After spending nearly 3 years in prison for defending himself while hiking, Harold Fish was released from custody today, thanks in large part to the passage of SB 1449, sponsored by Senator Linda Gray , which was signed by the Governor on July 13, 2009 .
SB 1449 retroactively applies the restoration of the "innocent until proven guilty" language, that passed out of the Legislature via SB 1145 in 2006, to cases pending at the time of SB 1145's passage. The most egregious of these was the trial of Harold Fish .
Harold Fish was hiking in Coconino County when a man with a violent history and his two dogs attacked him. Mr. Fish was forced to fire at his attacker, killing him. What Mr. Fish did not know, and could not know, was the violent history of his attacker. A history, among many other facts of the case, that the judge and prosecutor would not allow in court for the jury to consider. Before Mr. Fish's trial, the Arizona Legislature returned the law from "guilty until proven innocent", back to "innocent until proven guilty" in self defense cases via SB 1145. Unfortunately, the trial was conducted under the old law and Mr. Fish was convicted. A state appeals court overturned the conviction on June 30, 2009 and ordered a new trial, saying the judge's jury instructions inadequately described the law of self-defense. On July 13, 2009 , Governor Brewer signed SB 1449. Even though SB 1449 is not due to become law until September 30, 2009 , prosecutors cited the new law along with the appellate court decision as reasons not to retry Mr. Fish .