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Landmark Arizona Self-Defense Harold Fish Case Gets New Life

Written by Subject: Criminal Justice System
Landmark Arizona Self-Defense Case Gets New Life
The Arizona Court of Appeals has thrown out the conviction of Harold Fish and chastised the judge who tried the case. Mr. Fish has been released from custody into his family's joyfully waiting arms, while he awaits final resolution of his case.
Fish was the retired school teacher who shot a man who charged at him swinging his arms and yelling threats in a forest outside of Payson. Fish was convicted of second degree murder in 2006, in a trial many thought was grossly unfair, and has spent the intervening three years in an Arizona state prison. He had no prior criminal record of any kind. The Appeals Court ruled, among other things, that Fish should have been allowed to introduce evidence of his homeless attacker's violent past and the vicious histories of the man's dogs which triggered the event.
The case was tried under an old abusive standard, quietly slipped into law without review in 1996 by state prosecutors. This forced a self-defense claimant to prove that actions were taken in a justifiable way -- that is, guilty unless proven innocent, a terrible corruption of the legal system.
That law was changed by state gun-rights activists in 2006 back to the former, proper standard. Now, if a person claims self defense, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person acted without justification, or the classic American standard of innocent unless proven guilty. Prosecutors were not happy with the change, and fought it every step of the way, an indicator of how vigilant people must be against deliberate government abuse.
This case outraged many rights activists, and alerted the state to the tyrannical changes that had been quietly made to self-defense law in Arizona. It also provided significant motivation for legislative changes that brought about the Castle Doctrine law, and a reversal of the corrupted burden of proof process, to the proper status it has today. Unfortunately for Mr. Fish, he suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune through no intention of his own. He merely acted to protect himself against a violent attack in the wilderness.
The new law was supposed to be retroactive, to cover cases like Mr. Fish and others, but the courts decided it did not apply. Back to the legislature, and a clarification was enacted this year, making the correct innocent-unless-proven-guilty standard effective for all cases pending when the 2006 law was passed (which would include the Fish case).
Fish's situation remains uncertain however, with democrat state attorney general Terry Goddard vowing publicly to review the case. There will be no retrial, according to attorney Michael P. Anthony, who has followed the case closely. If Goddard convinces the Arizona Supreme Court to take review AND the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals, then Fish will have to serve the remainder of his sentence, unless clemency is granted. If the Supreme Court reviews and doesn't reverse, Fish remains free. The best situation is if Goddard decides not to pursue the case against significant public sympathy for the former school teacher.
One More New Arizona Gun Law -- Nine Altogether One More New Arizona Gun Law -- Nine Altogether
If you missed my initial update, Arizona enacted eight changes to gun laws in 2009, all of them with a pro-rights flavor -- and some particularly excellent, like the new "defensive display" law. They are posted at the top three links here: With the help of Gary Christensen of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Assn. (, a top resource in this state, I've identified one more:
Restoration of rights for people deemed incompetent.
HB 2532, CH 145, Adds §13-924, amends §§13-3101, 32-2612, 36-540.
In new section 13-924, a person who was found to be a danger to self or others or who was acutely or gravely disabled as defined (§36-540, concerning involuntary treatment, referred to in this update as "incompetent" for brevity), may apply to court to have the right to possess a firearm restored. The person must show clear and convincing evidence that the person is no longer incompetent. The court must set a hearing for the applicant to make the case, where psychological or psychiatric evidence must be presented. The state can argue that the person should remain a prohibited possessor. A successful outcome for the applicant only restores the right to possess a firearm, and it "does not apply to and has no effect on any of the other rights or benefits the person receives." This leaves us to wonder if the person can carry, buy, sell, transfer, practice or use the gun for hunting, self defense or any other purpose, a very ambiguous state of affairs. The three other sections noted above are amended to accommodate a person whose rights were denied due to incompetence, if rights have been restored under §13-924.
Will the Women in Arizona Unite?
Will the Women in Arizona Unite?
There is increasing chatter about the various women's marksmanship groups getting together to form some sort of umbrella group, to coordinate efforts statewide. Debbie Ferns (Babes With Bullets), Kim Grady (Second Amendment Sisters Arizona Chapter), Carma Lewis (Armed Females of America), Carol Ruh (Arizona Women's Shooting Association), and even the Annie Oakley shooters at Ben Avery range on Thursday nights, plus anyone I've left out... is it real?
