Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Not guilty on all counts. A jury has acquitted twin brothers accused of lighting a pit bull puppy on fire.
Meghan McCorkell has the fallout from the controversial case.
It took jurors just an hour to acquit Travers and Tremayne Johnson. The animal abuse case has been going on for three years and has sparked a lot of outrage.
Tremayne Johnson and his twin brother Travers were led away by jail officials after a jury found them not guilty of aggravated animal abuse.
“The evidence simply was not there and with each witness, the state’s case fell apart,” said defense attorney Sharon A.H. May.
“They proved that the dog was burned but they didn’t prove who did it,” said Alternate Juror #2.
This is the second time the twins have been tried for setting fire to a pit bull puppy nicknamed Phoenix in May 2009. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
The boys’ parents are relieved it’s now over.
“In my heart, I knew. Yes, indeed, as a mother, I knew,” said Donna Griffin.
“I want to get them out of Maryland. I don’t want them to have to pay no taxes in Maryland. We’ll go somewhere else,” said Charles Johnson.
The Phoenix case sparked nationwide outrage and caused some big changes here in Baltimore. In response, the mayor formed an animal abuse task force.
“We will continue to fight for the right of animals that can’t speak for themselves. Everybody knows that Phoenix didn’t set himself on fire, so we have to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
While disappointed with the verdict, animal welfare advocates say the case helps future animal abuse investigations.
“The police are being trained. Animal Control officers are being trained. Forensic evidence in animal cases is being taken as seriously as forensic evidence in human cases,” said Anne Gearhart, Baltimore Animal Abuse Commission.
It was a lack of forensic evidence that jury members say led to Wednesday’s verdict. A star witness for the prosecution also refused to testify.
The twins are still in police custody on other, unrelated charges. Travers Johnson is charged with attempted murder and burglary. His brother, Tremayne, is being held on drug charges.