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Thread: Texas Birdwatcher on Trial for Killing Cat

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    Texas Birdwatcher on Trial for Killing Cat

    By KATE MURPHY,
    The New York Times
    Posted: 2007-11-14 11:57:14
    Filed Under: Crime News, Law News, Nation News

    GALVESTON, Tex. (Nov. 13) — Jurors heard opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of a bird-watching enthusiast who fatally shot a cat that he said was stalking endangered shorebirds.

    James M. Stevenson says he was protecting piping plovers.

    The defendant, James M. Stevenson, is the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and leads bird-watching tours on this Gulf Coast island 60 miles southeast of Houston. If convicted on animal cruelty charges in the shooting last November, he faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

    Mr. Stevenson, 54, does not deny using a .22-caliber rifle fitted with a scope to kill the cat, which lived under the San Luis Pass toll bridge, linking Galveston to the mainland. He also admits killing many other cats on his own property, where he operates a bed and breakfast for some of the estimated 500,000 birders who come to the island every year.

    In her opening statement, Paige L. Santell, a Galveston County assistant district attorney, told the jury of eight women and four men that Mr. Stevenson “shot that animal in cold blood” and that the cat died a slow and painful death “gurgling on its own blood.”

    She said that the cat had a name, Mama Cat, and that though the cat lived under a toll bridge, she was fed and cared for by a toll collector, John Newland. He is expected to testify.

    Whether the cat was feral is the crucial point in this case. Mr. Stevenson was indicted under a state law that prohibited killing a cat “belonging to another.” Prompted by this case, the law was changed on Sept. 1 to include all cats, regardless of ownership.

    Ms. Santell argued that because Mr. Newland had named, fed and given the cat bedding and toys, the cat belonged to him and was not feral.

    Mr. Stevenson’s lawyer, Tad Nelson, admitted in his opening statement that his client went to the San Luis Pass toll bridge with “an intent to kill.” but that he had planned to kill a wild animal that was preying on endangered piping plovers. “This man has dedicated his whole life to birds,” Mr. Nelson said, pointing at Mr. Stevenson.

    The case has prompted emotional commentary on the Internet. Cat enthusiast blogs have called Mr. Stevenson a “murderous fascist” and a “diabolical monster.” Birding blogs have defended his right to dispense with a “terrible menace” and have set up funds to help pay for his defense.

    In an interview in a courthouse elevator during a break in the trial, Mr. Stevenson said heatedly that cat fanciers who have condemned him and sent him hateful correspondence “think birds are nothing but sticks.” “This is about wild species disappearing from your planet,” he said, adding, “I did what I had to do.”

    Testimony followed from police officers and the veterinarian who performed the autopsy on Mama Cat, a white and gray tabby mix. The jurors were shown several photographs of the bloodied cat, reminiscent of an episode of “CSI: Miami.”

    Pictures of the crime scene showed trays of cat food, blankets and cat toys hanging from strings under the bridge. The .22-caliber rifle Mr. Stevenson used to kill the cat along with his magazine full of Remington hollow-point bullets were also on display.

    The prosecution and defense wrangled repeatedly about whether witnesses could accurately assess the cat’s state of mind.

    “He’s not qualified to know what the cat was feeling,” said Mr. Nelson, when a police officer, John P. Bertolino Sr., testified that the cat was in terrible pain when he arrived at the crime scene. The cat died en route to a Humane Society facility.

    The trial, which is expected to take a week, had few spectators save a handful of bird lovers and cat lovers who sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. One side nodded emphatically at Ms. Santell’s arguments, and the other nodded whenever Mr. Nelson objected.

    “How people feel about the trial depends on who you talk to,” said Victor Lang, a local historian, adding that bird-watchers and cat fanciers obviously had the strongest views.

    Though others may argue passionately about whether Mr. Stevenson should be punished, Mr. Lang said he did not have strong feelings about the case.

