Case Snapshot
Case ID: 15502
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Prosecutor(s): Jennifer Rallo, Janet Hankin
Defense(s): Karyn Meriwether,Sharon May,Andrew Northrup
Judge(s): Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill, Emanuel Brown

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

County: Baltimore City

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Acquitted
Case Images: 2 files available

Persons of Interest:
» Tremayne Johnson
» Travers Johnson

Case Updates: 25 update(s) available

A city police officer describes it as one of the worst things she's ever seen. A pit bull was set on fire in northwest Baltimore and no one was coming to to the dog's aid.

They've named her Phoenix, for rising out of the ashes. She would have been euthanized immediately, but a special fund at BARCS provided immediate, expensive care to keep her alive.

The one-year-old pit bull should not be alive after someone doused her in gasoline and set her on fire Wednesday afternoon.

"There's not one part spared. I've seen it on the back, on the tail on the ears. I've never seen it on the whole body," said Dr. Bonner.

A Baltimore City officer is credited with saving her.

"It was just cruel," said Officer Syreeta Teel.

Officer Teel and her partner were on their regular patrol in west Baltimore; when they got to Presberry Street, they saw a black cloud of smoke, which was coming from a burning dog.

"She was fully in flames. There were people around but nobody was doing anything, so I got out of the car, took off my sweater and started hitting her to put the fire out," Officer Teel said.

"You don't put dogs on fire. A dog is like a human being. They have feelings too," said a witness who asked to be identified only as Warren.

"It was just sad, because I've never heard a dog make this sound. This scream that he made, I've never heard before," Teel said.

Phoenix, as she's now called, came to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. A nearby veterinarian treated her burns and now she's off to a rescue.

Every person who worked on her says this is the worst case they've seen but Phoenix wants to live.

"The pads of her feet and burnt off and she's standing on them, walking to people and still wagging her tail," said BARCS Executive Director Jennifer Mead-Brause.

Officers got no information from the neighborhood but some tell WJZ the pit bull has been around before. The vet found puncture wounds, indicating a dog fight.

"We don't understand it. We can't imagine the kind of person who can do something like that," Mead-Brause said.

Police have not charged anyone and are asking any witnesses to give them a call with any information.

Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony with the punishment being up to three years in prison.

Case Updates

Travers Johnson, one of two brothers recently acquitted of animal cruelty in a Baltimore dog-burning case, pleaded guilty Monday in city Circuit Court to attempted second-degree murder and use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

He was sentenced to 25 years, with all but eight years of the term suspended, and is expected to receive about 14 months' credit for time already served. The 20-year-old has been in custody since his arrest on the attempted-murder charges in December 2010.

According to a statement of facts read aloud by Assistant State's Attorney Noelle Winder, Johnson pulled a black handgun from the waistband of his trousers in October 2010 and fired three shots at a man standing two feet away. The man, whose sister was behind him, was uninjured.

Johnson's attorney, Sharon A.H. May, said her client "essentially has a clean record," with no adult convictions and no juvenile commitments. Johnson was previously charged with gun possession by a minor and twice charged with drug possession, but those cases were dropped by prosecutors.

He and his twin brother, Tremayne Johnson, were out on bail at the time of the shooting. Both were charged with animal cruelty in a separate case that drew national attention.

The brothers were accused of dousing a female pit bull in accelerant and setting her on fire. The dog, nicknamed Phoenix by rescue workers, was burned so badly that she had to be euthanized.

The Johnsons' first trial on those charges ended last year with a hung jury. The retrial, which ended this month, resulted in an acquittal after jurors determined that prosecutors had very little evidence against the brothers.

On Monday, May explained the plea deal in court to Travers Johnson along with the rights he was giving up. When she got to the part about a trial by jury, she added, "and I know that you know what that is."

