Tag: travers johnson
Closing arguments were made today and the jury deliberated for less than an hour before pronouncing the brothers not guilty of a crime that led the city to reexamine and strengthen its animal welfare laws and procedures.
Phoenix — the name the dog was given after her rescue — was euthanized days after she was found, on fire, by a Baltimore police officer.
The first trial for the Johnson brothers ended in a hung jury in February 2011.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein issued the following statement after the verdict:
“While I respect the jury’s decision, I am disappointed we didn’t achieve the outcome that we fought for during two challenging trials. Animal cruelty is a serious crime of violence, and those who commit it too frequently commit subsequent crimes of violence against humans. As we demonstrated in this case, we are dedicated to vigorously prosecuting individuals accused of this appalling offense.”
Defense attorneys for the Johnsons focused their defense on whether police mishandled the investigation and some of the evidence.
Craig Beyler, a fire protection engineer, called to the stand as an expert, testified that police mishandled clothing seized from the Johnsons’ South Baltimore home by mixing two pairs of jeans and a pair of sneakers in one bag. The clothing contained traces of an ignitable substance that could not be identified, but Beyler said it could have been a common chemical used in sneakers that might have transferred from the shoes to the jeans.
Prosecutors’ arguments linking the brothers to the burning centered mainly on a police surveillance video recorded from atop a pole near the crime scene.
No DNA, fingerprints or other forensic evidence connected the suspects to the crime.
A police sergeant identified the brothers in the video, in which two young men can be seen walking the dog minutes before the burning, and running away from the scene afterwards. A bystander, Tiera Goodman, told police soon after the incident she too saw the brothers run from the scene.
But Goodman refused to testify in the retrial. A video of her testimony from the first trial was played instead.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, brothers, burned, burning, cruelty to animals, died, dogs, doused, euthanized, Gregg Bernstein, johnson, killed, not guilty, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, police, retrial, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, verdict
The new trial date is Feb. 1 – nearly a year after the first trial ended with a hung jury.
Shortly before jury selection was to begin today, the trial was rescheduled because some key witnesses were unavailable this week, the Baltimore Sun reported
Prosecutor Jennifer Rallo requested the delay, saying a key witness in the state’s case has had a family emergency and will be unavailable for two weeks, possibly longer.
The twin brothers, after making bail on the animal cruelty charges, were arrested in connection with other crimes and are both in custody.
In the first trial, 11 jurors voted to convict the Johnsons, but one declined to do so.
Phoenix, as she was named after the incident, died days after she was doused with accelerant and set on fire on a Baltimore street.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 21st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, burned, burning, courts, delayed, dog, dogs, fire, pets, phoenix, postponed, retrial, set on fire, toroture, travers and tremayne johnson, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill, who presided over the original trial, scheduled jury selection for Monday.
The original trial of the Travers and Tremayne Johnson on animal cruelty charges in February ended with a hung jury, and since then the case has been scheduled and postponed three times.
The twins are accused of dousing a young female pit bull with accelerant and setting her on fire on a West Baltimore street in May 2009.
A city police officer discovered the dog and put out the flames. Despite the efforts of veterinarians, the dog — dubbed Phoenix by rescue workers – was unable to recover. She was euthanized five days later.
The case made headlines across the country and let to the formation of an anti-animal abuse task force, which has since become a commission.
The Johnsons were first tried on animal cruelty charges in February, but after three days of deliberation, the 11 members voting to convict were unable to convince the lone holdout to cast a guilty vote.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Judge Fletcher-Hill plans to assemble a larger than normal pool of potential jurors because he expects many will have Thanksgiving plans, and others to have already formed strong opinions about the case based on all the publicity surrounding it.
Both brothers were arrested and charged with new crimes while out on bail in the Phoenix case.
