The biggest takeaway from jury trial #11 was that people in our neck of the woods care about animals, a lot. Animal cruelty was the only charge the defendant in this trial faced and it involved a pit bull puppy named Murphy who sustained multiple injuries to his face and body, as well as a broken leg and dislocated femur. This was discovered when a neighbor contacted animal control because she could hear her neighbor, the defendant, yelling at his puppy, which was followed by thumping noises and yelps.
Animal contol arrived and found the dog with a bloody nose, walking on three legs, with a swollen face, and cuts and scrapes all over his body. Murphy was taken immediately to a Veterinarian. At the time the defendant gave numerous excuses to animal control about how Murphy was injured: (1) Murphy had his foot stepped on by a 3rd party; (2) Murphy had his foot stepped on by defendant; (3) Defendant accidentially ran Murphy over with his bicycle; (4) Murphy got his foot stuck in a fence. The excuses went on and on.
These excuses continued on at jury trial when the defendant took the stand to testify on his own behalf. On the stand we also learned that (5) Murphy had been in a fight with other dogs, (6) had accidentially been dragged behind the bicycle and (7) had gotten his foot stuck in a fence. However, the Veterinian who had treated Murphy was able to sustinctly state that none of the injuries observed on Murphy were consistent with the many unlucky accidents the defendant attempted to portray. In fact, the Veterinarian noted in her report, and on the stand, that the injuries on the dog were in various states of healing which was inconsistent with defendant’s statements. This along with circumstantial evidence (aka the noises heard by the neighbor) was enough to obtain a guilty verdict.
After the verdict was rendered the jury stuck around, not to provide feedback regarding the trial, but rather to find out what happened to the dog. The jury wanted to make sure the dog had been adopted out and was in the hands of a caring individual or family to ensure that the abuse did not continue.
It was a happy ending for Murphy. He ended up working as a partner with the Animal Control Officer’s who rescued him. Over the years I received several photos of Murphy on duty; and not to worry, he took his job as an officer seriously. He was even spotlighted in the local paper for his role with animal control.
In California an individual convicted of animal cruelty is required to taken animal cruelty prevention courses (much like a batterer’s treatment program in Domestic Violence Cases) if they are given a grant of probation. This is to try and curb animal abuse in the future. Defendant’s are also required to repay the cost of care associated with the animal’s injuries as part of ther sentence. Both were ordered in this case.
A picture of Murphy still hangs on my bulletin board in my office as a reminder that justice involves many types of victims, including puppy’s named Murphy.