Tremayne Johnson was charged with marijuana possession shortly after the first animal cruelty trial. He is scheduled to face trial on those charges next month.
Source: - Apr 23, 2012
Update posted on Apr 23, 2012 - 10:06PM 
It took jurors only about an hour Wednesday to find brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson not guilty of setting a pit bull on fire - a fraction of the 20 hours jurors spent in the twins' first trial, unable to agree on a verdict.

Family members were overjoyed. But the not guilty verdicts on the four charges against each brother were bittersweet for the Johnsons and their relatives, who have maintained throughout the trials that the twins are innocent.

"That they defamed someone's character at such a young age is very troubling," said Camille Mills, a cousin of the defendants who joined their mother and siblings in court.

Animal activists, meanwhile, were frustrated and disappointed. One criticized jurors for joking, laughing and sometimes resting their eyes during proceedings. But she said a heightened awareness of animal cruelty, including establishment of the Mayor's Anti-Animal Abuse Commission, is a positive byproduct of the case.

"Justice denied does not mean that goodness does not prevail," said Ann Gearhart, a member of the commission and director of humane education for the Snyder Foundation for Animals. "There's a lot of good that's come out of this case."

The brothers, now 20, were accused of dousing a female pit bull with accelerant and setting the dog on fire May 27, 2009, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in West Baltimore - charges based largely on one officer's identification from a fuzzy surveillance video. The dog, which rescue workers nicknamed Phoenix, was euthanized days later.

The first trial ended in a hung jury in February 2011.

Many aspects of the trials were identical, but key differences hindered the prosecutors' case this time. A police surveillance video that played a significant role in both trials might have provided less evidence in the retrial because Judge Emanuel Brown barred a police sergeant from identifying one of the brothers on the tape. And a key witness in the first trial refused to testify in the second.

In a statement, Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said he was "disappointed" by the outcome.

"Animal cruelty is a serious crime of violence, and those who commit it too frequently commit subsequent crimes of violence against humans," he said. "As we demonstrated in this case, we are dedicated to vigorously prosecuting individuals accused of this appalling offense."

The brothers were in custody on other charges, but Tremayne Johnson was expected to go free on bail Wednesday evening. Travers Johnson was charged with burglary and attempted murder in separate 2010 incidents and is scheduled for trial this month. Tremayne Johnson was charged with marijuana possession shortly after the first Phoenix trial. His trial in that case is scheduled for next month.

Sharon May, who represented Travers Johnson in the dog-burning case, said the jury deliberation wasn't the shortest she had seen but she felt her client had a good chance of being acquitted.

"I think the jury got the sense from the beginning that the state's case was not strong," May said after the verdict. "With each witness, things got worse for the state."

The trouble began for prosecutors Jennifer Rallo and Janet Hankin on May 3, when Tiera Goodman refused to testify. She had testified during the first trial that she saw the Johnsons running from the direction of the burning dog. In the second trial, prosecutors played a video of that testimony.

Then a friend of the Johnsons who told police he saw them with the dog on the day of the incident contradicted himself on the stand. In closing arguments Wednesday, May called his testimony untrustworthy.

After that, Sgt. Jarron Jackson, the only person to identify the brothers in the 35-minute surveillance tape that showed portions of the incident, was barred from doing so because he could not explain how he recognized Travers Johnson. The tape showed three males with the dog before the burning - two of whom prosecutors alleged were the Johnsons - and running from the direction of the burning afterward.

During closing arguments, the jurors followed the lawyers' presentations, one of them nodding as defense lawyers spoke. Earlier, there were points during the trial when some rested their faces in their hands, and they often entered the courtroom laughing with one another. After the trial, the jurors could not be reached for comment.

The Johnson family did not know what to expect from the jurors, Mills said.

"They were unreadable," she said. "We were puzzled."

A male juror who served in the first trial noted that the differences in the prosecutors' case could have affected the second trial. The female juror who did not vote to convict in the first trial wanted to see more forensic evidence, said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Defense lawyers focused on the lack of such evidence in closing arguments Wednesday.

