I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth Anne Friedel.

It is very seldom that I alter or remove a post in response to a complaint from a reader, but in the case of "Happy Birthday Clark Fish", I've made an exception, having heard from Dave Friedel, the brother of the woman Fish was convicted of murdering. With his permission, I am posting his remarks from our correspondence below. I hope Mr. Friedel's comments are taken into consideration by whomever incarcerates him as well, so that they may protect other prisoners from his apparent proclivity to prey on the more vulnerable.

My first post on Fish at Arizona Prison Watch - a straight reprint of Kaj Larsen's original article for the Huffington post - remains, though I will link it to this one so the two perspectives are connected at both ends.
I decided to remove my birthday post on Fish from all my sites after reading both Friedel's emails and reviewing Larsen's written and video pieces again. I remain an opponent of both the death penalty and mass incarceration, but am no less troubled by what to do with people who are a danger to others in our community. Regardless of the source of their own disturbance - be it childhood or wartime trauma - they can't be allowed to continue to abuse others as Fish did to his victim leading up to the moment of her death. They certainly should not be celebrated as martyred victims themselves, which is essentially what the post I removed suggested by inviting people to drop Fish a line on his 25th birthday, at which time I believed he was still facing the death penalty. As Mr. Friedel states, Fish has since taken a plea life without parole, offered at his victim's family's urging.

While I found Larsen's story on Fish and other veterans with PTSD accused of violent crimes compelling, Fish is hardly the poster boy I would choose to represent traumatized soldiers - and I apologize to those men and women for seeming to do so. He does not appear to have had a deep-seated objection to perpetrating violence, as so many vets with PTSD do. Fish, rather, is a coward and a bully. His pattern of behavior, as evidenced by numerous 911 calls for domestic disturbances and violence in the months before Elizabeth Friedel was so brutally killed is as troubling as the murder itself.

While traumatized vets are indeed more likely to be convicted of violent crimes than members of the general population, I don't believe those crimes tend to emerge out of a long-standing pattern of abuse and domination of another. Rather, much of what I've read about are assaults or murders involving all-too-accessible lethal weapons when someone reaches a breaking point - representing a divergence from, not continuation of, character that was formed before their own traumatization or victimization.

For those unfamiliar with why the death penalty would be considered by a jury in the first place, there are stipulations about the crime being especially heinous in nature to consider - like torture. There are details to this case that suggest PTSD is now being used as a convenient excuse for such conduct, not identified as an extenuating circumstance where someone has actually taken responsibility for their actions. Perhaps Fish was poorly represented in his trial, but his claim of innocence during the guilt determination phase is now contradicted by his "mitigating circumstance" claim that PTSD caused him to kill his victim. This defense is not presented without his consent. Either Fish is guilty or he is not - if he is not, then his PTSD is irrelevant. If he is, than his entire defense can't really be trusted as sincere.

Whatever kind of man Clark Fish was before he donned a military uniform and learned to justify killing another human being, it is disturbing that he seems to show little remorse (if he is guilty) or even sympathy (if he is not) for the woman whose torment and murder he is being held responsible for. His obsession is with his own survival now; his perception seems to be that he is the only victim here.
Fish's legal representation and his representation of himself - particularly the shift in strategy once convicted - has done him and all vets with PTSD a disservice.

We are all victims of both the military industrial complex and the mentality it can breed - some more so than others.
Many people have endured far more horrendous, life-altering experiences of violence and trauma than Clark Fish describes - including survivors of childhood sexual abuse - and yet have not chosen to perpetrate systematic violence on others in response. Many go on to help others instead. This is why prevention and early intervention with victims of trauma is so important - to teach them how to manage their pain and rage in a way that does not result in them harming others or compel us to segregate them completely from the rest of human society.

This is one place where both the government and victims' rights organizations fall short. Americans are taught to believe that our own injuries or losses justify even greater violence to those who we believe have or may harm us or a loved one. We are a vindictive people, not at all invested in the kind of justice that heals and restores communities and lives, but rather that which brutalizes on a grand scale by war, mass incarceration, and executions as punishment.
In the name of our own "protection" we succumb to a similar mindset as that of our perpetrators.

This is how we have justified things such as the genocide of Native Americans, the demonization and overwhelming oppression of dark-skinned immigrants and descendants of those we have enslaved and colonized, and the persistence of grossly inhumane conditions in American jails and prisons. We are rarely even moved by stories of the innocent victimized by our laws and our Anglo-American Manifest Destinies, we so want to believe that we are just in the eyes of the Creator even as we destroy lives.

I realize I may often confuse my readers with contradictions of opinion and sympathy. That's because I have no clear-cut answers - we tread in many gray areas here where interests and perspectives in total opposition don't automatically invalidate the other. In fact, one of our biggest problems with "justice", it seems, is that we too often adhere to rigid, Old Testament notions of what exactly that might constitute, and too seldom explore the contradictions.

