Skip to comments.Mistrial declared in Galveston cat-killing case
Posted on 11/16/2007 1:50:10 PM PST by BradtotheBone
GALVESTON After 8 1/2 hours of deliberation over two days, jurors today said they were hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of well-known bird watcher Jim Stevenson on animal cruelty charges for the killing of a feral cat.
Galveston County District Judge Frank Carmona declared a mistrial after the four men and eight women on the jury sent out a note saying they could not change their votes without violating their consciences.
Eight jurors voted to convict and four held out for acquittal in an at times heated atmosphere, according to juror Donald Cook, 42, a network administrator from League City.
Stevenson, 54, the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society, said the divide among jurors was similar to the divide between cat and bird fanciers on feral cats who prey on birds.
"I think it reflects the attitude of America on the cat issue," he said."People need to come together and work out a solution."
Stevens said he killed the cat in order to protect endangered birds.
Galveston County Assistant District Attorney Paige Santell said the decision on whether to retry Stevenson would be made by District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk.
"Sometimes you have to try tough cases," Santell said. "I'm proud this case sparked a change in the law," referring to a revised state animal cruelty law protecting feral cats and stray dogs that took effect Sept. 1.
Stevenson's attorney, Tad Nelson, said his client should never have been charged under the felony law, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The proper charge would have been a misdemeanor, such as discharge of a firearm or disorderly conduct, Nelson said.
"Jim Stevenson has never wanted to kill or harm cats," Nelson said.
Stevens is accused of using a .22-caliber scoped rifle and a hollow-point bullet to kill a cat cared for by toll-booth employee John Newland on Nov. 8, 2006.
The prosecution tried Stevenson under the old animal cruelty law in effect at the time of the shooting, which did not protect feral cats.
To convict Stevenson, Santell had to show that the cat had legally become Newland's property by virtue of his giving care and food. The prosecution also had to show that Stevenson knew, or should have known that Newland was caring for the cat.
Cook said the strong disagreement among jurors emerged soon after the jury convened late Thursday morning.
"We got very emotional at times," Cook said. "At times it got very heated."
Jurors divided over whether the cat was protected under the law, Cook said.
He said the jurors who wanted to acquit Stevenson were worried that the sentence would be too severe for the crime. "They were worried about are they going to ruin this guy's life," he said.
During two days of testimony, the prosecution painted Stevens as unconcerned about the cat's suffering or whether it was cared for by Newland.
The defense portrayed Stevenson as an animal lover, the victim of overzealous prosecutors, and unaware that Newland was caring for the cat.
Evidence showed that Newland placed bedding, toys dangling from string and trays of food under the San Luis Pass Bridge for numerous stray cats, including the cat slain by Stevenson.
The prosecution argued that Stevenson should have known that Newland was caring for the cats. Nelson argued that the food could not be seen from where Stevenson fired the shot.
The bullet severed the cat's spine, according to testimony, and the cat died while being transported for veterinary care by a police officer, who testified that the cat appeared to be suffering.
Newland heard the shot and called police, then chased Stevenson's white van with Galveston Ornithological Society emblazoned its side. Newland's vehicle slammed into the rear of Stevenson's van at one point, the officer said.
The rifle and seven hollow-point bullets were confiscated from Stevenson's van.
cats doing what they’re programmed to do bump.
Sounds like vehicular assault to me.
Uhh. Then why did he shoot one? Shooting a living thing generally harms it.
Domestic cats should be under control of their owners at all times. When they roam around places destroying things outside their owners domain, then the situation changes sharply, and the rules should favor the property owner.
Feral cats on the other hand should never be thought of emotionally the same as house cats. Feral cats are some of the most destructive and brutal killers there is among other small domestic animals and wildlife.
I have no sympathy for these feral animals, nor should anyone else who cares about native wildlife.
At one time, we had an irresponsible neighbor that allowed some feral cats to breed in his born. At it's worse, there were beds of feathers all over my yard from these beasts killing the birds while they fed at the feeders.
Yadda yadda yadda, they aren't around anymore, and we have gobs of titmouse, finches, doves, hummingbirds, etc in our yard.
This jackass sounds like the self centered bastards who trespass on my home, swearing their rights override everyone else’s, because they want to photograph some rare bird that happens to be in one of my trees. They insist the laws don’t apply to them, because they’re “environmentalists.”
Grill a dozen plovers and deposit the heads and guts in the mailbox of this Audubon jackass.
“I have no sympathy for these feral animals, nor should anyone else who cares about native wildlife.”
I agree. Feral mountain lions and cougars should be shot on sight. Along with feral wolves and coyotes.
I should have said “feral cats” I guess.
We live in mountain country and have small livestock namely chickens, ducks and geese. People from the city come over here and dump their cats who go feral .... we shoot them when they come on our property .... so is that animal cruelty? It would be if we maimed or tortured them .....
“Domestic cats should be under control of their owners at all times. When they roam around places destroying things outside their owners domain, then the situation changes sharply, and the rules should favor the property owner.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, many cat lovers allow their emotion to cloud their judgement and view domesticated pets in the same category as strays & ferals.
Overkill? I think not.
PS: The guy was dead serious about killing a cat, not scaring it away.
Killing a cat isn’t ‘cruelty’ by itself. Killing it in a way *intended* to maximize suffering is cruelty. It’s about intent. Shooting it with a .22 is not inherently cruel at all but in fact a reasonably humane method to kill a small animal. That it apparently not an instant kill shot is unfortunate but it doesn’t rise to cruelty.
Case should be dismissed.
So because the guy was an official member of the bird club, that gives him the right to fire at will? Prosecute this Adam Henry!
“People from the city come over here and dump their cats who go feral .... we shoot them when they come on our property...”
I completely agree with you. When we lived in the California backcountry, city idiots would dump their dogs, which naturally, formed packs.
I had to carry a 12 gauge and sidearm when out for a walk. I don’t know how many dogs I shot. They would pack up at the manzinitas on the edge of the property and growl. I’d need to fire off rounds to scatter them so I could take a leak.
City morons don’t realize that gentle and sweet Fido becomes a killer pack animal without human control.
I rescued a few dogs that broke out of the pack after they were near starvation and took them to the animal shelter in town.
Quite simply, people, don’t dump your pets into the bush. People live there with their families. They pose a threat to private property and especially young children.
Well, what if I'm a member of a cat club? Can I hold a Cat-Vs-Parakeet cage match? Seeing how Michael Vick got busted for dogfighting, I think the problem is same-species. If you go cat-vs-bird, it should be OK. The judge says birdwatcher-vs-cat is OK, right?
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