Despite the outcome, Caroline A. Griffin, chairwoman of the Mayor's Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission, said the case has left a legacy.

The violence against Phoenix spurred the creation of the anti-animal abuse commission, which was formed in 2009 and converted into a permanent entity in 2010. The commission, the first of its kind in the country, brings together law enforcement, animal advocates, prosecutors and others, Griffin said.

"I try to see her legacy - and she was a catalyst for so much change in the city," Griffin said.

Jennifer Brause, executive director of the Baltimore Area Rescue and Care Shelter, said she expects people to react strongly. But she urged people to keep one thing in mind: "She did not die in vain. Outrage is not going to help anyone at this point."
Source: - Apr 11, 2012
Update posted on Apr 11, 2012 - 11:52PM 
Prosecutors are facing a series of hurdles in their second try at convicting two brothers accused of setting a pit bull on fire in 2009, day after day losing key witnesses and testimony that nearly won them their case in the first trial a year ago.

Since Tuesday, blows to the prosecutors' case have included one witness refusing to testify, another giving contradictory statements and, most recently, an officer being barred by Judge Emanuel Brown from identifying one of the suspects in a police surveillance video.

Meanwhile, delays in the proceedings sparked by objections from lawyers appear to be frustrating jurors, and they could also mean that one of prosecutors' four remaining witnesses, a veterinarian who treated the dog, will be unavailable.

Lawyers say that while prosecutors are used to witnesses who are hard to deal with, perceptions by jurors that a case may be developing cracks can make it more difficult to secure a conviction.

Brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson are accused of dousing a female pit bull in an unknown accelerant and setting her on fire May 27, 2009, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. Their first trial ended in a hung jury in February 2011 because one juror wouldn't agree to convict on circumstantial evidence.

There is no forensic evidence in the case, and the surveillance video doesn't show the crime itself.

Prosecutors are using the 35-minute surveillance video to corroborate the testimony of witnesses, but that tactic was dealt a blow Thursday when Brown barred Baltimore Police Sgt. Jarron Jackson from identifying Travers Johnson in the tape.

On Wednesday, Jackson had pointed out the Johnsons in the video running from the direction of the burning dog, identifying them by pointing to what he called Tremayne Johnson's signature "wrist flick" and Travers Johnson's build.

But Sharon May, a lawyer for Travers Johnson, took issue when Jackson described how he could also identify Travers Johnson based on a "bop" in his walk, something Jackson hadn't said in previous testimony.

"It just seems to me maybe Sergeant Jackson was finally catching on to where the state was trying to lead him," May said Thursday. Brown struck from the record Jackson's identification of Travers Johnson in the video.

The ruling was likely intended to ensure that the Johnsons get a fair trial, said Douglas Colbert, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. Because Jackson is a police officer, that could give his identification of the Johnsons in the video undue weight in the eyes of the jurors, Colbert said.

Trouble in the case began to build Tuesday, when prosecutors called Tiera Goodman to the stand. She came forward to testify in the 2011 trial in response to a reward offer and said she had seen the Johnsons running from the direction of the burning dog, which rescue workers named Phoenix. She turned belligerent Tuesday and refused to testify.

On Wednesday, Michael Taylor, a friend of the Johnsons, gave contradictory testimony about statements he made to police a week and a half after the burning. He said at that time that the Johnsons kept the dog in a nearby vacant house and were with her an hour or two before she was burned. But on Wednesday, he called that "a story" he made up. When prosecutors pressed him later, though, he said police didn't coerce him to talk and that he wasn't providing false information to protect himself or his girlfriend from unrelated drug and gun charges.

Criminal prosecutors are accustomed to difficult witnesses, said Andrew Levy, an attorney with the Baltimore firm of Brown Goldstein and Levy, who is not involved in the trial.