With that, I give you the voice of one survivor of Clark Fish's indoctrination into violence - one which began when guns were toys and wars were games - and his decision to act it out on one more vulnerable than himself. Those of us who challenge the state on the conduct of its more disturbed soldiers - and those of us who do not accept the death penalty as a solution - especially need to hear what Dave Friedel has to say. I imagine he did not extend himself to talk about this issue without experiencing considerable pain in the process, and am grateful that he gave me permission to reprint his words here. I owe both him and his family my apologies and condolences.


Dave Friedel Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 8:38 PM
Reading your article; specifically the video from the Huffington Post (
) is very disturbing because the slant this piece about Clark Fish provides ZERO information around the 4 months of torture of Elizabeth Anne Friedel endured (restraining orders, 911 calls, Police engagements, etc), harassment against the family seeking to help her, the AWOL status of Clark Fish and lastly the threats AFTER her murder by Clark.

How do I know ALL of this??? Because I am the victim's brother and know firsthand as I desperately tried to help her. I sat through the entire trial, heard all the facts, and listened to the 911 calls of Beth pleading for help. This is the sort of HACK journalism which FAILS the public by not reporting the COMPLETE story.

I fully support our troops and believe programs should be offered to treat PTSD but you cannot dismiss their actions if they FAIL to seek help, take medicine, or be civil in society. Shame on you Mr Larsen for tainting our troops efforts by showcasing a poor example of what they experience. Clark never was on the line and never was put into battle (confined to guard duty on the base) because of his conduct. He volunteered in that hospital because of his prior AWOL status in which he served in Military prison for 6 months until he changed his mind to serve along with our honorable men and women.

Dave Friedel

Peggy Plews Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:28 PM
To: Dave Friedel
Dear Mr. Friedel,

I appreciated your note - albeit a painful one, understandably. I'm not a journalist myself - you landed on my personal blogs where I had re-posted Larsen's Huffington post article. I had received a number of inquiries from readers about how to contact Fish (I am based in Phoenix), so made a second post about him which included his address and the link to the video piece "War Crimes" that Larsen did. The connection between PTSD and violent crime (not only among veterans) concerns me; I'm adamantly opposed to the death penalty myself; and Larsen's article was indeed sympathetic to Fish after following him for over two years. So, in my own editorializing I was also sympathetic to what he faces now without giving sufficient thought to evidence that he was repeatedly abusive to your sister and may well have killed her. For the injury that my thoughtlessness may have compounded, I am truly sorry.

I would be willing to post either an article you recommend that presents the other side of Clark Fish's story - your sister's side - or something you want to write yourself. I would even post the following letter as a guest editorial if you want - a criticism of my decision to post what Larsen wrote in the first place. I can handle the criticism. It will make me think twice the next time. Your perspective is certainly one that should be heard on the issue. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and shouldn't be left to one person to tell.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed on this, if at all. I don't think that even among my small audience your voice will fall on deaf ears. I can't speak for Larsen, however.

My condolences for the terrible loss of your sister.


Peggy Plews
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

Prison Abolitionist
Arizona Prison Watch
Hard Time: Hep C in AZ Jails and Prisons
Free Marcia Powell

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
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Dave Friedel Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 1:08 AM
To: Peggy Plews
I can appreciate your objection to the death penalty, although I do not share it and here is why. The objection is based on the belief that people are all inherently good, sometimes make mistakes and want to do the right thing. After all, society functions quite well and everyone basically operates within the structure to the benefit of the whole even if the economics of it are based on the "Invisible Hand" that Adam Smith so eloquently outlined. I can fully appreciate this and by all means, I too would count myself among you in this thinking.

But the reality is, this is simply not true for all of us. The fact is 1 in 25 people who walk among us have a deficiency (or advantage depending on how you look at it) to avoid the conscious will to be good or reflect the other person's pain; the root of all religions aka the Golden Rule. For this reason, it leaves quite a few people with a vulnerability which can be exploited to the determinant of us and others. This is not to say all psychopaths are murderers or are evil, but they have the ability to shut off that which society deems as the governor to regulate compassion. I have spent quite amount of time and research to understand psychopathy and degrees in which they operate with in society. Clark Fish had 3 of the 4 common markers for psychopathy and trust me, when I initially met him, he was perceived as charming but I also was at the brunt of his unbelievable hate as I tried very hard to intervene and help my sister. So much in fact, that he wrecked my car, threatened my life to the point of filing a restraining order myself, and eventually blaming me for my sisters death (saying if I tried harder she would be alive today).