Gun Active Ladies (GAL) will be meeting at Cabela's in Glendale, Saturday afternoon, 2 p.m., August 15, to discuss the possibilities. RSVP for the meet if you'd like to get in on the ground floor of this newborn idea to Kim Grady Come early (8 a.m.) and get in on Cabela's free outdoors seminar for women only (see details at end of this update).
The Second Amendment Sisters Arizona chapter held the first of three upcoming shoots, this one at the Scottsdale Gun Club. Participants ranged in age from 10 years old to white-haired grandmas; newcomers and experienced women shooters had a blast, literally, trying out many different sidearms and rifles, and then adjourned for a gabfest lunch afterwards. To get in on the next shoot, contact state chapter organizer and firearms trainer Kim Grady,
Speaking of shoots, there are regular ones scheduled by the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, including free Annie Oakley ladies' nights at the Ben Avery Range Shooter's World in Phoenix has free ladies' nights, and Caswell's in Mesa has special arrangements for women and newcomers, as do all the ranges in the state. Exercise your rights -- go to the range instead of a movie.
And an unlikely shoot has sold out (24 people), was rescheduled and sold out again (another 24 people), run by the Republican Jewish Coalition;
RSVP:, 480 575-9063. This politically conservative and active group has a variety of events all year long. Learn more, get
The Arizona Citizens Defense League has scheduled its annual meeting for Oct. 3, 2009, in Tucson. If you've never attended one of these you've been missing a great social-political combo. "Tasteful open carry of firearms is appreciated,"
at the events, it's just wonderful (along with the tri-tip and more BBQ buffet). The Cartridge Family band is rumored to be planning some new songs for its appearance at the show, and you get to meet the people who are making good laws and defeating bad laws in the state. AZCDL works for you, work with them,
Another open-carry event:
The Gun Counter Forum Open Carry Dinner. The location: Golden Corral Buffet & Grill, 7609 W. Thomas, Phoenix, AZ. The date/time is: August, 8,
2009 at 6 PM. The object: Public Open Display of legally owned and carried firearms. You are cordially invited to join us for dinner and to tastefully and legally display your "bar-b-que" rig.
Organizer Dana Dore (field rep for NMLRA in AZ) reports: "I spoke with the manager, Mr. Jeff Chapman, this morning and he is quite happy to provide the location for this dinner.
"From I-10 and 75th Ave, travel North to Thomas, turn left (west) on Thomas. Golden Corral will be on your left. The shopping center has seen much better days and is locally known as "The Hood Mall." That is not a complimentary nickname, it reflects the character. Open Carry or Concealed Carry are both appropriate in this area. The Golden Corral is set apart from the mall and does not reflect the character of the mall."
Introduction to the Outdoors
Introduction to the Outdoors
Free ladies-only outdoor adventure day camp Saturday, August 15, 2009  8:45am – 3:15pm CABELA'S, 9380 W Glendale Ave., 623-872-6700
8:00am     Check in and coffee
8:45am     Welcome
9:00am     Intro to Handguns with Debbie Ferns, author, Babes with Bullets
9:45am     Break
10:00am     Intro to Shotguns & Shotgun Sports, Ashley Lynch, Az Game and
11:00am     Intro to Archery, Todd Hulm, Alpine Bows and Cabela’s Pro
11:45am     Picnic lunch served
Noon     Luncheon key-note address “Living Outside your Comfort Zone” with
Debbie Ferns, author of Babes with Bullets
1:00pm     Self-protection with TASER C2
1:45pm     Break
2:00pm     Fishing in Arizona -- where to go and what to take
2:45pm     Fish Cleaning for Dummies 
3:15pm     Raffles and close
3:30pm     Optional archery shooting (Cabela’s indoor range)
Six seminars tailored for women; Free picnic lunch & hilarious, high energy keynote address; Cabela’s discounts & raffles; Participants must be
15 years of age or older
All classes will be held at Cabela’s.
Registration required, email:   Space is limited.
Brought to you by Cabela’s – world’s foremost outfitters.
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