County Prosecutor in MS Drops the Ball on Dogfighting Case
December 17, 2011
On September 26, 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Adams Co, MS responded to a tip about dogfighting. At the scene, they found 5 chained Pitbulls with injuries, blood on the leaves on the ground, a bloody breakstick and medications for treating dog wounds. Photographs of the injuries and of the scene were taken for evidence. The dogs were removed from the scene by members of the county humane society to a local vet clinic. One of the dogs had his face partially ripped off and another dog’s tooth embedded in his gum. The embedded tooth caused a systemic infection which lead to organ failure and the dog was euthanized. (Warning: There is a photo of this dog’s face at the link.) The remaining dogs were left at the clinic for treatment and boarding to the tune of a $3000 vet bill.
Shortly thereafter, two area men were arrested and charged with felony dogfighting. One of the men reportedly admitted he was the owner of the dogs.
A preliminary hearing was held for the men yesterday. The county prosecutor subpoenaed two sheriff’s deputies to testify as to what they saw at the scene of the suspected dogfight. Nobody told the sheriff about the hearing. Nobody told the humane society staffers about the hearing either so they did not testify as to what they witnessed nor were they able to present the veterinary records on the dogs. One of the deputies said he thought he had told the prosecutor there were evidence photos in the case file but the prosecutor said he didn’t know about any photos so none were presented to the judge. The man who had previously confessed to owning the dogs apparently changed his wording at the hearing to characterizing them as hunting dogs.
In the absence of physical evidence, the judge dismissed the case. She ruled that there was no probable cause that dogfighting had occurred at the scene or that the suspects had committed the crime. She also said that the deputy’s description of the dogs’ injuries was just his layman’s opinion.
It sounds to me as if the prosecutor invested minimal, if any, effort in this case. By failing to contact all the relevant witnesses, secure expert veterinary testimony, and inquire to the sheriff about all available evidence obtained at the scene, the prosecutor had this case stumbling at the starting gate. I hope he gets his act together and seeks justice for the victims of this sad crime. There is a glimmer of hope:
The case can still be presented to the grand jury for review, and District Attorney Ronnie Harper said he met with the sheriff and is reviewing any action, if any, he can take in the case.
I’d like to think the DA has taken the county prosecutor to the woodshed on this and that we’ll see the case move forward with a grand jury presentment soon.