Harold Fish, 62, left the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis near Buckeye where he was incarcerated for the fatal shooting of Grant Kuenzli, 43, on a forest trail north of Payson in May 2004. Fish claimed self-defense, and there were no witnesses.
The Arizona Court of Appeals last month ordered a new trial in the second-degree murder case, ruling that testimony was improperly kept out of Fish's trial. The Coconino County attorney then said he would not retry the case and agreed to Fish's release.
Fish's legal ordeal is not over. As he was being set free, the Arizona Attorney General's Office announced plans to challenge the appellate-court ruling. The attorney general will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to review the case, said Steve Wilson, a spokesman for Attorney General Terry Goddard.
“We disagree with the Court of Appeals' decision, particularly its ruling that the trial court should have allowed testimony about other acts of violence by the victim that were unknown to the defendant at the time of the killing,” Wilson said in a prepared statement. “We hope the Arizona Supreme Court will grant a review and uphold the jury's verdict.”
The Arizona Supreme Court review could restore the Coconino County Superior Court jury verdict, meaning Fish would return to prison, or choose to let the appellate decision stand. Fish will remain free while that is decided.
Earlier this month, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that makes the new self-defense law retroactive to Fish's case. Though it seems unlikely Fish will face a new trial, if he were retried, prosecutors would be required to prove he did not act in self-defense. In Fish's trial, the burden was on the defense to prove Fish acted in self-defense. Read more