    “But you see, I’m a dog person,” he said. “If he had shot a dog, then I’d be more upset.”


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    Crazy. Even more crazy that its happening in Texas. Crazier still is that the police officer who arrived (at the scene of the crime???) didn't just shoot the cat in the head upon arriving to put it out of its misery.

    Moral of the story: the next time you dispatch a cat, shoot it with a 12-gauge. Twice.

    :shock:

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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    Crazy. Even more crazy that its happening in Texas. Crazier still is that the police officer who arrived (at the scene of the crime???) didn't just shoot the cat in the head upon arriving to put it out of its misery.

    Moral of the story: the next time you dispatch a cat, shoot it with a 12-gauge. Twice.

    :shock:
    One would think that those evil, cop-killing hollow-points would have done the job, but I guess not.

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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    Crazy. Even more crazy that its happening in Texas. Crazier still is that the police officer who arrived (at the scene of the crime???) didn't just shoot the cat in the head upon arriving to put it out of its misery.

    Moral of the story: the next time you dispatch a cat, shoot it with a 12-gauge. Twice.

    :shock:
    AMEN, BROTHER!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Good thing for me that these kitty-huggers were not around back in the day when,as a boy,I used to assist His Lordship's head gamekeeper to protect his young pheasants from vermin! Cats, feral or otherwise, figured high on the list of the enemies of gamebirds, and were despatched with great enthusiasm! Shotguns were indeed the weapons of choice, and any cat within gunshot of the rearing field was dicing with death!

    Truly a shame to see this birdy guy being pilloried over a tuppenny-assed cat, and in the Lone Star State, of all places! Crockett, Travis and Bowie must be spinning like dervishes in their graves!

    TrueBrit.

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    Perhaps the most correct gun for dispatching pests of the feline variety is a Calico Liberty?



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    If the guy had to use a scope, how does anyone know it actually gurgulled its own blood?

    I don't believe the cat belonged to this guy, and if it did, and the jury finds that, the "cat killer" should press charges that his animal was not up to date on shots and neglect. Obviously it would be neglectful to your cat to let it live underneath a bridge.

    Overall, this is ridiculous, this guy in the toll booth needs to get a girlfriend, a life, another cat, something. Yes, we can't have people just shooting animals, birds, cats otherwise, just because they don't like them. But this seems a little drawn out...

    If he shot someone trying to get into texas from mexico he wouldn't catch as much heat as this.

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    imperialism2024 wrote:
    Perhaps the most correct gun for dispatching pests of the feline variety is a Calico Liberty?

    I thought perhaps a Pussi Roma, whoops, Rossi Puma!You win!

    I had best hush, or folks might think that I am none too fond of cats!

    TrueBrit.

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    VApatriot wrote:
    imperialism2024 wrote:
    Crazy. Even more crazy that its happening in Texas. Crazier still is that the police officer who arrived (at the scene of the crime???) didn't just shoot the cat in the head upon arriving to put it out of its misery.

    Moral of the story: the next time you dispatch a cat, shoot it with a 12-gauge. Twice.

    :shock:
    One would think that those evil, cop-killing hollow-points would have done the job, but I guess not.
    I can't say I ever thought of Black Talons as anti-vermin rounds until today.

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    Obviously it would be neglectful to your cat to let it live underneath a bridge.

    No more than any other 'outside' cat. While I agree that partsof the case are overblown, the fact is that what the guy did was both contemptable (although obviously not quite to the same degree that some people seem to be taking it), and illegal. At the very least it can be argued that the cat belonged to the toll guy, which would clearly involve private property violations on the part of the bird guy. Also, most states have laws against arbitrary violence agaisnt animals, but I'm not sure about Texas so it might not apply in this case.

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    In WA animal cruelty is now a felony. This guy would be charged with such here.

    I wouldn't call myself a "cat lover", but I do enjoy the company of a feline from time to time. I can't think of a reason to shoot one except to put it out of it's misery if it is injured and suffering and already too far gone to save. What this guy did is pretty sick.

