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Dog Cruelty Case Goes to Trial A Second Time

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) -  Twin brothers are being retried for allegedly leaving a pit bull to die in the streets of Baltimore. It’s a case being closely watched by animal abuse advocates around the world.

Weijia Jiang has the latest on this high-profile case.

Some of those advocates sat in court all day along. They say a conviction in this case would mean so much more than justice for one dog. It would serve as protection for all animals.

In May 2009, Phoenix the pit bull was set on fire and left to die in the Baltimore streets. She was burned so badly she had to be euthanized.

On Friday, steps toward a new trial started for the 19-year-old twin brothers accused of killing her. Travers and Tremayne Johnson entered the courtroom in shackles. Both are being held on unrelated charges, including drugs, burglary, and attempted murder for Travers.

The brothers have already been tried once before in this case. But the judge declared a mistrial.

The Johnsons’ first trial ended with a hung jury in February. A single holdout could not be convinced they were the ones who started the fire.

But animal welfare advocates pushed prosecutors to try again. Phoenix’s death drew widespread outrage nationwide.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake established an anti- animal abuse task force as a result, the first of its kind in the country. Ann Gearhart is a member.

“We hope that there is a good verdict in the case,” Gearhart said. “But either way, this case has brought enormous attention to animal abuse here in our city. And we’ll be here next week.”

During the pretrial process, the judge ruled defense attorneys will be permitted to call on a new expert witness who will testify about surveillance police video taken at the scene.

Prosecutors argue the two people seen running away from the dog are the Johnsons. The expert will dispute that.

Outside the courthouse, the twins’ mother declined comment on camera, but tells WJZ her boys are innocent.

The judge who also presided over the first trial said the jury pool would usually be about 40 people, but that has nearly doubled because of the high-profile nature of this case. Jury selection begins on Monday

Once the jury is selected, the trial is expected to last four to five days.

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