"They cut their chops learning to deal with less-than-perfect witnesses," Levy said. "People are found guilty every day of the week all over the country based on the testimony of witnesses whose credibility is questionable."

But delays that have marked much of the trial could add another wrinkle, he said. Brown has repeatedly called lawyers to his bench or allowed them to come forward when they have objections, hushing the court with white noise while they talk in whispers. The frequency of the interruptions visibly frustrated jurors Thursday afternoon, who were fidgeting, sighing and resting their chins in their hands.

"If jurors perceive it as prosecutors not having their ducks in a line, the jury can conclude at the end of the day the prosecutor just doesn't have the ammunition and acquit," Levy said.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday. Brown had initially told jurors they would be given a break Friday and Monday for Good Friday and Easter, but he asked them to come back Monday because of the delays.
Source: - Apr 5, 2012
Update posted on Apr 6, 2012 - 1:55PM 
A key witness in the case against Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of burning a pit bull puppy named Phoenix, abruptly refused to testify Tuesday, causing a judge to sentence her to six months in jail.

Tiera Goodman, 25, of the 800 block of Braddish Ave. witnessed Phoenix as she was fatally burned in 2009 and testified during the first trial that she saw the 20-year-old Johnson twins running from the scene. The case is being retried after the previous trial ended in a hung jury.

But Goodman, who initially identified the Johnsons to receive a $1,000 reward, changed her attitude from helpful to the prosecution to obstinate Tuesday.

On the witness stand, she slumped in her chair and mumbled into the microphone. When Baltimore Circuit Judge Emanuel Brown told her to "sit up straight and use better posture," Goodman seemed agitated and grew combative.

"Emanuel Brown is your name?" she asked. "I'm not testifying, sir."

Prosecutor Janet Hankin appeared surprised and asked Goodman to tell the jury what she saw, reminding her that she had already testified during the first trial.

"You understand that we need you to testify," Hankin said. "You would rather have to serve additional time than testify?"

Goodman once again leaned back in her chair. "Yep," she replied.

Brown then held her in criminal contempt and sentenced her to five months and 29 days in jail. She is also incarcerated on unrelated charges. Prosecutors will show the jury video of Goodman's testimony from the first trial, he said.

Goodman wasn't the only unenthusiastic prosecution witness Tuesday. Michael Taylor, 22, a close friend of the Johnsons who had been similarly reluctant to testify, spent much of the afternoon yawning at prosecutors' questions, mumbling barely audible responses and smirking with the defendants. Prosecutors had to remind him several times of the basic facts of the case and his earlier statements to police, because he said he had forgotten them.

At one point, when Taylor rested his head against part of the witness stand and closed his eyes, Hankin asked: "Are we keeping you up, Mr. Taylor?"

Taylor had been promised immunity for his testimony during the first trial. He was initially questioned about the dog-burning incident after police raided his home June 6, 2009, found a gun and marijuana, and arrested him and his girlfriend.

As the day ended, the judge asked for an attorney to be called in to represent Taylor.

The Johnson twins are accused of dousing a young female pit bill with an unknown accelerant and setting her on fire May 27, 2009, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. Rescue workers named the dog Phoenix. With severe burns over much of her body as well as puncture wounds, the dog was euthanized days later.

The brothers were originally tried in January and February of 2011. The case drew national attention from anti-animal-abuse advocates and ended in a mistrial when one juror would not agree to convict the brothers.

Tuesday marked the third day of testimony in the second trial. The only other witness during the day was a city animal control officer, La-Kia Davis, who testified that the case was one of the worst she'd ever seen.

"I could see the animal did suffer from burns all over its body," she said of her impressions upon first seeing the dog.

Despite the burns, Davis said, Phoenix still appeared trusting of humans and did not attempt to bite the officer when she picked her up. "She was waging her tail, looking at me and whimpering," Davis said. "She needed medical attention right away."
Source: - Apr 3, 2012
Update posted on Apr 6, 2012 - 1:47PM 
Jurors watched a 35-minute police surveillance video, a key piece of evidence, as state prosecutors began Thursday to lay out their case against brothers Tremayne and Travers Johnson, accused of setting a pit bull ablaze.

