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Phoenix case ends in mistrial

The  trial of Travers and Tremayne Johnson ended in a mistrial tonight.

Jurors were unable to come to an agreement about the brothers’ guilt or innocence on any of the four animal cruelty charges against the twins accused in the 2009 fatal burning of a dog nicknamed Phoenix.

The brothers, the Baltimore Sun reported, smiled as the result was read about 6:30 p.m., after a third day of jury deliberation.

Phoenix’s death outraged animal activists nationwide, who collectively donated thousands to find the dog’s attackers, and led to the creation of an Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force. The commission’s report found the city’s response to animal abuse was lacking — a finding the trial of the brothers seemed to reinforce.

Defense attorneys repeatedly pointed out the flaws in the investigation that followed the May 27, 2009 incident.

The dog had been doused with accelerant and lit on fire, burning until a police officer ran from her car and smothered the flames with her sweater.

But according to testimony, the crime scene was never secured, photographed or otherwise documented and it wasn’t assigned to police investigators for a week.


Comment from Starla
Time February 8, 2011 at 12:54 am

Very , Very Sad about this decision. Looks like the animals lose again. RIP Phoenix. You are not forgotten.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time February 8, 2011 at 1:30 am

It’s hard to know what to think. In the future, I hope the police will do a better job of securing the scene and collecting evidence. The officer who smothered the flames was obviously too occupied with trying to save the poor dog’s life as opposed to making an arrest. I’m encouraged that the jury took this seriously enough to debate over it for more than three days. If they had been inclined to treat it as “just a dog,” the deliberations would have been over much sooner. I had hoped there would be some justice for Phoenix and a strong message for anybody out there with the same ideas.

Comment from Ronnie Jones
Time February 8, 2011 at 7:33 am

I just hope that altho justice was definitely not served that these two monsters will be labelled with the the term monster and that the community will ostracize them as they deserve to be. One of these so called human beings has been charged in a murder case so guess what? I don’t know how the jury could have been so impervious to the suffering of that poor baby who was burned to death for the entertainment of these two monsters. They deserve the same treatment.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time February 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

I cannot help but wonder if the lengthy debate and mistrial result would be the same if Phoenix had been, say, a golden retriever, an English bulldog, a Portuguese water dog. Somebody’s beloved pet. Just some sweet dog in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Comment from Noam Chompski
Time February 8, 2011 at 9:13 am

A black jury won’t convict black defendants. Ever.

Comment from baltimoregal
Time February 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

The crime lab also “declined” to secure and process when Mittens, the cat, was burned recently. I guess we won’t have much luck on that case either?

Comment from Rav
Time February 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm

OMG! I can’t believe what happened. Animals once again lose out. That smile needs to be knock off their faces. That’s just showing there quilt to the world. The states attorney needs to take this back to court. Justice is needed for Phoenix.
RIP, no one can hurt you anymore.

Comment from Debbie
Time February 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

This is disgraceful! Maybe they should throw gasoline and set those two boys on fire and see if they like it. Shame on our system. what is this teaching our young? It is OK to kill animals and set them on fire. Shame Shame Shame – Baltimore ! May Phoenix rest in peace and never be forgotten. She was a beautiful dog. I hope those two rot in hell.

Comment from AjaSage
Time February 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

New trial date is set for May 4!

Comment from Laura
Time February 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

This makes me sooooo ashamed to be a baltimore citizen. Pathetic…truly pathetic and embarrassing….not to mention enraging!!!!!!!!!!

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time February 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

OK, I’ve been thinking and reading, and I’m encouraged. Despite the fiasco of this trial, AjaSage has posted some good news: The city has decided to try the case again. If nothing else, a jury trial is expensive. They might have just let it go, but there will apparently be a re-trial. I think that shows some commitment on the city’s part to putting a stop to animal cruelty. They are training an officer in each district to handle cases like this. Investigations will get better and more efficient. The crime lab won’t be able to get away with “declining to investigate” for much longer once the mayor gets on their tails. On the minus side, a member of the mayor’s staff has expressed the opinion that there may have been some witness intimidation. This is a huge problem in Baltimore, and the criminals are brazen about it–right up to the point where witnesses are sometimes murdered. It’s a bigger problem, even, than animal cruelty, and nobody seems to have a solution. We need to keep commending the mayor’s office for their progress while letting them know that we won’t stand for any slacking off. It may turn out that Phoenix’s death wasn’t in vain. We just have to keep hoping and keep busy. And, Mr. Chompsky, racism doesn’t help one bit.