Hal Fish's statement at the sentencing hearing:
THE COURT: Mr. Fish, did you want to make any statements to the Court at this time?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay. Please do so.
THE DEFENDANT: Okay.
THE COURT: And if you could just bend that microphone or move over, that would be great.
THE DEFENDANT: Maybe I can trade places with Mr. Griffen.
MR. GRIFFEN: Just move closer.
THE DEFENDANT: Please forgive me. I'm not -- I'm not in my best emotional state. And if I wander a little bit, then please forgive me. I'll try to get across everything that I want to say. Although, I haven't really prepared anything. I didn't really understand what I could or could not say.
And I hope I don't say any thing that will offend you or anybody here. I have no wish to offend Mrs.
Almeter. I know what it is like to lose a brother. I lost one myself. And it's something that you never forget. Every September 27th when my brother's birthday comes around, and I know it's his birthday. And I know that.
I did not go out there to kill Mr. Kuenzli or to kill anyone. I am not -- regardless of the verdict -- I am not a murderer. I do not kill people. It is not something that I intended or planned or perpetrated in any way or fashion.
I know that the jury found me guilty. I know that you're going to send me to jail for a period of time -- to prison. And I know that.
But regardless, I feel that I am an innocent man who stands before you today. I do not think the trial was fair. And it may have been by the rules that you understand, it was not by mine.
Information was not given to the jury. I don't see how that can be. In my world they should have been told everything and been allowed to make their own decisions.
But I understand I'm not the judge. I understand that we have the opportunity to appeal. I understand that you will have to do your duty. I understand that.
I think most of what this comes down to is: Did I lie about this or not? Did I tell the truth or did I not? No one else but me knows what happened that day. I know that detectives investigated. I know that two of them stood in the woods with me and my wife and assured us that everything that they saw would convince them that it was a self-defense situation.
Others have told me the same thing over and over again. It's almost embarrassing. Deputies come up to me all the time. Since I've been in jail several detention officers have come up to me. They told me basically the same thing.
People write to me. And they say, in your situation we would have done the same thing. And people are appalled at how I can stand here convicted of second degree murder for something that everyone in their heart feels was justifiable and defensible.
I don't think that this is the place to argue that today but those are the feelings that -- that are in my heart. I want you to know that.
I did not kill that man on purpose. Ms. Almeter -- I think she's probably still here. I hope she doesn't leave. I hope that I don't upset her. She and the others need to know that, yes, I fired three times. Okay. I never saw any of those bullets strike Mr.
I could not tell whether I had hit him on the first shot or the second shot or the third shot. When the last shot fired -- was fired, his gait changed and he slumped, he slid down. That was the only time that I knew that any of the shots that hit him. But I couldn't have told you where. I couldn't have told you which. I couldn't have told you in what -- what order; whether there was one that hit and two that missed or any combination thereof.
There was no physical reaction until that last shot was fired. I never took one step towards Mr.
Kuenzli. In fact, I went the other way as far as I could. It wasn't great giant steps back, but it was feeling steps back.
Beyond that was a ravine, not quite as steep by any means, but one there. But one was steep and one that I could -- had seen as I was coming up the trail. I knew I could not retreat any further.
I had Mr. Kuenzli bearing down on me and contrary to any false reports in the newspapers or other places, he never, never stopped or slowed his progress. He increased and accelerated his pace towards me.
He was yelling at me. He said words that led me to know that that man intended to either kill or harm me. Absolutely. Fists swinging. I couldn't tell if he was going to punch me or if he had something in those closed hands -- a knife, a small pistol. I couldn't see. I couldn't tell when the arms were moving fast. He wouldn't stop.
I -- I was yelling . He was yelling. It was pandemonium. Dogs on either side of me. I couldn't get away. There was absolutely no place that I could go I had a firearm in my hand. He knew that. He had heard the shot. He must have seen it. It's not a small handgun. You've seen it in court. It's a bright colored handgun. He had to have known it was there.
And yet, he continued to come at me, fast and threatening. I stood there perplexed. Waited far too long. Several police officers asked me as they came out to investigate, they said , "Why did you wait so long to shoot him? We would have shot him up here. Why did you wait?"
And I told them the same answer I'll tell you today. Because to be honest with you the thought didn't cross my mind that I would have to shoot. I didn't want to shoot. I couldn't believe that he would not stop. And yet, he did not.