Deputy State's Attorney Jennifer Rallo likened the state's case to the pieces of a puzzle, telling jurors they would hear statements from police officers and a friend of the defendants that would corroborate what can be seen in the video. But defense lawyer Andrew Northrup, representing Tremayne Johnson, emphasized that absent from the video is any picture of a crime being committed.

The arguments were similar to those lawyers made in the Johnsons' original trial, held in January and February 2011. That trial drew national attention from animal-rights advocates and ended in a mistrial when one juror would not agree to convict the brothers.

They are accused of dousing a young female pit bill with an unknown accelerant and lighting her on fire May 27, 2009, in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore. Rescue workers named the dog Phoenix. With severe burns over much of her body as well as puncture wounds, the dog was euthanized days later.

Rallo told jurors the prosecution planned to call witnesses including Detective Syreeta Teel, who choked up on the stand at the first trial as she described the moment she discovered Phoenix burning, as well as Michael Taylor, a friend of the Johnsons who came close to implicating himself while testifying in the trial last year.

In the video, a man can be seen leading the dog to two other men, who then disappear from the rotating camera's view, Rallo said.

"Within minutes, the little dog was engulfed in flames," she said.

But Northrup said he plans to attack the police investigation of the case, which began six days after the burning. And Sharon May, a lawyer representing Travers Johnson, called her client "a convenient choice" for police looking to close a case.

"There will be no justice for Phoenix because the people who did this to her are not on trial here," Northrup said.

The prosecution's only witness called Thursday was Detective Mario Notargiacomo, who works in the police's CitiWatch surveillance center. He testified that he made the surveillance tape for detectives from footage recorded on one of the center's cameras attached atop a pole at the corner of North Calhoun and Presbury streets, near where the dog was found burning.

The jury was empaneled after lawyers spent a day and a half of questioning a pool of about 120 people. Potential jurors' exposure to media coverage of the case was a challenge. About 80 percent of the 40 jurors questioned Thursday morning said they had read or seen reports on the Johnsons.

The jury is made up of eight black women, three black men and one white woman. There are four alternate jurors: a white woman, a white man, a black woman and a black man.
Source: - Mar 29, 2012
Update posted on Mar 31, 2012 - 12:23PM 
The second animal cruelty trial of twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of setting a pit bull on fire for sport, is scheduled to begin this morning according to online court records, after four prior postponements.

The brothers' first trial, held in February of last year, ended in a hung jury after three days of deliberation, with 11 members voting to convict and one woman holding out, unsure of their guilt.

The Johnsons, now 20, are accused of dousing a young, female pit bull in accelerant in May 2009, then setting her on fire on a West Baltimore street. A city police officer discovered the dog, which had to be put down five days later because of her injuries. Rescue workers nicknamed her Phoenix.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson were identified as the attackers on a police surveillance video, which was the centerpiece of the prosecution's case. A police sergeant served as narrator, making sense of the fuzzy images for the jury. Most found his interpretation credible, but one woman believed there was reasonable doubt, leading to a mistrial

The case was scheduled for retrial in May, July, September and November, but postponed each time, most recently because witnesses were unavailable.

Each of the brothers is facing new charges, incurred while they were out on bail in the Phoenix case.

Travers Johnson was charged with burglary and attempted murder in separate 2010 incidents, and is set for trial in that case next month. Tremayne Johnson was charged with marijuana possession shortly after the first Phoenix trial ended. His trial in that case is also set for this morning.
Source: - Mar 23, 2012
Update posted on Mar 23, 2012 - 8:02AM 
The July retrial of 19-year-old twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson, whose first animal-cruelty trial ended in a hung jury, has been postponed.