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    I am a fan of killing feral cats on sight. they are extremely destructive of wild bird populations, and other critters.

    This cat does not seem to fita reasonable definitionof feral.

    OTOH, it seems like the trial is a waste of time and money.

    I am curious how the cops figured out who done it. Shoot, shovel, and forget.

    he faces up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine
    two years for killing a stray cat??????? You can kill another human being and not get two years.

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    Didn't think there would be any support of the court's actions... :shock:

    Regardless, the only thing the guy did wrong, that I could see, is not use a large enough caliber. The cat was a wild animal, just like the deer and birds that are hunted across the country every year. To carry it to an even more ridiculous extent, where apparently animals (but only "cute" animals) are being given a good part of the value of a human life, the gentleman in question was acting in defense of another: it would be like shooting a guy strapped with explosives who walks into a mall. Is a cat's life worth more than a shorebird's? Ai.

    Not to mention that the gentleman who shot the cat was not intending to cause undue suffering to the cat. He was... trying to kill the cat.

    This actually may be the beginnings of a string of landmark cases in this sick, twisted notion that animals' lives approach the value of human lives. Does this mean that I can't shoot the skunk that's digging up my yard because some neighbor left food out for it? "Ridiculous" doesn't even begin to describe it.

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    ilbob,

    You're surprised?

    Where have you been all this time?

    Most Americans think more of animals then they do of people...but that's just one of the screwed-up priorities seennowadays in the pathetic new American "culture."

    And even among animal lovers, there is a disconnect...lookat the "dog guy" who said he wasn'tupset about the guy shooting a cat, but if he had shot a dog, he would be. How pathetic.And the "bird people" thinking cats aren't worthcrap while the "cat people" think the same thing of birds.

    What shallow fools all of them.

    And one reason most other countries think we're 100% nuts...and rightly so.

    I think theirresponsible OWNERS of wayward/abandoned pets should be shot. Animals just do what they do -- be they predator or prey -- and don't know any better...it's instinct. People SHOULD know better.

    -- JohnD.

    P.S. I've been to that area (surf fishing) on the far West End of Galveston Island...who knows how many cats or even dogs roam there. But I have to say, I sure wouldn't mind having a .22 rifle -- loaded with Remington Yellow Jackets -- to deal with those sorry-ass bait-stealing vermin "laughing" seagulls!

    Poof!!

    Now you see them, now you don't...just scattered feathers.


    (formerly of Colorado Springs, CO)

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    cloudcroft wrote:
    ...But I have to say, I sure wouldn't mind having a .22 rifle -- loaded with Remington Yellow Jackets -- to deal with those sorry-ass bait-stealing vermin "laughing" seagulls!

    Poof!!

    Now you see them, now you don't...just scattered feathers.

    Ever tried alka-setzer? Just mix it in with the bread that you throw at 'em.

    Anyway this whole thing is crap. If that cat was killing endangered birds like the shooter says, wouldn't it be in any animal lover's best interest to kill the common household cat to protect the endangered species? And lets take that a step further. If I owned apet (cat, dog, whatever), and my pet was killing an endangered animal, couldn't I be held responsible for the death of said animal? Especially if I was housing the pet in an area that allowed it free reign to the endangered animals natural habitat??

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    I don't have any problems with stray cats anymore... and my methods are my own business.

    Sucks this fellow is getting drug through the mud over a pest. It would be a bit different if the cat had a collar, but still.

    Seems to be though that on public property, it would have been adviseable to simply call animal control to have them pick the animal up...

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    DreQo,

    I've heard of that, but I believe that the SCOTUS ruled that "seagull-exploding" was "cruel and inhuman" punishment. :?

    There are signs up in Galveston saying, "Do not molest the animals" (seagulls, etc.) but it's okayfor the animals molest you. IMV, they need tobe reminded of where they are in the food chain.