Travers is charged with burglary and attempted murder from separate incidents in October of last year. Tremayne was charged with marijuana possession shortly after the first animal cruelty trial ended.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accelerant, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, begins, brothers, burned, court, cruelty to animals, dogs, doused, hung jury, judge, jury selection, lawrence fletcher-hill, new trial, pet, phoenix, pit bull, set on fire, starts, travers and tremayne johnson, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, twins
Now it’s scheduled for Nov. 18, which will be nearly two and a half years after the incident.
Attempts to save the young female pit bull, later named Phoenix, were unsuccessful and she died five days later.
Their first trial ended with a hung jury when jurors could not reach a unanimous decision. One juror believed the evidence presented didn’t prove they were guilty.
Prosecutors filed charges against the brothers again, and the new trial was scheduled for May, then postponed until September.
The case led to the creation of an anti-animal abuse task force by then-mayor Sheila Dixon. That task force has since become a city commission.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, brothers, burned, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, maryland, new trial, pets, phoenix, pit bull, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, twins
Twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson were scheduled to be back in court this morning for a second trial on charges of setting a dog named Phoenix on fire two years ago.
The first trial for the Baltimore brothers ended in a mistrial in February.
The dog was found on fire by a police officer, who used her sweater to put out the flames. Days later, Phoenix died while being treated in Pennsylvania.
The case led to an increased focus on animal abuse in Baltimore and the creation of an Anti-Animal Abuse Taskforce.
In the first trial, a single juror held out against a guilty verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abused, animal cruelty, animal welfare, baltimore, burned, dog, fire, mistrial, new trial, phoenix, pit bull, postponed, postponement, second, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
Will Baltimore twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson be retried on animal cruelty charges in connecton with the setting a pit bull on fire?
A May 4 date has been set aside at the courthouse, but prosecutors, citing a gag order issued by the judge, aren’t saying much more than that.
The trial of the twins charged with setting fire to the dog, who became known as Phoenix, ended in a mistrial Monday.
Deputy State’s Attorney Elizabeth Embry, at a meeting with animal advocates Wednesday, said prosecutors are holding a series of meetings to determine whether to retry the case.
According to the Baltimore Sun, she said the office expects to announce a decision soon.
Jurors deliberated for more than 20 hours over three days, but one juror wasn’t convinced of the brothers’ guilty, making a verdict impossible.
“We want to be very deliberative and are having a series of meetings to discuss the case,” Embry, said at the meeting, noting the gag order. “As soon as the decision is made, which will be shortly … we’ll be making an announcement.”
Posted by jwoestendiek February 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animal welfare, baltimore, burning, courts, crime, dog, doused, fire, gag order, mistrial, new trial, phoenix, pit bull, pitbull, prosecutors, retrial, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
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.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, burned, burning, cruelty, dog, dogs, fire, johnson brothers, jurors, jury, mistrial, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pitbull, torture, travers johnson, treymane johnson, trial, twins, verdict
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.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, brothers, burned, burning, deliberations, dogs, fire, guilty, innocent, jury, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pitbull, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, twins
Closing arguments are expected to conclude Thursday, at which point the jury begins deliberations. The twins, now 19, each face a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.
After testimony from 10 prosecution witnesses, the defense presented only one, WBAL reported – a fire protection engineer who characterized earlier testimony that an accelerant was found on two pairs of jeans a backpack and sneakers taken from the Johnson home as inconclusive and incomplete
The defense witness said tests on the collar of the dog, named Phoenix, were also inconclusive and didn’t detect any particular ignitable substance.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, accelerant, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, baltimore, burned, dog, doused, fire, gasoline, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pitbull, testimony, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
As the case against two brothers accused of setting a pit bull named Phoenix on fire unfolds in a Baltimore courtroom, a cat named Mittens is nursing both her kittens and the wounds she received after being set on fire in the city.
It may not be raining abused cats and dogs, but this — one case entering the public consciousness before the other has a chance to clear it — is how a reputation gets made. And if Baltimore doesn’t do something — something big, something quick — it stands in danger of becoming known not as the city that reads, or even the city that bleeds, but the city that torches, and tortures, its pets.
