A look at two very revealing self-defense cases in which the good guys were prosecuted despite apparently doing everything right.
The late Harold Fish was a retired schoolteacher who was forced to act in self-defense, yet was still prosecuted and found guilty of second-degree murder.
Fish was hiking alone on May 11th, 2004 in a remote part of Arizona, when he was set upon by two aggressive dogs and a larger and much younger man. The attacker—later found to be mentally ill—rushed Fish while threatening to kill him.
You should be thoroughly familiar with the Harold Fish incident. If you are not, you’d be well advised to spend some time at www.haroldfishdefense.org to see a real-life example of what can happen to good people after they use deadly force in self-defense.
Harold Fish’s conviction was appealed and ultimately reversed, but not before he was jailed for a substantial time for what was arguably a perfectly justified shooting.
While the Fish case was an anomaly, what if you get a prosecutor, like the one in Fish’s case, coming after you? That prosecutor yielded to public pressure to charge, and resorted to demonizing the type of pistol Fish carried—a 10mm. Or what if a prosecutor tries to argue that you were using super-duper killer bullets (Federal Hydra-Shocks)? Or how about a prosecutor claiming you should have fired a warning shot first (never mind the fact that the man running at you was only 10 feet away and closing fast when you shot)?
Fortunately, it has been my experience in dealing with and researching self-defense cases that normally the system works correctly. But we don’t train and carry guns for the norm. Likewise, we cannot approach the likelihood of being prosecuted for a “righteous shooting” based on the percentages of wrongful prosecutions.
It was my involvement as an expert witness in several court proceedings that led me to believe that an organization like the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. was necessary.
I have been involved in several cases where the majority of the evidence pointed to legitimate use of force in self-defense, but the person was prosecuted anyway.
One example was a 4th degree assault case involving a correctional officer. He was charged following an incident in which he slammed an unruly inmate against the jail door to get him under control!
There was no injury to the inmate, and at the time the other inmates in the jail said they thought the use of force was reasonable, but the officer was prosecuted anyway. In my opinion the officer was only charged because he was viewed as a troublemaker and was unpopular with his supervisors. We were able to get that case dismissed and get the officer’s job back, and he has since gone on to bigger and better things.
Consequently, while in law school I started working on a support organization for armed citizens who had to use force in self-defense.
My goal was to provide members with peace of mind, knowing that in the event their case becomes the anomaly, and they are singled out for prosecution for a righteous shooting, they’d have the power of the Network behind them.
But, having said that, Network members would need to do their part, too, by researching their own state’s case law, so they are up to speed about what conditions allow them to justifiably use deadly force. Thus education is a key benefit of ACLDN membership.
You need to train, so if you’re faced with a split-second decision of whether or not to shoot, you can make that decision based on training, instead of making the decision out of blind fear.
You need to be polite to everyone you meet, so you will never be accused of being overly aggressive, or, even worse, painted as the initial aggressor in a confrontation.
And you need to have an attorney you can call who understands how a self-defense case works—someone who will spend the time necessary to understand the nuances of your case.
When all this is in place, I believe armed citizens like you have a reasonable chance to avoid prosecution, but there are no guarantees, of course. And it’s for those times that the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. exists.
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