The Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday reversed a teenager’s adjudications for cruelty to an animal after finding the evidence was not sufficient to prove he mutilated or tortured either cow he shot.
Seventeen-year-old A.J.R. and his 14-year-old friend C.C. were in LaPorte County coyote hunting with C.C.’s semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle. When they came upon a pasture of cattle, A.J.R. took C.C.’s rifle, leaned out of the driver’s side window of his car, and fired two shots into the herd of cattle. C.C. fired at cattle at another pasture.
The cattle’s owner discovered two of his cows lying on the ground. One had a wound in its head, the other had no visible wound but was moaning and unresponsive. Both died within 30 minutes of the shooting.
Police interviewed the teens, during which A.J.R. admitting to driving the car when the cows were shot after C.C. implicated A.J.R. in the shootings. A.J.R. was adjudicated as a delinquent for committing what would be two counts of cruelty to an animal, two counts of criminal mischief, and aiding, inducing or causing criminal mischief, if committed by an adult.
In A.J.R. v. State of Indiana, 46A03-1306-JV-243, the appellate judges found there was sufficient evidence that A.J.R. shot and killed two of the cattle, including testimony of sheriff’s deputy Troy Ryan, who investigated the area where the two shootings occurred. Thus, they affirmed his adjudications for criminal mischief.
But the judges reversed the adjudications for cruelty to animals because there’s no evidence the teen intended to torture or mutilate the cows. There’s no evidence that A.J.R. shot either of the cows with the intent of increasing or prolonging the animals’ pain, as is required for conviction of this crime by the statute. Nor is there evidence that he targeted either cow in a way that would result in serious disfigurement, protracted impairment of a body part or organ, or a fracture, Judge Margret Robb wrote, which again is required by statute.
The judges also affirmed the admission of Ryan’s skilled witness testimony, ruling it did not violate A.J.R.’s right to a fair fact-finding hearing.