The two men charged with the dog killings in Wellsford have now appeared in court. It was pretty much a standard appearance to enter a plea, and they won’t be back in court for a few more weeks, when a pre-commital hearing will take place. The surprising piece of information coming out from this appearance was that the two defendants have elected a trial by jury. Had anyone asked beforehand, I would have bet heavily that they would have gone for trial by judge alone. Seems to me that their only chance of success in this case is showing that the dogs didn’t suffer sufficiently during the killing spree, and were killed quickly. As hard as that sounds to believe, it would have a better chance of success before a judge, who would have a strong understanding of the prosecution’s burden of proof, and would be less likely to be swayed by the emotions of the situation. I struggle to believe a jury will care about technicalities in light of the number of dead dogs, the “massacre-like” nature of the killings, and the sheer craziness of it all.
The defence’s most likely strategy is to put the dog owner on trial, suggesting that he had too many dogs, that their own dog was killed by his, and that he consented to the killing and is the real person to blame. They may well be able to weaken his credibility as a witness, and perhaps sway a few jury members who worry about dangerous dogs. As I’ve indicated in prior posts, Mr. Hargreaves is no choir boy, and has a lot to answer for himself – but I still don’t see how attacking him buys an acquittal.
This case should be won or lost on the basis of the scientific evidence, and the SPCA’s ability to show that the dogs suffered. Regardless of the reasons for the killing, it was done in a manner that the SPCA should be able to show was detestable, and the owner’s actions will not be enough to legally absolve the defendants of responsibilty for what happened. Still, with a jury involved, it should be a rousing trial, and an interesting one to follow.