Arizona Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton has refused to reduce the $2 million bail set for Steven Jones. Last year, Jones pleaded self defense after shooting and killing Colin Brough. Jones claimed he was chased after being beaten by a group of fraternity men at Northern Arizona University. The prosecutor’s office is the Coconino County Attorney’s office out of Flagstaff. It’s the same prosecutor’s office that handled the infamous . . .
Harold Fish case. Fish, a hiker who shot and killed a man at the end of a trail, also pleaded self defense. Prosecutors mishandled the Fish case. He spent three years in prison until an appeals court overturned the conviction and released him pending a new trial. Coconino prosecutors asked the court to review the case again; the Superior Court refused.
Arizona legislators passed four bills aimed at getting Fish a new trial. The first bill was deemed insufficient by the court for a new trial; Governor Janet Napolitano vetoed two of the bills. A fourth was finally signed by Governor Jan Brewer after Napolitano resigned to join the Obama administration. After Fish was released from prison, he made this statement, from azcapitoltimes.com:
“I never felt I was guilty and felt that I was never able to communicate that in a way the system would understand,” he said. “We tried and tried, but they just didn’t want to hear what really happened. Once they (Coconino Attorney’s Office) got it into their mind they wanted to pursue a conviction, then no amount of reason or truth would deter them.”
The Harold Fish case came to mind because of some of the statements made by Coconino County Deputy Attorney Ammon Barker. From azcentral.com:
The defense also contended that prosecutors did not present information on the extent of Jones’ injuries to the grand jury.
Jones told police he was punched and later wrestled to the ground. Police reports say officers observed injuries on his head, back, chest, arms and knees as well as swelling on a wrist.
Prosecutors said Jones’ injuries weren’t relevant to his self-defense claim.
“The injuries are superficial … they are just little scrapes and bruises, nothing more,” Barker said.
The idea that injuries are irrelevant to a self defense claim is rather unusual, especially in a case where the defense is based on fear of beating by multiple attackers. Barker put forward another legal theory:
“You cannot bring a gun to a fist fight,” Barker said.
It’s a strange contention, when defense against multiple attackers has long been recognized as sufficient disparity of force to justify deadly force; and since numerous people have been killed with a single punch to the head. Arizona law has no duty to retreat.
Toxicology results show that all four of the people that Jones shot had levels of alcohol in their blood beyond legal intoxication; three showed evidence of marijuana use. Jones’ test did not show any alcohol or drugs in his system.
Two million dollars of bail is beyond most peoples means. A bail bondsman would charge 10 percent, or $200k for the bail. Jones has been in jail since October 9th, 2015. The Judge said that he might be willing to consider home detention with electronic monitoring. I wonder how long it will take to bring that up as a separate motion; and how much in lawyer fees will be involved.
What is exasperating about this: it has the appearance of punishment by process. Drag out the process; keep the accused in jail while you are doing so, even though it seems unlikely that you will prevail in court.
Harold Fish spent three years in prison. His legal fees amounted to more than half a million dollars; he was eventually exonerated. Because of his case, the Arizona legislature reversed an eight-year-old change in Arizona law, returning the law of self defense back to the standard of 48 other states. Jones has that legislative change in his favor.
This is a very interesting case to watch. Jones never fled the scene, and sought officer protection when they arrived. He cooperated with the police.
The shooting took place on the Northern Arizona University campus; observers have speculated political motives for the prosecution. Campus carry bills have received super majority votes in the Arizona legislature, but did not survive Governor Brewer’s veto. Steven Jones was 18 at the time of the shooting. He was legally in possession of the GLOCK pistol in his vehicle.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.