Whether it deserves that label more than other cities is arguable. It’s also not the point. The point is the torture of animals is a big flashing neon sign, reading ”Address This Issue.” It’s a highly visible symptom of an illness in society that, even though it has been diagnosed, is largely being ignored.
Baltimore has no monopoly on animal torture — and it’s not the only city that’s failing to fully address it. In cities across the country there are pockets of misguided youths who have either failed to develop any compassion, may never have been taught any, or have had it snuffed out of them.
Attacking the problem is something that should be done not just for reasons of image, but, much more importantly, because it has been well documented that children who take pleasure in torturing pets often grow up to inflict harm on fellow humans. Pick a serial killer and you can, almost always, find animal abuse in his past.
If how a society treats its animals is a barometer of how civilized it is, Baltimore needs a massive injection of civility — stat — some large doses of empathy and compassion, best administered during childhood.
The saddest irony of it all is that animals are one of the best ways to administer that, to teach children a respect for all living things. Instead, dogs and cats, who we have so much to learn from about life, love and happiness, time and again in Baltimore are serving as the victims for those seeking sick thrills or acting out their inner hostilities.
Mittens, according to officials at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS), was placed into a milk crate by a juvenile who doused both the cat and the crate with lighter fluid, struck a match and threw it into the crate.
In flames, the cat broke free from the milk crate and ran from the yard, running in circles until the fire was extinguished, BARCS said. She then returned to the kittens she had recently given birth to at a home on Saint Ambrose Street. (St. Ambrose, for some more irony, is considered the patron saint of domestic animals.)
That incident came to light after the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing Phoenix, a pit bull, with accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.
On Friday, Baltimore city police detective Syreeta Teel tearfully described finding the pit bull on fire on a West Baltimore street and running from her squad car to smother the flames with a sweater.
Despite her quick and heartfelt response, one thing that’s becoming evident during the trial is that the police department doesn’t take torturing and killing animals as seriously as some other crimes.
Teel, according to testimony, left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk. The scene was never secured, and the police crime lab was never called. “The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this,” said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents one of the brothers.
The death of Phoenix drew national attention, leading to thousands of dollars in donations to a reward fund and the creation of a city-wide Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, which issued a report last year that found numerous flaws in the city’s response — particularly that of law enforcement — to incidents of animal abuse.
According to a Baltimore Sun report, the prosecution’s evidence is limited in the Phoenix case, and relies largely on unclear surveillance video and the word of witnesses — including a woman who the defense says came forward once the reward topped $25,000.
Phoenix was burned over more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, and the inside of her mouth was scorched. She’d lost her footpads to the flames, but she kept fighting until, with her kidneys failing, she was put to sleep five days later.
“On a scale of one to 10,” her pain level was “10,” said a Pennsylvania veterinarian who treated her. Phoenix also had puncture wounds on her neck and leg, indicating she might have been in dog fights, but throughout her treatment she showed no aggression.
The Johnson brothers both were initially charged in juvenile court, but were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Testimony is expected to continue this morning.
Animal advocates in Baltimore are watching the case closely, and hoping that, if found guilty, the twins receive the most severe punishment posible.
But as the weekend’s developments show, as Mittens reminds us, a strict sentence is not the entire solution. It’s reactive, and while it may send a needed message, the city needs to do more, in a proactive way. Investigating, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning animal abusers all need to be done, and done properly, and taken seriously, but what’s even more vital is preventing it from happening in the first place.
Our favorite reader comment: ”Kindness and concern for animals is going to have to be taught in elementary school. It’s the only way to stop this problem in its tracks.”
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Posted by jwoestendiek January 31st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abusers, animal, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, cat, cats, children, compassion, cruelty to animals, dogs, fire, image, juveniles, law enforcement, mittens, pets, phoenix, pit bull, prevention, prosecution, punishment, set on fire, task force, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial, youth