BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — When his grandfather became ill, Jason Fisher agreed to serve as caretaker of his property, located in a rural area by an orange orchard.
On Thanksgiving night 2021, Fisher drove with his wife and child to perform a quick check on the property before going home. As he pulled up he noticed a car parked nearby with no one near it.
Fisher entered his grandfather’s house and was startled to hear movement inside. He rushed out and grabbed an old rifle his grandfather kept in a truck.
After returning to his vehicle, Fisher had his wife call 911 while he stood guard. Eventually, two women and two girls appeared from behind the house.
Seeing they weren’t armed, Fisher relaxed and put the gun away. Deputies arrived and Fisher told them the four had been trespassing.
The deputies then arrested Fisher and let the alleged trespassers go. Fisher, as a convicted felon, was barred from owning or possessing a firearm, so deputies recommended, and prosecutors filed, two felony charges against him.
Last week, a jury acquitted Fisher of both charges in a trial that had as its focal point the circumstances in which even a convicted felon is allowed to arm himself.
Fisher’s attorney, Jared M. Thompson of Humphrey & Thompson, said his client was the victim and should never have been charged.
“Sometimes the people that get victimized have criminal records,” Thompson said. “That doesn’t mean they’re not a crime victim.”
Convicted felons are barred from owning or possessing firearms — with one exception.
In “very narrow circumstances,” a felon can lawfully arm themselves, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said.
There are six elements to the exception: the person believed they were in imminent danger of suffering great bodily injury; reasonably believed the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against the danger; a firearm became available without planning or preparation on their part; the gun was possessed temporarily, no longer than necessary for self-defense; no other means of avoiding the danger was available; and the use of the firearm was reasonable under the circumstances.
All six elements must be met, Kinzel said. The prosecution’s case was based on video evidence showing Fisher with the rifle, evidence he hid the gun before deputies arrived and claimed he didn’t use a firearm at all, and evidence he was aware of and had access to the rifle months before the incident.
The prosecution argued the alleged trespassers did not pose an imminent danger of great bodily injury and Fisher had other means of avoiding the perceived danger without arming himself, Kinzel said.
“The ‘not guilty’ verdict is an indication that the jury found that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not fall within the exception,” he said.
Kinzel added sheriff’s investigators didn’t request charges for the alleged trespassers.
“Additionally, charging both sides of an incident simultaneously can create issues that could prevent introduction of evidence against either side, due to self-incrimination claims and rights,” he said.
Thompson, the defense attorney, said one of the women found on the grandfather’s property has multiple convictions, including for burglary and robbery. At trial, the woman’s daughter testified her mother went inside the house and could have stolen something.
The women and teens should have been prosecuted, not his client, Thompson said.
“It was a complete miscarriage of justice the way this was handled,” he said.