And at the last minute when he was just out of arms reach, a short distance in my perception, a feeling hit me right here, right here, right here that if I did not shoot, if I did not, I would die.
And it is my conviction today that that man would have run me down. How he would have killed me, I don't know. I did not know that he had a screwdriver in his pocket. I assumed he was going to get my gun or he would use a rock or he had something in his hands that I couldn't see.
But there was not doubt -- and I want you to understand that, judge -- in my mind, there was not doubt what he intended to do. He had told me it. He had run at me. He -- I -- I knew, as I know today, he would have killed me. If he had not killed me, he would have broke -- I don't know when he would have stopped.
Now, it's hard for people to understand that, because you haven't been there; you haven't had to take a life. I did. But you haven't, I don't believe. But I know that feeling. I had never, never felt that feeling before in my life and never care to feel it again. It's an awful feeling.
And I moved faster than I've ever moved in my life driven by the circumstance and by the instinct to survive. And, yeah, I shot three times. Because it took three shots to stop him. It's just that simple. If he had closed with me and had put those hands on me, my life would have ended.
They're right; my wife, my family, all those things flash before your eyes. And you have a minute to think, a moment to think. You know, is it -- is my wife and my life worthwhile or not? Do I want to live or not?
And did I know that he would die? No. I couldn't even tell where I shot. My experience, my training was that most people who are shot live and recover. In the movies it looks awful. In real life with paramedics and medical help with the resources that we have today most people who are gunshot are -- are saved.
I didn't know that one shot had gone through his heart. I didn't know that one had gone through his lung. I had no idea that one had hit his hand. The hands were moving. I was not aiming at the hands. I didn't know until I went over to help him out and looked at that hand and I thought, Oh, gosh. It was awful.
I did what I could for him. And, Ms. Almeter, I tried to save your brother's life the best I could.
In my foolishness, I thought if I got on the cell phone, I would be able to reach Payson or Pine Dell and they would respond with a helicopter and get people there soon. I couldn't get a call out. Nobody did.
And then when they responded, they didn't send a helicopter; they sent an ambulance. It seemed to take forever. I think the longest and most frustrating period of the whole -- of the whole event was when Mr. Dieringer and I stood there side by side, talking on the On-star, trying to get -- explain to people -- to deputies and to others, you know, where we were. And then waiting an interminable amount of time until that ambulance showed up.
Did I think he was still alive at that point? No, I did not. I mean, I realized once he was down and I looked at him, that it was seriously --- he was seriously injured. The only chance he had was a very quick and immediate medical help. And I'm not sure that would have saved him, but I did what I could.
Could I have left? Could I have just turned my back in a callous fashion or just gone away? Of course I could have. I knew no one had seen me. I looked around. There was no one that ran off, you know, screaming and yelling to get away from me with a gun. There was no one there. There was no one that came to help. There was no one to my best -- to the best of my knowledge anywhere around there. It was me and the dogs and Mr. Kuenzli and that was it.
Could I have walked to the road and instead of stopping Mr. Dieringer just walked along the road until I got up to my van? Yes, I could have.
Could I have gotten there other ways? Yes. I was a good enough woodsman that I could have retraced my path, blotting out my tracks, picked up those bright nickel colored cases and taken them with me.
I could have taken a number of trails that passed as I was coming up and gone a different way, got into my van, and no one would have ever known. I could have disassembled that handgun and thrown pieces from here to Phoenix.
I could have burned my shoes. I could have taken my clothes, you know and disposed of them. I could have done probably a hundred and one different things.
I could have put a screwdriver in his hand and claimed that he'd attacked me brandishing a screwdriver, if I'd known that he had it. I didn't. I could have, I suppose, picked up a rock and stuck it in his hand or a stick or a club or found something.
I could have buried him out there or done a dozen different things to get out of ever having to stand up and be accountable for what I did. I could have done that. I'm not an idiot. But I didn't.
Maybe in the foolishness of my heart, I thought that the truth would be a defense. I knew it was my word against a dead man's. But I believed that forensic science and detective police work would bear me out.
I didn't think about it long. It wasn't that I sat there great numbers of minutes and planned or plotted. Why heck, if I was going to come up with some, you know, lame-brained, lying excuse for killing Mr.
Kuenzli, I would have certainly come up with a better one than the one that I told -- and it wasn't a lie. It was an explanation that I gave to the detectives.
