Commerce City Police officer Robert Price was acquitted by a jury this week, a decision that has angered animal rights activists across the country. As afar away as Greenville, SC, people expressed outrage. Prosecutors argued that the dog was submissive and frightened, two characteristics in a dog's behavior that can allegedly lead tot he animal lashing out aggressively.
The defense argued that the dog was sufficiently contained by an officer who had successfully restrained the dog with a catch pole, and that Officer Price's subsequent shooting of the animal was unnecessary. These events were all caught on video and were viewed by the jury, which made animal advocates feel that it was an open-and-shut case that should have closed in favor of the dogma pit bull mix named Chloe.
Judge Tom Ensor of the Adams County Court presided over the three-day trial.
"When the jury came back with a “not guilty” verdict, many people asked, “how could they?” Didn’t they see the video? In my opinion, the reason for the verdict may be as simple as one little jury instruction on a defense called choice of evils. This instruction was finalized by the parties this morning, and Judge Ensor determined that the evidence did not support a self defense or defense of others instruction, but in his opinion did merit a choice of evils instruction," wrote defense Attorney Juliet Piccone of the Piccone Law Firm, LLC, based in nearby Aurora, CO. The statement was posted on the law firm's blog, where Piconne summarizes the trial in detail.
Attorney Piccone, who specializes in part in animal law, went on to say that under the criteria for analyzing Officer Price’s actions as criminal, it would have been difficult for the jury to convict him of animal cruelty. In her analysis, the issue boiled down to a criteria that resulted in the jury decided Price’s actions reflected the lesser among evils.
“I respect the jury and I think they had a very difficult job. I really don’t see how they could have convicted him given this choice of evils defense,” Piccone said.
In her writing about the verdict, Piccone challenges the reader to decide, if one sees a dog running at large, should the police be called, or would leaving well-enough alone be the lesser of two evils.
Piccone is also actively involved with a case in the small southern Colorado town of Sugar City, where three dogs may be sentenced to death by local authorities who are presiding over the case. Her law firm is currently seeking to raise funds for the dogs’ defense.