The new city circuit court date " Sept. 16 " could complicate a civil case now scheduled for days later, however.

In January 2009, five months before they are accused of setting fire to a pit bull, the Johnson brothers and three others filed a lawsuit against a Baltimore landlord, claiming that exposure to lead paint has left them unable to work.

They're seeking millions in damages at a civil trial scheduled for Sept. 19.

Attorneys in that case could not be reached Wednesday to discuss whether they too will seek a postponement. They've previously noted in court documents that the "public opinion is particularly strong" in the animal cruelty case, which could make it difficult to assemble a fair jury for the civil case.

Travers Johnson is also scheduled for trial on attempted murder charges next month, while his brother faces separate marijuana charges.
Source: - Jul 20, 2011
Update posted on Jul 20, 2011 - 7:57PM 
Tremayne Johnson, one of the teen-aged twins accused of fatally setting fire to a pit bull two years ago, was charged with marijuana possession less than three weeks after his animal cruelty trial ended with a hung jury, according to court records.

That means both 19-year-old brothers picked up new criminal charges while out on bail in the dog-burning case, which is scheduled to be retried next month. Travers Johnson is being held on attempted murder and burglary charges.

The new case against Tremayne Johnson also suggests that he has bad luck with the city's video surveillance cameras, according to police charging documents.

Police say that CitiWatch cameras caught the young men walking and later torching the dog, who was nicknamed "Phoenix" by rescue workers before she was euthanized, and there appeared to be a clear shot of Tremayne on a video shown in court during their trial, jurors said.

Cameras again caught Tremayne in February, when he and a another teen were "observed directing a large number of individuals inside and outside the T&H grocery store in a manner consistent with hand to hand street level narcotic activity," a charging document filed in court states. When officers approached Tremayne and asked if he had any illegal items on him, he admitted to having "weed… inside [his] front pants pocket," police allege in the court papers.

Tremayne was charged with marijuana possession in Baltimore District Court, though the case was transferred last month to Circuit Court for a jury trial. It's now scheduled to be heard July 26 " the same day the new Phoenix trial is set to begin for both brothers and the day Travers is also to face fourth-degree burglary charges.

Travers is charged with breaking into a vacant building owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City on the 1700 block of North Calhoun St. while trying to elude police in October. He was charged with breaking and entering, attempted murder and assault from an incident several days earlier.

Charging documents allege that Travers Johnson got into a fight with another man and "pulled a black handgun from his waist area and shot" three rounds from two to four feet away toward the man and his sister. His trial in that case is set for August.

Tremayne's attorney in the drug case, Robert M. Johnson Jr., said he could not discuss the charges because of a gag order in the animal cruelty trial. Travers' attorney could not be reached for comment Friday.
Source: - Jun 3, 2011
Update posted on Jun 6, 2011 - 11:48AM 
Prosecutors said Friday that they will retry the animal-cruelty case against brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who were accused of fatally setting fire to a pit bull in 2009, after the first trial ended Monday in a hung jury.

The new trial is scheduled for May 4.

"The Court's order prohibiting public comment about the case remains in effect. We will respect the Court's order and look forward to the retrial," Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein said in a statement.

The brothers' father, Charles Johnson, expressed disgust when told of the decision. Prosecutors "just want them to be guilty," he said. "With all the publicity, how can they have a fair trial?"

The case drew national attention and outrage from animal welfare advocates shocked by the brutality of the attack May 27, 2009, in West Baltimore. The female dog, later nicknamed Phoenix by rescue workers, was doused in accelerant, set alight and left to burn to death. A Baltimore police officer found her and put out the flames, but Phoenix didn't survive. She was euthanized five days later.

Thousands of dollars in reward donations were pledged to find her killers, identified by police from a blurry surveillance video as Travers and Tremayne Johnson, then 17. The brothers were charged in the crime.

