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COA addresses evidence needed for animal fighting conviction

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For only the second time, the Indiana Court of Appeals has addressed the issue of evidence used to obtain a conviction under I.C. 35-46-3-8, which outlaws buying or owning an animal for an animal fighting contest.

In Rahsaan A. Johnson v. State of Indiana, 18A02-1304-CR-343, Rahsaan Johnson appealed convictions of 14 counts of Class D felony possession of animals for fighting contests.  Muncie Animal Shelter officials went to an abandoned trailer on reports of dogs barking from inside. The shelter’s superintendent called police after observing animals chained up in deplorable conditions. After obtaining a warrant, police discovered a total of 25 animals on the property, often stacked in dog cages crammed inside the mobile home. The animals had injuries consistent with dog fighting, and officers found paraphernalia often used in dog fighting training, such as weighted collars, medicine and treadmills.

Of the 25 dogs, 13 were adopted out and 12 were euthanized for either medical or temperament reasons.

Johnson faced 26 charges as a result of the search, but was convicted of the 14 Class D felonies and seven Class A misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. He received an aggregate sentence of four years in the Department of Correction.

He challenged the evidence used to convict him and argued his convictions violated double jeopardy.

The judges noted caselaw is scant in interpreting I.C. 35-46-3-8, so they relied on Clemons v. State, 987 N.E.2d 92, 95 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), the only appellate decision to date concerning the sufficiency of evidence used to convict someone under this statute. Clemons was convicted of possessing “battle cocks” for fighting purposes.

“Contrary to Johnson’s argument that the dogs’ fighting history cannot be indicative of their future purpose, the Clemons court found the evidence that the roosters had been used to fight in the past, combined with the fighting paraphernalia, was sufficient to uphold Clemons’ conviction. We find the same rationale applies in Johnson’s case,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

Johnson claimed that he was housing the animals and training them to enter weight-pulling competitions, which are legal. He also argued some of the animals were kept solely for breeding purposes or companionship.

“We do not dispute Johnson’s assertion that ‘millions of Hoosiers own animals, and the vast majority of them would never dream of using them in an animal fighting contest,’” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “It is clear from the evidence, however, that Johnson is not included among this majority of Hoosiers. Accordingly, we find that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to determine that Johnson possessed these fourteen pit bulls for the purpose of animal fighting. Fortunately for Johnson, the Indiana Department of Correction will not subject him to the inhumane conditions that he forced upon those twenty-five dogs.”

The judges also found his convictions do not violate the double jeopardy clause of the Indiana Constitution.
 

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  1. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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