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
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
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]
Victims of the State,
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