When it comes to self-defense laws in Arizona, the statutes are clear, but the circumstances of self-defense cases are often complicated.
The following self-defense cases in Arizona show how difficult it can be to predict the outcome of these situations.
Harold Fish, 2004
Harold Fish was an outdoorsman who carried a handgun for protection. He was well-trained in self-defense and gun laws, and when he found himself in a situation that he believed qualified as self-defense, he did what he had been trained to do.
Fish was approached by three dogs who were acting aggressively. He fired at shot at the ground to scare them away, and behind them came a man charging toward Fish with his fists clenched. Fish didn’t know if the man was armed, but he fired three shots as the man got closer.
A trial found Fish guilty of murder, despite his self-defense stance. The prosecution argued that he was not in as imminent of a threat as he made it out to be, and eventually Fish was sentenced to ten years in prison.
In 2009, his conviction was tossed because the Arizona Court of Appeals believed the original jury did not have sufficient information on the other person’s background, or enough info on the aggressive dogs.
Result: Though initially convicted, Fish was cleared of charges and his conviction was overturned five years after the incident.
Robert Verdugo, 2010
One night in Globe, Scott Johnson stopped to visit his friends’ house after drinking. The two friends, sisters, didn’t greet him and instead sent Robert Verdugo to the door. From here, Verdugo’s story changed multiple times, but the end result was Verdugo fatally stabbing Johnson outside the home.
Verdugo claimed that Johnson attacked first, and even tried to break into the home, despite that neither of those claims was supported by evidence. A police investigation would later conclude that Verdugo did act in self-defense, but the family of Scott Johnson still believed the investigation to be rushed and missing key facts of the night in question.
Result: Verdugo was not charged with a crime because he was determined to have acted in self-defense.
David Appleton, 2011
In November of 2011, David Appleton drove to a drugstore parking lot in Scottsdale after being followed by the driver behind him. He got his gun from the glove compartment and set it in the seat next to him.
When the driver approached, he allegedly tried to choke Appleton, who then grabbed his gun and shot the man. The man would die shortly after being shot.
Fast forward to January 2013, and a grand jury failed to indict Appleton for the shooting, claiming that it was done in self-defense. Although the prosecution thought they presented enough evidence to indict Appleton, the grand jury failed to do so.
Result: Appleton was not charged with a crime because he was found to be acting in self-defense.