The justice system–justice for whom?

This long article tells the story of Harold Fish, who shot and killed a man on a hiking trail in Arizona. Mr. Fish, a retired high school Spanish teacher, maintains that the man had threatened him, and was charging him, and that the (now dead) man’s two dogs had broken off their own charge only after Fish fired a warning shot from the 10mm pistol he always carried (legally) when hiking. As there were no witnesses present, it seems that we are unlikely to ever discover the exact details of what took place that day. This, of course, is no obstacle to the Gun Guys, who, having little use for the principle of the presumption of innocence pending the proof of guilt, had already decided Fish was a murderer very early in the trial process. They wanted Fish to “run away” (necessitating turning his back to his assailant) from the younger man, who was already charging him, and had dogs (not to mention that Fish had already been hiking all day). All this means that Fish had almost no chance of outrunning the pursuit.

As it turns out, the jury agreed with the Gun Guys, and convicted Fish of murder, despite the fact that some of the “evidence” presented by the prosecution was extremely weak, to put it kindly. For example, the prosecution claimed that Mr. Fish’s choice of caliber (10mm) and ammunition type (hollow point) indicates a desire on Fish’s part to kill. Only a group of jurors with an amazing level of ignorance of firearms would be gullible enough to swallow that stupidity. The 10mm cartridge has been used by many law enforcement agencies (including the FBI), and is an excellent choice of sidearm in the wilderness, where assailants might be on two legs, or four. Hollow points are the standard for self-defense ammunition, not because they are more likely to kill, but because they are more likely to stop an attacker (granted, the same qualities that improve their ability to stop an attack also make it more likely that the attacker will not survive, but that, I submit, is the assailant’s tough luck). Furthermore, because hollow point bullets are less likely to penetrate a target than are full metal jacketed bullets, they are actually safer for bystanders. For those two reasons, hollow point bullets are almost universally carried in police officers’ duty firearms. Besides, the type of firearm and ammunition used have exactly ZERO to do with whether or not a shooting was justified.

The jury was also not permitted to hear much of the evidence that the defense tried to present about Grant Kuenzli’s (the dead man’s) history of mental instability and aggressiveness.

Since Fish’s conviction, Arizona has passed a version of the “Stand Your Ground” law, which places the burden of proof in a case where self-defense is claimed on the prosecution. This is as it should be. There is often (as in this case) no way, in the absence of witnesses, that a person who uses deadly force in self-defense can prove that it truly was a case of self-defense. In such a case, the benefit of the doubt MUST rest with the accused. To do otherwise is to throw away the entire principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. This, I submit, we must not do. It is not clear at this point whether or not the change in Arizona law will be applied to Mr. Fish’s case. It certainly needs to be.

By the way, here is an update to the events discussed yesterday. The death of the thug sounds like a smaller and smaller “loss” every day.

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One Response to “The justice system–justice for whom?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Judge: This case does give new meaning to the word tragedy. I do believe he reacted out of fear and instinct when he shot and killed Grant Kuenzli. He made a split second decision with tragic consequences.

    It was time for Fish to learn his sentence.

    Judge: Mr. Fish, I do sentence you to the mitigated term of imprisonment of 10 years in the Department of Corrections for the death of Grant Kuenzli.

    Judge believes he feared for his life but sends him to prison. Lets hope he has a better attorney on the appeal.

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