David Genzler

San Diego County, California
Date of Alleged Crime:  April 18, 1996

David Genzler was convicted of the murder of Dusty Harless, 25.  In college, Harless was an AAU National Wrestling Champion.  He worked as a wakeboard (surfboard) salesman, and was a world-class wakeboarder.  He was apparently very popular as hundreds showed up at his funeral.  After midnight one Saturday night, Harless walked with his girlfriend, Sky Flanders, to a nearby liquor store with the intention of hailing a cab.  Because it was raining, Flanders ran up ahead to get out of the rain.  Genzler was driving by and stopped his car to ask if she needed a ride or, according to some, made a lewd comment.  He was not aware that she was with Harless.  Harless went around to the driver's side of the car to talk to Genzler and an altercation ensued.  Harless ended up with a four-inch stab wound that cut his aorta, the massive artery that carries blood from the heart.  He soon bled to death.  Genzler drove off.

Flanders got Genzler's license plate number, which police traced, but Genzler was not immediately found.  When Genzler turned himself in, he refused to tell police the location of his car or give them the clothes he was wearing.  These however were eventually located.  Genzler, 25, was a finance student at San Diego State University.  He was thin, wore glasses and did not look like a person who would start a fight or readily stab another.  At trial, Flanders painted Genzler as the aggressor.  A motorist, Scott Davis, who worked as a bouncer and knew Harless, had stopped to view the conflict.  He testified he saw Genzler punch Harless in the face, knocking him on his back.  He then saw Genzler straddle Harless and stab him in the chest.  Davis said he fled because Genzler threatened him too.

Genzler said Harless had pulled him out of his car, wrestled him down, and pinned him face forward to the ground.  He said that Davis was not a bystander but an active participant, who kicked him repeatedly while he was on the ground.  Genzler said that while pinned he grabbed a knife from his pocket and blindly thrust backward, stabbing Harless.  However, Genzler's shirt had far more blood on the front than the back, making it appear he was lying.  He was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment.

In retrospect, the state's case rested on the implausibility of a weakling starting a fight with a wrestling champion, bringing him to the ground, stabbing him without provocation, then scaring away a bouncer.  Following conviction, witnesses came forward who stated that Harless was a brawler who started fights easily.  Toxicology reports indicated that Harless was legally intoxicated at the time of his death with a .12 blood alcohol level.  He also had traces of marijuana in his system.  In addition, the defense discovered Flanders initially gave a version of events that differed from her trial testimony.  She had stated initially that Harless had pinned Genzler to the ground and that she thought Genzler had stabbed Harless because Harless would not let him up.  Flanders subsequently admitted she was coached to lie at trial.  Although she had testified otherwise, she admitted knowing Harless had beaten another man badly with little provocation and that she heard reports of him doing that to others.

Genzler's defense developed a way to explain the blood evidence on his shirt.  Apparently, when cut, the aorta does not spurt blood continuously, but only when the heart beats.  After Genzler stabbed Harless, Harless backed off allowing Genzler room to quickly turn around.  There was a large amount of blood on the shoulder of Genzler's shirt that apparently came out while Genzler was turning around.  Then Genzler was face forward with Harless as Harless continued to bleed before the two separated and Genzler left in his car.  At retrial in Aug 2000, the new evidence was presented.  A Hall of Fame wrestling coach testified that Genzler's detailed description of how he was pinned accurately described how a trained wrestler would pin an opponent.  A forensic animation was presented that showed how Harless was stabbed and how his blood fell on Genzler's shirt.  The retrial jury acquitted Genzler of murder, but convicted him of the much lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. Genzler was sentenced to 6 years in prison, most of which he had already served.  He was released in March 2001.  [1/08]

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References:   Forensic Files, SD Union-Tribune

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Southern California Cases, Self-Defense Cases