    But really, what makes one animal better than another...aren't they all created equal? [for whomever wears those "Animals are people, too" T-shirts]

    Besides, Galveston's got more serious problems to deal with than this...it's just the animal-rights wackos there making the noise...and the shooter is one of them.

    Trouble is, many millions of other people in America, the "Bambi-ists," would agree with them.

    -- John D.

    (formerly of Colorado Springs, CO)

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    cloudcroft wrote:
    DreQo,

    I've heard of that, but I believe that the SCOTUS ruled that "seagull-exploding" was "cruel and inhuman" punishment. :?...
    Ooooh I didn't say it was nice nor legal but the birds learn real quick to stay away from you and your bait.
    But really, what makes one animal better than another...aren't they all created equal? [for whomever wears those "Animals are people, too" T-shirts]
    I thought those t-shirts were for people who practice beastiality?? :celebrate

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    DreQo,

    Yeah, you're probably right...like that wierd SelectMatic bed commercial with the guy in love with his dog but apparently didn't think his former wives deserved any. Definitely sick...a real loser. I think he was wearing one of those T-shirts...or maybe it was just a studded leather collar.

    But anyway,for some news on this trial and totie-up this thread with a court decision:

    http://news.galvestondailynews.com/s...b909ab0d20bcee



    "Mistrial declared in cat-shooting case

    From staff reports
    The Daily News
    Published November 16, 2007

    GALVESTON — A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of an island bird watcher charged with killing a cat. Jurors were unable to agree on a verdict after more than six hours of deliberation Thursday and Friday.

    Jim Stevenson, president of the Galveston Ornithological Society, faced a charge of cruelty to animals. His defense is that the cat he shot near the San Luis Pass bridge on Nov. 8, 2006 was feral and had no owner, and therefore it was legal to shoot it.

    Prosecutors, however, said a toll-bridge worker considered the cat a pet.

    Paige Santell told jurors a “not guilty” verdict would amount to establishing what she called a “feral cat loophole” that would allow people to shoot animals whenever and wherever they wanted."



    ...I wonder if he gets his .22 rifle back?

    -- John D.

    (formerly of Colorado Springs, CO)

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    cloudcroft wrote:
    ...I wonder if he gets his .22 rifle back?
    Hopefully not, lest he try to dispatch another animal with an underpowered cartridge...

    Maybe we could start up a fund to buy him a rifle chambered in .585 Nyati... Don't think there would be much of a cat left the next time.

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    Paige Santell told jurors a “not guilty” verdict would amount to establishing what she called a “feral cat loophole” that would allow people to shoot animals whenever and wherever they wanted."

    A Feral Cat Loophole???


    He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to see. Pancho & Lefty

    The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us....There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! ...The war is inevitableand let it come! I repeat it, Sir, let it come . PATRICK HENRY speech 1776

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    There won't be a retrial...



    Mistrial declared in cat-shooting case




    By Scott E. Williams
    The Daily News


    Published November 17, 2007

    GALVESTON — After a judge declared a mistrial, prosecutors said they won’t retry a Galveston bird watcher who shot and killed a cat near San Luis Pass.

    Visiting Judge Frank Carmona declared a mistrial Friday afternoon in the case of Jim Stevenson, 54, after the 56th State District Court jury announced it could not reach a unanimous verdict.

    Reports that the deadlock was eight votes for guilty, four votes for not guilty could not be confirmed. State law requires all criminal verdicts to be unanimous.

    Stevenson, president of the Galveston Ornithological Society, faced a charge of cruelty to animals for shooting a cat near the San Luis Pass bridge in November 2006.

    The crux of the case was whether the cat was feral or domesticated. While a mistrial means that prosecutors could retry the case, First Assistant District Attorney Joel Bennett said they would not.

