California

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Titlesort ascending Summary
People v. Tom Defendant stabbed, beat, strangled, and then attempted to burn the dead body of his girlfriend's parent's 12-pound dog. Police arrived on the scene as defendant was trying to light the dead dog on fire that he had placed inside a barbeque grill. Defendant was convicted of two counts of animal cruelty contrary to Pen. Code, § 597, subds. (a) and (b), as well as other counts of attempted arson and resisting an officer. While defendant does not dispute these events underlying his conviction, he contends that he cannot be convicted of subsections (a) and (b) of Section 597 for the same course of conduct. On appeal, the court considered this challenge as a matter of first impression. Both parties agreed that subsection (a) applies to intentional acts and subsection (b) applies to criminally negligent actions. Subsection (b) contains a phrase that no other court has examined for Section 597: “Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) . . .” Relying on interpretations of similar phrasing in other cases, this court found that the plain language of section 597, subdivision (b) precludes convictions for violating subdivisions (a) and (b) based on the same conduct. The court was unconvinced by the prosecutor's arguments on appeal that the two convictions arose from separate conduct in this case. However, as to sentencing, the court found that defendant's subsequent attempt to burn the dog's body involved a different objective than defendant's act in intentionally killing the dog. These were "multiple and divisible acts with distinct objectives" such that it did not violate section 645 or due process in sentencing him for both. The court held that defendant's conviction for violating section 597, subdivision (b) (count two) was reversed and his modified judgment affirmed.
People v. Spence


In this California case, a jury convicted James Spence of two counts of sexual offenses against a child 10 years old or younger (his housemate's daughter). He was sentenced to a total term of 55 years to life. Among other issues on appeal, Spence argues the court erred by allowing a therapy dog or support canine to be present at the child's feet while she testified, and contends this was “overkill” with the additional support person present on the witness stand. Section 868.5 of the Evidence Code allows up to two support persons during testimony. The court found that the dog was not a "person" for purposes of the code. The trial judge's decision to allow the dog was discretionary. The jury was given instructions to base its decision solely on the evidence presented at trial and not on any sympathies. Further, the court found even if more specific express findings of necessity would have been proper prior to allowing both the dog and support person on the the witness stand, any error was harmless.

People v. Speegle


The prosecution initially charged defendant with 27 counts of felony animal cruelty (Pen. Code, § 597, subd. (b)) and 228 counts of misdemeanor animal neglect (Pen. Code, § 597f, subd. (a)). Ultimately, the jury convicted her of eight counts of felony animal cruelty, making the specific finding that she subjected the animals to unnecessary suffering (Pen. Code, § 599b), and one count of misdemeanor animal neglect. Following a hearing, the court ordered her to reimburse the costs of impounding her animals in the amount of $265,000. The Court of Appeal reversed the misdemeanor conviction for instructional error and otherwise affirmed. The court held that the prohibitions against depriving an animal of “necessary” sustenance, drink, or shelter; subjecting an animal to “needless suffering”; or failing to provide an animal with “proper” food or drink (Pen. Code, § 597, subd. (b)) are not unconstitutionally vague. The court also held that the confiscation of defendant's animals for treatment and placement, and the filing of a criminal complaint afterward, did not amount to an effort to punish her twice for the same conduct in violation of double jeopardy principles.

People v. Schneider


Defendant's dogs escaped from Defendant's yard and attacked and killed a six-year-old boy.  The trial court convicted Defendant of owning a mischievous animal that causes death and involuntary manslaughter.  The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the trial court's conviction for owning a mischievous animal that causes death due to erroneous jury instructions. 

People v. Sanchez


Defendant on appeal challenges six counts of animal cruelty. The court affirmed five counts which were based on a continuing course of conduct and reversed one count that was based upon evidence of two discrete criminal events.

People v. McCree



Defendant was convicted, after a jury trial, of eight counts of possession and training of a


fighting dog and two counts of causing a dogfight


for gain. Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeal, held that: (1) prosecutor's cross-examination of defense witness was proper; (2) prosecutor's closing arguments were proper; and (3) evidence supported the convictions.


Affirmed.



People v. Maikhio


Defendant was charged with possession of a spiny lobster during closed season and failure to exhibit his catch as required by a statute. The Supreme Court held that the statute authorizes a warden to demand that a person who is or has recently been fishing or hunting to display his catch; the Fourth Amendment does not preclude a warden from briefly stopping a person. The warden's knowledge that the defendant lied in claiming he had caught nothing established probable cause to search his vehicle. By denying that he had caught anything, defendant failed to display his catch upon demand.

People v. Flores


Defendants were tried for allegedly invading an eighty-year-old woman's home and stealing, at gun point, and holding ransom eight seven-week-old puppies and two adult female Yorkshire terriers which she bred for the American Kennel Club for about $3,000 each.  The jury held the defendants responsible for 18 counts of various crimes, including robbery, grand theft dog, elder abuse, conspiracy and cruelty to animals, inter alia.  The appellate court reversed the counts of grand theft dog which were improperly based on the same conduct as the robbery conviction, reduced the sentence on the counts for abuse of an elder, and otherwise found no additional errors. 

People v. Flores


Defendant Flores appeals his conviction under Penal Code section 399 for allowing a " mischievous animal" owned by him to cause serious injury to another person. In this case, defendant's pit bull dog, "Blue,"attacked defendant's almost 90-year old neighbor on his own property causing deep injuries to his leg. Blue had been previously involved in three other incidents where he either tried to attack other dogs or acted aggressively toward other humans. As a result of these incidents, Sonoma County officials issued defendant a issued a potentially dangerous animal warning. On appeal, defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence that he acted without ordinary care in keeping his dog and that the victim-neighbor did not suffer a serious injury as defined by statute. The court found both of these arguments without merit. While defendant suggested that he acted with "ordinary care" by keeping the dog tethered and chained outside on the day of the incident, the court found the evidence showed Blue had broken free in the past and had "massive strength." Further, even though the potentially dangerous dog designation by the county did not mandate that Blue be kept inside or in a secure enclosure, the ordinance language provides this requirement. Leaving a dog with a history of unprovoked attacks chained next to a public sidewalk in a residential neighborhood supported the jury's conclusion that defendant did not act as reasonably careful person would in the same situation. As to the serious bodily injury claim, the court noted that although the law does not define the term, there was substantial medical evidence to support the jury's determination. Affirmed.

People v. Chung


Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence in an animal cruelty case. Defendant claimed officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they entered his residence without a warrant or consent to aid a dog in distress. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement applied because officers reasonably believed immediate entry was necessary to aid a dog that was being mistreated.

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