In fact, it was my family that told the district attorney (whom I have the deepest respect for) to provide Life without Parole as an option when the 12th juror broke the law by initially telling the other jurors she would never consider the death penalty. Everyone was prepared to seek the death penalty again and on July 29th 2010, Clark did end up taking the offer for Life in Prison. Does he deserve to live his life in prison? No, but those of you against this process are ignorant to the realities that these viruses do exist and only after being personally impacted can a person truly appreciate the realities of surviving such an ordeal. I have a new found respect for the individuals who live through pandemics, especially when they could be prevented by a unified society approach. Our appeal process provides 18 years to correct a wrong, but the cancer that lives within our prisons will continue to spread as we move psychopaths into general population with other inmates trying to serve time for far less crimes. Do not think for ONE MOMENT, Clark will not feed on the other weaker people in prison - trust me he will. It is exactly the undeniable compassion people possess which makes it so hard to convict and protect our society.

As for posting my replies on your blog, I will leave that up to you. I would be just as understanding if you removed the article to begin with.


  1. I appreciate you posting this, along with the emails from the victim's brother. I was watching the current War Crimes tonight and when I saw Fish and how he was protrayed, I must say that it was easy to think about him and what he had gone through. I have been a fan of Current TV, but after the obvious slants put on this piece, I have changed my mind about the newsworth objectiveness of their reporters. I would have thought that the Kaj Larson would have been more selective and done some basic research, so he could show soldiers with PSTD, which didn't require his ommissions to gain our sympathies.

    So, I appreciate your taking the article of wishing Fish a Happy Birthday down, and not only correcting yourself....but informing others who watched War Crimes, that we may have been tricked into seeing what they wanted us to see.

  2. I had to respond...I found this bog and thread by searching Clark Fish. Why would I search Clark Fish, what interest would I have in him or his case? First , I just finished watching a repeat episode of Lock up Raw, Jail house Blues. There, to my surprise was Clark Fish telling "His story". I was not surprised by the lies he was telling as I had heard a version , although very different, the day he reported Miss Fried's death. I was the grief counselor dispatched to meet with him, as his 911 call came in as a suicide. I was second at the scene, I heard one of his first attempts at an explanation (he was trying out a few with me). PTSD was never a part of it. I have worked with many grieving and traumatized people. I have met with quite a few PTSD sufferers, some are family members. This person Clark Fish never gave any signs of PTSD or any real distress. I was not able to attend his trial, as I may have been called as a witness. I had not heard he claimed PTSD as part of his defense. To see him now being touted as the poster boy for PTSD and how it contributed to crime infuriates me. There are many returning soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and others, truly suffering that could have their cases studied. I believe anyone who includes Clark Fish in any story other than "the murder he committed" is doing a disservice. Miss Friedel deserves better. Her family deserves better. True victims of PTSD deserve better. The second reason I searched was I wanted to know the sentence he received. I am disappointed he only received life. It is better than he deserved.

  3. I just wanted to say that I am very sorry to read about the entire misunderstanding above and I am very proud of you all for your compassion.

    Mr. Fish is totally devoid of any remorse for what he has done, for that he will sit in a cell for the rest of his life. He will never again know the freedom he initially set out to protect.


  4. Like many others to probably found this blog, I just finished watching show on Current TV that was very slanted and favor of clark fish.

    Because I am sympathetic to the very real damage of PTSD I started out open minded but very quickly changed my mind. Unlike some of the other soldiers profiled, I had a terrible feeling when I watched Mr Fish talking and had many doubts about his honesty with PTSD and i listed to him trying to to justify the horrible crimes committed. The only person he was interested in was himself.

    Then when they said that his girlfriend call 911 16 times in six months because of domestic abuse I knew that he was a psychopath who was guilty and grasping at straws to blame everything (and after reading his disgusting comments to the victims brother, everyone) but himself.

    It truly disgusts me that this horrible excuse of a person has any notoriety, fame or support. A movement to leave comments for his 25th birthday? Disgusting. I wish even half of those people would consider doing something thoughtful in the name of the woman who was murdered and taken away from her family and friends instead of glorifying her killer and celebrating the day that murderer came into the world. It seems wrong. I am supportive of anyone who feels remorse and wants to genuinely change, but that is not this guy. At least not as he is now.

    I am very glad but you are the type of person that can say you made a mistake and that you are willing to look at two sides of the story. As a blogger myself I know how hard it can be to swallow your pride. You didn't have to let this see the light of day or you could have deleted the post with no comment but you didn't. That says a lot about your character and it gives me hope for the blogging world. I appreciate you writing this.

    I wish but people like Mr Fish could seriously have their name and stories obliterated from public record because of the harm that they've done to people who truly do suffer from PTSD and deserve to have the court look at it as mitigating. This liar has done harm in so many areas it boils my blood.

    Much love support and respect to Elizabeth's brother and family. God bless.