellow citizen so until the rules change one cannot expect much of scum.
It seems to me that the issue of applying the new law should have been appealed to the supreme court before Fish's trial went forward. It makes no sense to re-try someone over an issue that could have been decided before trial.
Fish should be eligible to apply for pardon from the Clemency Board. The Arizona legislature could step in as well, although it would probably open a can of worms.
Sounds like Fish made quite a speech. Perhaps he should have taken the stand.
He'll probably be sitting around the fire with another overly zealous, politically motivated prosecutor from North Carolina that has been in the news.
Uh, that would be self defense, Judge Moron.
There are so many bizarre irregularities surrounding this case that any number of appeals should be made.
Flagstaff, AZ is a city of moonbats anyway and any jury pool is bound to reflect this.
Main Entry: mo·ron
1. usually offensive, a mildly mentally retarded person
2. a very stupid person
If this guy had just walked away after the shooting, he'd probably never have been caught.
I live alone, am 54, a paraplegic, and live next door to a nest of methheads. I have my carry permit and have a gun velcroed to the nightstand. In a case of self-defense I would welcome a jury trial. That's life in Kingman AZ....the meth & mullet capital of the SW.
"Flagstaff, AZ is a city of moonbats anyway and any jury pool is bound to reflect this."
Hmmmmm......a tossup between there and Prescott for AZ Moonbat Central in my view.
Y'all really ought to visit Bisbee...the city that's stuck in the sixties.
Moved to Flagstaff in '79. Used to be a pretty cool little town. Now, it's like a one cloverleaf mini version of San Francisco but with lousy restaurants. They could save money on signage by taking the "l" out of the town's name.
(I live kind of out in the woods and try to ignore the place as much as I can.)
I understand Bisbee is a hippie reservation. Flagstaff is like a Trustafarian Mecca. (If you're too poor for Telluride or Vail.)
Just realized by reading the article that this was my husband's old Spanish teacher.
I guess we actually have several towns that fit that bill. I'm going to have to go look at another article, because I could swear my local paper said something about 2 years prison vs. 10...
This case reminds me of a lot of what I've read by Massad Ayoob, an expert witness in cases like this. Apparently a lot of people think they can just blow the bad guys away and get a pat on the back (I'm not saying Fish although it could be applied to some of the posters on FR) just like in the movies, when the reality is a charge of murder and a six figure defence, and that's when you did EVERYTHING RIGHT.
BTW (I'm English)
"Flagstaff, AZ is a city of moonbats anyway and any jury pool is bound to reflect this."
I thought Arizona was full of good 'ol boys in checked shirts and baseball caps?
1. He swung, and was shot as the swing missed, and he spun on follow through?
2. He was standing sideways, and performing a martial arts attack?
3. Fish jumped or otherwise moved away from a blow & shot, hitting him in the side?
I'm sure a few other scenarios could be constructed for the guy to be attacking, and still be hit in the side.
Don't these constitute reasonable doubt as to the theory the guy was "no threat" and was shot from the side in a fit of pique? Stupid jury!
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