Closing arguments scheduled in case of road rage dog killing
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Lawyers for both sides finished closing statements Monday in the trial of a man accused of throwing a fluffy white dog to its death in traffic.
The accused dog killer, Andrew Burnett, did not take the stand in his own defense and jury deliberations begin at 9 a.m. PDT Tuesday.
The prosecution had considered calling a witness to testify that Burnett beat another dog to death while serving in the Navy in Puerto Rico several years ago. Instead, neither side called more witnesses.
Burnett, 27, could face three years in prison if convicted of killing Leo, the beloved bichon frise of Sara McBurnett, after a minor traffic accident near the San Jose airport in February 2000. Burnett is charged with felony cruelty to animals.
McBurnett, a real estate agent from Nevada, said the defendant yelled at her, reached in through her open car window with both arms and grabbed her dog. She testified at trial that Burnett then turned and made a throwing motion, and she spotted Leo running across two lanes of traffic.
Prosecutor Troy Benson asked the jury to hold Burnett criminally accountable for his callous act. He glowered at Burnett across the courtroom as the defendant sat passively, dressed in a green suit and tie.
”It’s just an angry man who did a grossly negligent act by throwing this dog into traffic,” Benson told the jury.
The dog was struck and killed seconds after it ran into lanes of traffic. Burnett’s attorney has maintained that his client instinctively snatched the dog from the car after being bitten on the hand. Benson refuted that claim, instead saying a fit of senseless rage was to blame.
”What was he thinking when he reached into the car and grabbed that dog?” Benson said in closing statements. ”Did he think Leo wanted a walk? Did he think the dog needed some fresh air?”
McBurnett, still distraught over the loss of her pet, said Monday the defendant should get the maximum penalty. She said Burnett’s decision not to take the stand only supported her contention that he is guilty.
”Like everybody else, I was curious to see if they had the audacity to try to excuse their behavior which they obviously could not,” McBurnett said. ”He has nothing he can say for himself. He can’t say that he hasn’t been cruel to animals.”
Burnett’s defense attorney, Marc Garcia, attempted to shoot down testimony from a succession of prosecution witness who testified about how they followed Burnett in their cars and staked out his mother’s house in Merced as the young man evaded authorities.
Burnett was simply being cautious because of the $120,000 in reward money donated to his capture and conviction, Garcia told the jury. He said high reward amount and intense media coverage of the case were just some of the reasons San Francisco Bay area residents scoured the streets looking for the alleged dog killer.
”There are 120,000 reasons. That’s the reward in this case. That cannot be overlooked,” Garcia said. That is why his client elected to lay low for months, Garcia claimed.
Garcia urged the jury to closely consider the requirement of finding gross negligence in the charge Burnett faces. He said the case a decision to find his client guilty of a felony should not be taken lightly.
”This isn’t a game. This is real lives, real people,” Garcia said.
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