Former antiques dealer Roger Garfield has taken a plea deal that requires him to serve four more years in prison for killing an unarmed homeless man in his store in 2006.
The deal to plead guilty to manslaughter, offered by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, ends a lengthy legal roller-coaster ride in which Garfield, 61, was jailed and freed on two separate occasions because of changes to Arizona's self-defense law.
Now he's back in jail after a two-year respite from life behind bars and awaiting an April 25 sentencing that will put him in prison for a term between four and five years.
New Times has been the only media outlet (that we know of) to document this fascinating case involving the fatal shooting inside a store Garfield had operated at the southeast corner of Seventh Street and McDowell Road. Our 2010 cover story, "Shoot to Kill," was based on interviews with Garfield, legal experts, eyewitnesses and the family of the homeless victim, Bobby Cain.
The incident began with a conflict between Cain and Garfield just days after Garfield opened his store. Garfield later claimed Cain had "stalked" him over a period of months and even had threatened to kill him.
But those who knew Cain as "Santa Claus," one of the many mentally ill homeless people in the area, said Garfield exaggerated the threats. Witnesses reported that Garfield shot Cain repeatedly as the homeless man advanced on him in the store one day.
Indicted for second-degree murder, Garfield ultimately was convicted of manslaughter by a jury in 2009.
He served five months in county jail awaiting sentencing but was freed that summer after the Arizona Legislature tweaked the state's self-defense statutes in an effort to help Harold Fish, a retired Glendale teacher who'd claimed self-defense after shooting a man on a hiking trail near Clint's Well. Fish died in 2012 of an illness.
The new legislation reversed a nine-year-old law, shifting the burden of proof in self-defense cases to the state. But the Arizona Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional in 2010. Garfield went back to jail for a few months, then was transferred to state prison after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cari Harrison sentenced him to seven years.
A year later, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the appellate court decision. Garfield was released from prison and granted a new trial. Following a court hearing in 2012, Garfield told New Times that he does "feel bad" for Cain's family.
Six months later, Garfield married his longtime girlfriend, Sue. Preparations for the new trial were hit with delays and motions to continue, allowing Garfield time to enjoy life outside prison walls.
State Attorney General Tom Horne, interestingly enough, had owned the property where the antiques store had been. He sold it a couple of years ago and the buildings on the land were bulldozed, making way for the chain restaurants there now. Horne told New Times in 2010 that he thought Garfield had been given a raw deal by what he called "out-of-control" county prosecutors.
"It was an abuse to bring prosecution here," Horne said in 2010. "A store owner should be able to defend himself."
Bill Montgomery, county attorney since 2010, has taken somewhat of a hard line toward people who claim self-defense, and continued to press the case against Garfield that had begun under his predecessor.
Garfield apparently figured he couldn't take his chances with another jury conviction, which might have resulted in a sentence even longer than his first one.
The plea deal to manslaughter as a non-dangerous offense stipulates that Garfield will serve no less than four years, up to a max of five. Because his offense is considered non-bondable, Garfield was taken into custody following a hearing in court on Wednesday before Commissioner Richard Nothwehr.
Jerry Cobb, Montgomery's spokesman, points out that Garfield will end up serving roughly the same amount of time to which he was sentenced after the first jury conviction. Without taking the case to trial, "we'll never know" whether another jury conviction would have resulted in more or less time in prison for Garfield, Cobb says.
In any case, the epic legal battle is over, and Garfield -- who was financially ruined in defending his case -- is paying for his fateful decision to shoot Cain.
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