Roger Garfield Released From Prison and Granted New Trial Based on Change in Self-Defense Law; Former Antiques Dealer Shot Unarmed Homeless Man

Roger Garfield, the former antiques dealer who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man in 2006, has been released from prison and granted a new trial based on a change in self-defense laws.

As we explained in our March 11, 2010 article, Shoot to Kill, the prosecution of Garfield for the 2006 shooting in an antique store he once owned turned into a legal odyssey of court rulings and new statutes.

He's been jailed, then released, then jailed, then sent to prison -- and now he's out again. He was in court with his wife last week as a free man, dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and slacks.

His latest brush with freedom may or may not last. He'll stay out of the hoosegow at last until the start of his new trial, which is scheduled for April 24, and possibly longer than that, if the trial's delayed, (always a good bet at the busy Maricopa County Superior Court).

But County Attorney Bill Montgomery is moving ahead with the new prosecution, meaning Garfield will likely face another jury -- and possibly another sentencing hearing, if the new jury makes the same decision as the previous one.

The saga is tough to boil down, but it's a fascinating case for aficionados of self-defense arguments. We'll give you the nutshell version, but for the full back story, read our 2010 feature article.

Garfield had been an insurance man for 25 years before achieving his lifelong dream in 2006 of opening his own antique store. The place he bought on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell, interestingly enough, was part of a property owned by state Attorney General Tom Horne that Horne is now in the process of redeveloping.

The area is well-known for its homeless population, and Garfield had a run-in with transient Bobby Cain just two days after he set up shop. For months afterward, bad blood ran between the two men. Garfield said he was repeatedly threatened by Cain, who'd had a history of mental health problems.

To protect himself, Garfield bought a little .32-caliber semi-automatic handgun. On April 9, 2006, Cain came into the store and began yelling at Garfield, who drew his gun. When Cain advanced, Garfield shot him four times. The man collapsed and died.

Police and witnesses didn't view the shooting as self defense, despite Garfield's claim that he'd felt in fear of his life.

With the help of high-profile attorney Larry Debus, Garfield managed to stave off a prosecution until 2009. Ultimately, Garfield was indicted on a second-degree murder charge and convicted of manslaughter.

Garfield spent five months in the Maricopa County jail awaiting sentencing following his conviction.

But he was released in August of 2009, just 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.

Other cases were also seemingly affected by the new law. Cesar Montes, a Tucson man sent to prison for a 2005 killing he had claimed was self defense, had appealed his conviction based on the law, which the Legislature had intended to be retroactive.

The new legislation reversed a nine-year-old law that made those claiming self defense prove their case. With the change the burden of proof shifts to the state, which must convince a jury that a claim of self defense isn't valid. In theory, that might make it more difficult to prosecute someone using that defense.

Before the law could influence any case, though, it hit a speed bump. In January of 2010, the state Court of Appeals rejected Montes' argument and declared that the Legislature's 2009 law was unconstitutional.

With that new ruling, Garfield was thrown behind bars again. He stayed there until his April 2010 sentencing hearing, at which point Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cari Harrison decided he needed to spend seven years in prison, minus the roughly 200 days he'd already spent in jail.

Garfield was moved to the state Department of Corrections prison in Florence, where at least the food was much better.

Last January, the Arizona Supreme Court took a look at the Montes case and ruled that the 2009 law was constitutional, after all. Montes was granted a new trial. (Wonks can click here for the ruling.)

Garfield filed another appeal in September, saying the ruling -- and the 2009 law -- affected his case.

It's unclear why he waited so long to make that motion, but the good news for him is that the Court of Appeals, in November, ordered Judge Harrison to begin new trial court proceedings. She granted him a new trial in December, and Garfield walked out of prison. He deposited a $25,000 bond with court officials a couple of weeks ago.

We tried to talk to Garfield after his court proceeding on January 10, but his lawyer, Brett Turley, interjected. You can hear this exchange in the audio recording below. After we ask Garfield if he wants to comment, Turley responds, "no," and criticizes our 2010 feature article about the case.

"I do want to say one thing," Garfield blurts out as we argue with Turley. "I do feel very ... I do feel very bad ... for the family." No doubt, he's referring to Cain's parents and sisters, who were devastated by the shooting.

As he's saying this, Turley turns apopletic, holding a pad of paper in front of Garfield's face as a shield and yelling, "Wai-wai-wai-wait! Wait! No, no, no, no, no!"

We remind Garfield that he can talk to the news media if he chooses, but he says he'll take the advice of his lawyer.

With Montgomery still pressing the case, Garfield isn't as lucky as Fish. The retired teacher's high-profile story drew support not only from the State Legislature, but from well-wishers nationwide. When Fish was granted a new trial, the Coconino County Attorney's Office dropped the charges.

Nor can Garfield count on the 2009 law concerning the burden of proof. The law didn't prove much help for Cesar Montes, who ended up taking a plea deal last year. Last week, a judge sentenced Montes to two consecutive 7.5-year sentences.

Garfield's now back at home and has cause to hope. But there are no more lifelines: If he loses this one, he still faces more than three years in prison.

Audio recording of New Times' attempted interview last week with Garfield below:

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