I simply felt that I needed to tell the truth. And they would investigate. They would check things out. And they would have known that I told the truth, which is what they did.
The County Attorney's office, bowing I think to political pressure, went in another direction. But those detectives have never changed their opinion. If you asked them today whether it was self-defense or not, they would say it was self-defense. If you ask a number of people -- was it a self-defense situation or not, and what would you have done, that's what they would tell you. That's what they have told me.
Now, does that make me feel particularly good about it? No, it doesn't. It does not. And I've been accused in this courtroom and in the press of being callous and all kinds of other things by people who have never met me, people who do not know me, people who do not care for me and only wish me harm.
Well, I don't agree with the way other people talk. I'm not going to break down and ball. That's just not the way I do it, but I struggle with emotion.
The first 24 or 48 hours after this shooting occurred were horrendous. I found myself in private shedding tears for a man who tried to kill me. And that was my point of view. That was my perception. And I would get angry with myself. And I'd say, Hal, why are you crying for this guy? You don't know him. He tried to kill you. Why are you crying? Why does it bother you? Who is he to you? Just the man who tried to kill you. And I couldn't understand it. And it went that way for several weeks.
I talked to Dr. Pitt. Standing out in the woods, I asked him, I said, Well, why do I continue at times to be overcome with emotion for having done this when I didn't have a choice? And he said Because you have a conscience, because you're a human being, and because it doesn't -- doesn't come easy for you. And it didn't.
It's not something I'm proud of. It's not the ultimate big game tag. This is not something -- you know, no one's ever heard me bragging, say, Ah, I really did go off. No, that's not it.
I had two questions that day. And they troubled me for the longest time. And I asked -- I -- I mentioned it talking to the police: Number one, I said, Why did he do it? Why did he attack me? I didn't kill his dogs. I purposely did not. I could have. But I shot in front of the dogs. Why did he do it?
Number two, what else could I have done? You've been to the scene. You've seen that ground. You think back in your mind, if you will. Where else could I have gone? If I had turned to my left and run down the trail, the dog that was there by that tree would have gotten me or he would have got me because he had his momentum and his speed up.
Yeah, I couldn't have gone over the log into that ravine. There's no way I would have made -- made it through there. He would have gotten me from behind or the dogs would have. If I had turned and run in either direction, either Mr. Kuenzli or one of the dogs would have gotten me. That was my perception then. It is still my perception now.
I don't really understand why he did what he did. I guess we never will. Whether he was angry, whether he was in fear for the dogs. I know what he said in part. I remember the look in his eyes. I remember hearing his voice. I remember him turning my words around. And then I get a blank.
And Mr. Lessler has -- has called -- basically called me a liar, because he says I changed my story. No. I'm just -- I still, as I stand before you to this day, cannot recall exactly whether he said I'm going to kill you, shoot you, harm you, or all of it. It was confusion. He's yelling. I'm yelling. But I know what he meant.
If he had stayed at the top of the hill and used that kind of language, it never would have happened. I would have gotten on -- on my way and been out of there.
The only reason I used that handgun was to save my life because the peril was imminent, it was unavoidable. There was no place to go. No Place.
Would I have been happy if he had lived? Yes. The -- the theory had been forwarded that I killed him because I didn't want to avoid -- or I wanted to avoid any liability. That is not the case. That is not the case. That was never an issue.
The only reason that ever came up was a conversation between my wife and myself. You know we never discussed whether or not I -- the fact that I might have done something wrong in terms of using the gun. We just understood that -- that sometimes in the legal system there are other charges that can be filed in the civil court for damages and this and that and that we might have to contest those.
But I did not shoot Mr. Kuenzli to keep him from talking. He was not, to the best of my knowledge, conscious when he went to the ground. He never talked to me. He never said anything to me.
If I were a cold-hearted, cruel man the way they say, then If -- if someone like that wants to stop someone you've shot and wounded only from testifying, it seems to me like you'd probably shoot them in the head.
If I'd shot him when he was on the ground, the forensic evidence on the ground would have -- would have shown that. It did not.
If you remember, the two shots to the chest were straight on, slightly up in their track in the evidence that was presented here. No one knows where his fist was. And that was mischaracterized by the prosecution. It was explained by the medical examiner that once the bullet hit the bones, it fragmented and no one could tell me which -- in which direction those bullet fragments went nor exactly where was that fist.
