By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
A Grant County jury has ruled that a Granite man acted in self-defense when he shot his neighbor, who he claimed had been harassing him and his wife for the past 10 years.
Mitchell Clay Fielding, 49, was found not guilty of charges of attempted murder with a firearm and assault with a firearm Friday in Grant County Circuit Court at Canyon City. He was accused of shooting William Dobell, 54, also of Granite, multiple times with a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun at Granite the night of Aug. 4.
andquot;The jury deliberated for 4 hours. They worked real hard,andquot; said Bob Moon , a Baker City attorney who represented Fielding. andquot;I certainly believe they did the right thing in this case. They gave Mitch his life back.andquot; Moon said his client arrived at The Lodge that night after receiving a frantic call for help from his wife, Patricia, who said she was being threatened and harassed by Dobell.
When Fielding approached Dobell, who was sitting in his 1994 Ford Explorer, Dobell's hands were at first outside the vehicle. He then appeared to reach for something inside the vehicle, at which point Fielding fired several shots, Moon said.
andquot;The jury believed that Mr. Dobell was in the process of using deadly force against Fielding when he shot,andquot; Moon said.
Moon said a feud between Dobell and the Fieldings started about 10 years ago when Dobell was fired while helping build The Lodge. His actions the night of Aug. 4 were a continuation of that feud.
andquot;It festered to the point that it boiled over that night,andquot; Moon said.
Dobell had been drinking before he drove to the Fieldings' business where he shined a spotlight on guests and then went into the parking lot to take down license plate numbers. He planned to submit the information to the Grant County transient room tax collector as proof that the Fieldings were not paying their transient room tax as required, Moon said. The tax collector testified that the couple have always paid the tax, according to Moon.
When Patricia Fielding attempted to leave The Lodge that night, Moon said Dobell drove his vehicle toward her van, forcing her vehicle onto an embankment. She returned to the lodge and called her husband for help, Moon said.
Michael Durr, an Oregon State Police detective who has worked in John Day for the past 19 years, said he was disappointed with the jury's verdict.
andquot;Our investigation did not support any type of self-defense on Mr. Fielding's part,andquot; he said.
There was no evidence that Dobell had a gun in his vehicle as the defense contended, he said. In fact, Dobell was backing his vehicle away from Fielding as he was shot, Durr said.
The detective added, however, that he was not surprised by the verdict. During his tenure in Grant County, he has been involved in two murder trials in which the defendants were acquitted. He worked on a third that had the same outcome. And a fourth that went only before the judge ended in a manslaughter conviction. All involved firearms.
andquot;They were all what I felt were legitimate homicides,andquot; he said.
Durr attributed the trial outcomes to the Grant County jury pool.
andquot;We have a difficult time (with a jury) finding people guilty of all crimes,andquot; he said. andquot;The local citizens have a hard time holding people accountable.andquot; Durr said Fielding admitted that he was not in fear of his life when he shot Dobell.
andquot;I'm just disappointed,andquot; he said. andquot;Mitch Fielding probably is a nice guy. I just don't feel like you should be able to shoot somebody who, in my opinion was not posing a threat to anybody, and not be held accountable.andquot; The community of Granite, which has about 30 full-time residents, has been split by the feud between the two sides. Moon and Durr both hope they can resolve their problems for the good of the town where Mitchell Fielding serves on the City Council and Patricia Fielding is the mayor.
A temporary stalking order was issued against Dobell on Dec. 15 in connection with the ongoing problems, Moon said. He was charged with violating the order twice on Dec. 31 and is scheduled to appear in court on the matter on April 15, Moon said.
andquot;I'm hoping that maybe we can get together with the other side and try to work some solution out before the hearing,andquot; he said. andquot;I want to make some sort of effort to bring peace to that community.andquot; Durr agreed that the feuding needs to stop.
andquot;I'm hoping this stuff can get aired out and this community can get over it,andquot; he said.