On Tuesday, Adams County Justice Court Judge Patricia Dunmore, dismissed the charges, citing "no probable cause" to prove that dog-fighting had occurred on the night of September 26, 2011.
According to the Natchez Democrat, the Judge felt that, without witnesses, there wasn't enough evidence to proceed.
Despite the fact that the responding deputies noted that the scene was strewn with blood, that there was evidence of dog-fighting present (a bloody break-stick was found, as well as medicine to treat wounds), and despite the fact that one of the dogs seized that night had to be euthanized as a result of his wounds.
The dog who died had another dog's tooth embedded in his mouth. Testimony from the case’s lead investigator Delayne Bush and the first deputy on the scene Benjie Sanders were found lacking by the judge who advised them that what they presented was "lay opinion" rather than "expert opinion".The men who had been facing dog-fighting charges were Cornelius Dominique Baldwin, 26, and Lewis Jackson, 18.
The four surviving dogs are housed at the Natchez Veterinary Clinic with an unpaid balance of $3000 - the burdon of which lies upon the shoulders of the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society.
Judge Patricia Dunmore's findings (or lack thereof) on this case are stunning.
According to the Natchez Democrat, there was a phone call to the police reporting a dog fight, the responding deputies found five adult Pit bulls, chained and evidence of blood at the scene, serious (some life-ending) injuries, as well as dog-fighting equipment...yet somehow there was not enough evidence presented to indicate that the illegal dog-fighting activity may have been taking place?
How is that even possible? What else was presumed to have been happening on the night in question?
Dog fighting charges dismissed
Adams County Justice Court Judge Patricia Dunmore ruled at a Tuesday preliminary hearing there was no probable cause that dog fighting occurred the night of Sept. 26 when Adams County Sheriff’s deputies responded to an anonymous tip about dog fighting.
Dunmore also ruled there was not sufficient evidence to indicate the suspects, Cornelius Dominique Baldwin, 26, 2002 Lotus Drive, and Lewis Jackson, 18, 601 Old Washington Road, could “more than likely” have committed the crime.
Court-appointed public defender Zachary Jex represented Baldwin, and Tony Heidelberg represented Jackson.
A justice court preliminary hearing requires the prosecution to prove that a crime was committed and there is probable cause the defendants “more than likely” could have committed the crime.
Adams County prosecutor Barret Martin said the case’s lead investigator, Delayne Bush, and the first deputy on the scene, Benjie Sanders, testified about the dogs found chained at the scene, blood on leaves on the ground and the dog’s injuries.
The testimonies of the deputies, Dunmore said, failed to establish that dog fighting happened at the scene because there were no witnesses on the scene and no clear connection to the suspects and the dogs. Dunmore said Bush’s testimony about the injuries of the dogs was a lay opinion, not an expert opinion.
Dunmore said Jackson, who had previously confessed ownership to the dogs, said at the hearing the dogs were hunting dogs.
Dunmore said no physical evidence was presented at the hearing.
Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said he did not know about the hearing until after his deputies reported to him that the charges had been dismissed.
Mayfield said his deputies took photographs of the apparent scene of the dog fight, as well as of injuries to the five adult pit bulls taken from the scene. Deputies also found dog-fighting paraphernalia at the scene including a bloody break stick used to pry the dogs apart during a fight and medicine used to treat wounds.
Bush said he believed he told Martin there were photographs included in the case’s file, but Martin said he was not aware of any of the photographs.
“We put all the proof out there that the sheriff provided me, and that’s all we had,” Martin said.
Nan Garrison, one of three Natchez-Adams County Humane Society members that picked up the dogs from the dog-fighting scene, said she was not notified of the hearing and was “livid” that she was not given the opportunity to present photographs and the veterinarian bill for the dogs at the hearing.
“It literally makes me sick for these animals, and it literally makes me sick for this community,” she said.
Martin said he only subpoenaed the deputies because it is a sheriff’s office investigation, and no one on the scene had witnessed an actual crime. He said he believed the deputies’ description of the scene provided vivid detail of what happened that night, but witnesses were essential to the case.
“Basically what it comes down to is that no one has come forward and said that they saw the dog fighting,” he said.
Garrison said one of the dogs taken from the scene subsequently died after kidney and liver failure because of a systemic infection caused by another dog’s tooth that was embedded in its gum.
The other dogs remain housed at Natchez Veterinary Clinic, and the humane society has an unpaid $3,000 veterinary bill for the dogs’ boarding and treatment. Mayfield said Jackson surrendered ownership of the dogs, and he assumes they are wards of the state in the custody of the humane society.
The justice court ruling, Mayfield said, is not a finding of innocence or guilt, and he is not giving up on the case.
“This is a brutal crime,” he said. “And I feel the animals and the citizens have been cheated.”
The case can still be presented to the grand jury for review, and District Attorney Ronnie Harper said he met with the sheriff and is reviewing any action, if any, he can take in the case.