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Tag: jury

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.

Jury, struggling to reach verdict, will reassemble Monday in “Phoenix” case

Jurors in the trial of the twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson — accused of setting a pit bull known as “Phoenix” on fire in the summer of 2009 — will resume their deliberations Monday.

They were sent home Friday, unable to come to a consensus after a day and a half on whether Travers and Tremayne Johnson should be found guilty of the crime, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Twice on Friday, the jurors told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill they were having trouble reaching a verdict. The judge urged them to continue deliberating.

“Do not hesitate to re-examine your view,” he said. “You should change your opinion if you are convinced you are wrong.”

The jury continued deliberating until about 6:30 p.m. before being excused for the weekend.

Trial resumes for two brothers charged in burning death of Phoenix, a pit bull

The much-delayed trial for Travers and Tremayne Johnson — two Baltimore  brothers charged with animal cruelty in connection with death of a pit bull named Phoenix — will resume Monday morning.

The opening of the trial was postponed Friday due to courtroom scheduling problems. In addition, one of the suspects, Travers Johnson, who is in custody on unrelated attempted-murder charges, was not transported to court in time, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Pretrial motions will be heard, and jury selection is scheduled to begin, on Monday.

The brothers are accused of dousing a pit bull puppy with gasoline and setting her on fire in 2009. The dog, nicknamed Phoenix by its rescuers, struggled several days to survive, but had to be euthanized when her organs began to fail.

Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill is expected to assemble a larger-than-average pool of potential jurors in hopes of finding some not familar with the case, which received national attention.

According to the Sun, attorneys expect the trial to last between two and six days.

Defense motions have been filed to suppress Travers Johnson’s statement to police, and certain witness identifications. Additional motions raise issues with city surveillance videos, a witness who has expressed a desire to recant, and whether the prosecution can include references to the teens’ tattoos and alleged gang involvement.

The Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), which cared for Phoenix briefly, has asked animal advocates not to attend the trial as space is limited and ”too much representation from the animal community could potentially hurt Phoenix’s case.”

Instead, BARCS suggested supporters wait until after a verdict and, if the brothers are found guilty, that they attend the sentencing hearing.

“If there is a conviction in this case, community participation will be needed and appreciated at the sentencing hearing,” BARCS said in a letter to supporters. “We will notify the community of this hearing if indeed these defendants are found guilty.”

Eckhart found guilty of animal cruelty

A jury has found the former owner of Pennsylvania’s Almost Heaven kennel guilty on several counts of animal cruelty.

Derbe “Skip” Eckhart was cleared on a number of other charges.

The jury, which began deliberating Monday afternoon, returned to the judge’s chamber twice and came back with a partial verdict just before 6 p.m.

Out of 13 total counts, Eckhart was found guilty of only four, WFMZ reported. Two of those were for animal cruelty; two were for license violations.

The jury found him not guilty on four other counts and could not make a decision on five more.

“We respect the jury, but we’re not satisfied,” said Eckhart defense attorney Jeff Conrad, when asked about the verdict. “We wanted a full acquittal.”

Prosecutors said Eckhart neglected hundreds of animals and kept them in deplorable conditions inside his Upper Milford Township, Lehigh County kennel. Eckhart and his attorney claimed the former kennel owner was well-intentioned, but got in over his head, and that televised raids which led to the trial were a ploy by overzealous animal law enforcement officials.

Eckhart’s sentencing is scheduled for May 18.

Trial for ex-owner of Almost Heaven begins

Testimony began yesterday in the trial for Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, accused of animal cruelty and dog law violations at the kennel he operated in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

The first witness, a state dog warden, described conditions at the Almost Heaven Kennel — shut down by authorities last year — as “foul,” according to the Allentown Morning Call.

“I couldn’t breathe. I wish I could give you what I smell in my mind right now. I’ll never forget it. Ever,” Kristin Donmoyer testified, recounting what she saw during an October 2008 raid at the kennel in Upper Milford Township

She said drains inside the kennel were filled with feces and stagnant liquid that could attract pests and promote disease. “This was foul,” Donmoyer testified. “You couldn’t walk past it without gagging.” She said she saw accumulations of feces, soiled and saturated animal bedding, “gunk” covered fencing, rusty pipes, exposed fiberglass and ripped up flooring.

The state Department of Agriculture found the violations to be so egregious, she said, that it revoked Eckhart’s breeding and boarding licenses.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Conrad, in his opening statement Monday, had warned the jury that they would see some excrement in the trial:

”Are you gonna see turds? You betcha,” he said.

”That fella right there is Derbe ‘Skip’ Eckhart,” Conrad said during his opening. ”This fella right here loves dogs, loves critters … The problem with this guy is that Skip can’t say no to any mutt. That guy right there is just dumb enough to take your ugly dog.”

The defense attorney said Eckhart is the innocent victim of officials seeking media attention: ”Those folks at the Department of Agriculture and the SPCA love money and they love headlines,” he said. ”What we have here is a man that loves animals and a government that loves headlines.”

Jury wants 10-year sentence for dogfighter

A jury in Richmond has found Richard E. Robinson guilty and recommended a 10-year prison sentence — the longest prison term in Virginia’s history for a dogfighting conviction.

The jury deliberated two hours yesterday to reach its verdict, only 40 more minutes before coming back with a recommendation of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Robinson, 32, was found guilty of three felonies and one misdemeanor related to a dogfighting operation at his South Richmond home.

Richmond prosecutors and animal-control authorities said they are unaware of any dogfighting sentences in Virginia longer than four years. The 10-year sentence, if upheld by Circuit Court Judge Beverly W. Snukals, would be twice as long as any handed down in the state, and more than five times longer than Michael Vick’s federal sentence. Formal sentencing is scheduled for March 5.

The conviction and sentence recommendation came after prosecutor Alex Taylor introduced evidence from the property where Robinson lived with his mother, including heavy chains that had been tied around the necks of dogs to help them build strength.

One of the chains weighed 52 pounds — more than the dog to whom it was attached. The prosecutors brought the chain to court in a red plastic bucket, and while arguing for a lengthy sentence, Taylor carried the pail over to the jury box and dropped it with a thud.

“This,” he said, “is no way to treat man’s best friend.”

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