    “We have gathered all the evidence that is there to be gathered, and a jury that heard all this evidence could not reach a unanimous verdict,” he said. “There’s no reason to suspect another jury would be able to do so, and we’re considering the matter closed.”

    Stevenson said Friday night that he was relieved, not for himself, but for the creatures in the wild. He said media attention on his case — including coverage by broadcast-television networks and The New York Times — could lead people who cared about animals to work together.

    “I think my relief is not so much that my case is over as it is for the potential here that the red and blue sides will be able to communicate now and find a solution that will work for cats and birds,” he said.

    Defense attorney Tad A. Nelson said he was glad to know the case would not be returning to court.

    “That’s great news,” he said. “Jim Stevenson did not deserve to have a felony on his record for this. He’s an honorable man, and he’s completely devoted to those birds and committed to eco-tourism.”

    However, Nelson remained as critical of prosecutors’ handling of the case as he had been during the trial, calling the prosecution efforts “dishonest” and accusing them of pandering to emotions in lieu of the facts.

    “From the get-go, they never argued the case,” Nelson said. “They just said, ‘Aw, this is so inhumane.’ They tried to incite the jury, and I found that offensive.”

    County Criminal District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said Nelson’s assertion was baseless.

    “Prosecuting animal cruelty cases isn’t an imagined concern that’s only present in Galveston County,” Sistrunk said. “In fact, if you look at what the state Legislature did in the last session, you’ll see that the definition of ‘animal’ now includes ‘any stray or feral cat or dog.’ That’s the law.”

    Stevenson and Nelson admitted Stevenson had shot the animal with his rifle but said the cat was feral and had been threatening birds in the area.

    A bridge worker had claimed that he had cared for the cat, leaving it food and toys.

    The charge applied against anyone who kills or seriously harms an animal “without legal authority or the owner’s consent.”

    Police officer John Bertolino on Nov. 8 was on his way to the San Luis Pass, where a caller had reported hearing shots fired, when he stopped a van with a Galveston Ornithological Society logo on its side near 15 Mile Road. Bertolino found a. 22-caliber rifle in the van.

    One of the toll bridge workers was following the van and later told police the van’s occupant had shot a cat, which suffered a severed spine. The cat died while Bertolino was taking it to a veterinarian.

    Stevenson said he had only one problem remaining from the case.

    “I just can’t get the reporters to stop calling,” he said.

    http://news.galvestondailynews.com/s...b909ab0d20bcee



    -- John D.


    (formerly of Colorado Springs, CO)

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    That latest story points to an even higher level of outrageousness of this "case". A felony for killing a cat? I'll admit, before this thread I didn't really think the animal rights crazies had gotten so far.



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    Forcing moral equivalency between man and beast is pathetic and hypocritical. The hypocrisy is then 'better to suicide than kill a beef.'

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    I know this is a different kind of situation, and there were no guns involved, but check this out...

    Animal rights in the UK

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    USAF_MetalChris wrote:
    I know this is a different kind of situation, and there were no guns involved, but check this out...

    Animal rights in the UK
    I have no problem with that sentencing. That was a horribly cruel thing to do to an animal. It is well documented that people who act in such cruel manners to animals often escalate to physical cruelty to people. And even if he never escalated, that act shows an inhumanity I don't want to see out on the streets running around. That man deserved that sentence.

    As for the case at hand, to not have put the cat out of it's misery was the cruelest part of the story. Once the guy decided to kill the cat, it was his responsibility to do his best to make a clean, quick kill, and when he didn't, it was his responsibility to put the animal out of it's misery. Any responsible hunter would do the same. Whether or not anyone agrees with his decision to shoot the cat, to not finish it once he started it was, in my mind, cruelty. He just shot it and drove away apparently. That makes him an A # 1 jerk. It also makes the charge of cruelty appropriate to my mind.

    Had he taken the shot, failed to kill the animal and then as quickly and efficiently as possible put it out of it's misery, I would disagree with the cruelty charges.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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