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River Views

Last week’s column provided background to the case of a homeless man accused of injuring his dog, Frankie.

On August 19th the defendant woke at the Hare Creek beach, south of Fort Bragg. He admitted spending much of the morning drinking. In the early afternoon the defendant leashed Frankie, who he’s had since Frankie was a pup. The defendant had previously owned/cared for Frankie’s mother, Daisy. The “leash” was made up of two used leashes fastened together along with several feet of rope.

The defendant tied the leash to the right handle bar of his bicycle. This allowed Frankie more freedom, the defendant claimed, when trotting along behind the bicycle. That Sunday, however, the defendant pushed the bike due to an injury to his left elbow.

The defendant and Frankie walked north to the intersection of Highway One and the street leading to the Boatyard Shopping Center. A woman in a car, waiting for the light in the left turn lane of southbound Highway One, claimed the defendant cursed Frankie then jerked violently on the leash. She hollered, “You shouldn’t have a dog if you can’t take care of it.”

On the witness stand the defendant admitted to shouting back epithets that included an oft used hyphenated profanity and another only anatomically and semantically appropriate for Frankie’s mother. The Assistant District Attorney omitted, but the Public Defender let the jury know, that the woman answered back, “Have fun with the police.”

Indeed, a Fort Bragg police officer was summoned and the defendant arrested. The woman told the officer the defendant had struck Frankie with the bicycle. The defendant denied this under oath, and no conclusive evidence was presented to prove that Frankie sustained an injury. Clear photographic evidence did display the sad state of Frankie’s paws. The defendant explained that he’d traveled with Frankie to Aberdeen, Washington last February to get a prescription from a veterinarian for antibiotics to treat Frankie’s paws. Only in the month leading up to the August incident had the paws worn down again.

The standard of guilt for Penal Code 597(a) is intentionally wounding an animal. In summation, the public defender recounted his own recent experience of tossing a pet cat that had bit him. That happened inside a private residence, but the homeless defendant lives much of his life in plain view. The Public Defender reiterated the standard for guilt in this case, concluding that on August 19th the defendant did nothing intentionally to wound Frankie and that the ADA had presented no clear evidence of any injuries sustained on that day. The ADA’s rebuttal summation rested on the deplorable condition of Frankie’s paws.

The clock approached noon. The judged recessed everyone until after lunch. The jury retired to deliberate shortly after 1pm. Two and a half hours later they returned with a verdict of not guilty.

The defendant wiped tears from his eyes. Exiting the courtroom several jurors shook hands with him. Some said, “I hope you get your dog back.”

In the lobby, one of two spectators who’d remained to the end approached the jury foreman. She enumerated the injuries she’d observed on Daisy after she gained custody of Frankie’s mother. The woman, founder of “Daisy Davis Pit Bull Rescue,” insisted the wounds to Frankie’s paws could not be caused simply by mange as the defense implied in court. The foreman listened awhile then excused himself.

A few days later the defendant and Frankie could be seen near McDonald’s. The defendant said that Frankie still crawls into his sleeping bag at night, curling up under his armpit.

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