Animal Abuse Task Force Wants Retrial In Dog Burning Case

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A mistrial has not put an end to the case of Phoenix the dog. There is a new effort to get justice for the pit bull.

Weijia Jiang reports from where a meeting on this issue was held Wednesday.

A task force says they will continue to be passionate and vocal toward the state’s attorney to let him know a conviction in this case would be the most powerful tool to combat animal abuse.

Phoenix was euthanized after being doused with gasoline and set on fire, and whoever is responsible for what happened to the pit bull is still free.

The case against twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who were accused of starting the fire, ended with a mistrial. Now animal activists are pushing for a new one.

“If there were to be a retrial, it would show our commitment that we aren’t tolerating these types of crimes and that we take these felonies seriously,” said Caroline Giffin, task force chair.

At the top of the agenda for Baltimore’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force’s monthly meeting is  a lengthy discussion about the trial. Even without a conviction, the group considers it a landmark case.

“We’ve never had an animal abuse case in the city of Baltimore that has been tried for that length of time. We’ve never had a jury that has deliberated for that length of time,” said an animal rights advocate.

“I feel like this is not a defeat at all,” said another advocate. “It’s a benchmark time, as I mentioned to some folks, as we move on from here on out. “

The task force was established as a direct response to Phoenix’s death, sparking an international dialogue about animal cruelty. Members say that, too, is a victory.

“She has become this enduring symbol and has literally become the face of animal cruelty,” Giffin said.

In fact, there’s a growing petition online, urging for a retrial. The hundreds of signatures are from around the world, including Austria, Germany, India, the UK—turning the tragedy in Baltimore into a global fight.  To sign the petition, click here.

“As awful as it is, that the case came out the way it came, we do know that she brought about change for us,” said an employee at BARCS, the animal shelter that cared for Phoenix.

The gag order issued in this case remains in effect. The State’s Attorney’s Office says they can’t comment whether there will be a new trial or not as they continue to evaluate the evidence and what happened in the courtroom.

The task force is expanding into a permanent city commission. It will double in size within two months.


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