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Landmark Dog Abuse Case Ends In Mistrial

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Supporters of Phoenix the dog will have to wait even longer for justice.  She was set on fire and didn’t survive.  Now, after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of two teenagers, many wonder what will be next. 

Derek Valcourt is following this landmark animal abuse case.

In the trial against twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, it all came down to just one juror who refused to convict them of felony animal cruelty in the case of Phoenix, the pit bull that died in 2009, just five days after she was doused in fuel and set on fire in West Baltimore.

“We are disappointed in the outcome,” said BARCS Executive Director Jennifer Brause.

At Baltimore’s Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Phoenix’s story has left a lasting legacy for the countless neglected and abused animals, like an emaciated dog brought in recently.  In the wake of national attention to Phoenix’s case, then-Mayor Sheila Dixon launched the first animal abuse task force in the country.  Now, it’s a permanent commission focused on improving how the city responds to crimes against animals.

“There’s going to be a lot more training for the police department, for law enforcement, for prosecutors, for evidence collection on these kinds of cases,” Brause said.

In Annapolis, the case has spurred lawmakers to consider bills that would toughen animal cruelty punishments.  One bill would make it illegal for anyone convicted of animal abuse to ever own a pet again. 

That legislation is supported by Baltimore City Councilman Robert Curran, who hopes to draft some tougher city animal cruelty laws because of Phoenix.

“I know the part one crimes in this town — the murders, the rapes, the burglaries, the street assaults — take precedence, but we need to make sure that animal cruelty doesn’t fall by the wayside,” Curran said.

“All of this was because of her and her story was so awful as it is that the case came out the way it came, we do know that she brought about change for us in Baltimore City,” Brause said.

Legal troubles aren’t over for one of the twins accused of burning the dog.  Travers Johnson is still in jail, awaiting an attempted murder trial.

Felony animal cruelty in Maryland is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.

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