I don't know. And I'm the guy that was you know, behind the gun. I couldn't see the hand. Never saw that hand in front. And I don't know whether he was hit with the first shot, second shot, last shot as he was falling. I don't know.
It's probably enough about the case. Although, if you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them, you know.
I regret intentionally that this ever happened; that Mr. Kuenzli lost his life. It was not my plan, my desire. If I could bring him back, I would.
I don't know. I feel a sense of -- and have for two years -- of frustration, helplessness. Something happened in a way that none of us wanted it to happen. It's something that I would undo if I could.
But if I were to come home alive, then he needed to stop. He needed to let me go, and he would not.
I've been almost embarrassed today as people have talked about me. I don't think I'm that good a man. I'm just a dad that's tried to do the best he can, who loves his children, loves his wife.
I'm embarrassed, frankly by the letters and some of the testimony that has come out. I live with it, but I don't lie. I do not lie. And if you had asked some of these people if I've ever lied to them or anyone they know of, they'll tell you no.
I don't lie. I'm not a man possessing many talents. I don't have great riches. But the one thing I've have always been -- it has always been precious to me has been my word.
And when I tell you, as I'm doing today, what happened out there that is the way it happened. That is what happened. And I'll say it again, if I were going to lie, I would have picked a heck of a better lie than the one that -- than the one I told you today. And it's not a lie. But I'd come up with a better story -- let's put it that way -- than what I've said today.
And I've had I don't know how many people say to me, you just should have picked up your shells and walked off. I've had people in my family tell me that, although not my immediate family. I've had friends and relatives.
And I -- I can tell you that while people won't say it, that's what they're thinking. That's what the people in the -- have come up to me and talked to me are thinking. They're saying, you know, if I'm ever in that situation, I'm not going to go to the police; I'm not going to try to render any aid; I'm not going to do anything; Ill pick up my shells, and I'll walk, because I'm not going to be in court someday where it's my word against a dead man's and go to jail for murder.
That's what people are thinking. That's not the way I was trained. That's not the way I was raised. And I couldn't do that.
I was born in an era where we trusted the police and we believed in the courts and the system. And we trusted that right was right and that if you told the truth everything would turn out okay. I've told the truth, absolutely.
And my children are here and my wife. Before, as God is my witness I never, ever lied. Not to the police, not when I wrote any report. I have never lied about this in one bit, not one bit. Because I knew that if I lied one time, that if it were discovered, then no one would believe anything I said. It was important to me that I try the best I could to be perfectly and absolutely honest or all would be undone.
We -- I don't know what to say to my children and to my wife. We're going to be separated. I hope there's an appeal. I hope we win it. I think we should. I think this has been a terrible miscarriage of justice within the framework that has been here, the way the prosecution has structured things and the way they've said what they've said, you know.
While I don't -- I can't totally excuse the jury, I think their decision is wrong. You know, I understand their frustration at not having all the facts. I understand that.
I want my wife to know that I love her. I couldn't have done better. I was so proud of her when she took the stand. You don't know how hard that was for her to get up and stand up there. But she loves me. She loves me with all her heart. And I know that. It's hard for her to express all those feelings.
My children love me. And I know that. The one -- the two boys that came yesterday to the jail, I know which one was crying. He didn't do it in from of me, but I know which one. My nine-year-old. He wanted to put his arms around his dad and hug him. He couldn't do it. Couldn't do it. They don't understand that.
You see, my children know I won't lie because I've never lied to them. I will not. I won't lie about Santa Claus. I don't lie about the Easter Bunny. I don't lie about God or the things that I believe in.
I've always thought it was important to tell the children the truth. I never tell them fairy tales. I never deceive them. Because if you deceive them once, then they may not believe you when you really need them to believe you.
I've probably spoken too long. But I want you to understand that there is no glory in what happened out there. No one jumps for joy. The only good thing that happened out there that day was that I got to go home. And it hasn't turned out the way I wanted it to. And why that is, I don't know.
I cannot understand. I cannot understand how the jury could have reached the verdict that they reached other that they didn't have the full facts and information.
I don't know if you have any questions that you -- if they allow you to ask questions of defendants or not, judge. But if there's anything that you want to ask me, please do and I will answer.
THE COURT: I don't have any questions, Mr. Fish. Thank you very much.
THE DEFENDANT: You're welcome.