But after a multi-day day trial and a lengthy deliberation period, jurors were split last week, voting 11-1 in favor of conviction. The final note they sent to the judge said a consensus was impossible.

"It was one of those situations where [one juror] wasn't willing to infer anything," Benjamin Riddleberger, juror No. 10, said in an interview after the trial.

The prosecution's case was largely circumstantial, relying on the video and a police sergeant's interpretation of it. While most jurors found the officer's testimony credible, according to interviews, one woman believed there was reasonable doubt, leading to a mistrial.

In a telephone interview Friday, juror No. 5, who asked that his name not be used, had a mixed reaction to news of the new trial.

"I'm glad they're retrying it, but at the same time it's a shame that our panel of jurors didn't get the job done," he said, "because it's like double the resources that the state has to pay for it."

Members of the city's commission on animal abuse, created after Phoenix was killed, called the decision to retry the case "great news."

"We're very gratified that the state's attorney's office has elected to [re]try the case," said commission Chairwoman Caroline Griffin. "I think the message it sends is that we as city will no longer tolerate these crimes and that we will do our utmost to hold abusers accountable."
Source: - Feb 11, 2011
Update posted on Feb 11, 2011 - 10:26PM 
Baltimore prosecutors are holding a series of meetings to determine whether to retry the animal cruelty case against twin brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, which ended in mistrial Monday, and expect to announce a decision soon, Deputy State's Attorney Elizabeth Embry said Wednesday.

If the case is retried, it won't be immediate, however.

The assistant state's attorneys who prosecuted the Johnsons " Jennifer Rallo and Janet Hankin " "clearly need a breather," Embry told members of the Mayor's anti-animal abuse commission and task force at their monthly gathering Wednesday. A May 4 date has been set aside at the city courthouse in case prosecutors decide to retry the case.

The fatal burning of a female pit bull in 2009 captured the nation's attention and led to mass outrage from animal welfare advocates, who followed the recent five-day trial closely. Jurors deliberated for more than 20 hours over three days, but couldn't agree on a verdict. One juror wasn't convinced of the brothers' guilt in the attack, leading to a mistrial.

It was the longest animal-cruelty trial ever held in the city, according to Ann Gearhart, of the Snyder Foundation for Animals, which provided meeting space for the group. And it took a lot out of the participants, particularly the prosecutors.

"It was evident to everyone" in the courtroom "how much they cared about the case," said Lt. Samuel Cogen, from the Baltimore Sheriff's Office.

The group began the two-hour meeting Wednesday discussing the mistrial and the possible lessons to be learned from it. But a judge-issued gag order in the case prevents prosecutors and police from discussing future plans, leading to frustration from some at the meeting who want to know the next steps.

"I just think the silence is deafening," said Aileen Gabbey, executive director of the Maryland SPCA, which put out a statement expressing disappointment in the mistrial earlier in the week. Gabbey's comments prompted Embry to speak.

"We want to be very deliberative [in our decision-making] and are having a series of meetings to discuss the case," Embry said, noting the gag order. "As soon as the decision is made, which will be shortly … we'll be making an announcement."

In the meantime, what happens to the nearly $28,000 in reward money gathered for the case is up in the air. The cash will roll over into another animal fund if the case isn't retried. And if it is, the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office will determine whether the reward is paid out and to whom upon a conviction.

Randall Lockwood, a senior vice president overseeing forensic sciences and anti-cruelty projects with the national ASPCA, said he wasn't surprised by the hung jury.

"At the outset of this, I said I would not be surprised if we had a hung jury in this trial," he told commission and task force members. "All it takes is one person who just doesn't get it, [who] is unwilling to send a juvenile [to jail] for whatever reason."

The Johnson brothers, 19, faced a maximum of three years in prison if convicted of setting fire to the pit bull, who was nicknamed Phoenix by rescue workers. The dog was euthanized.

Lockwood compared the case to a similar trial in Atlanta, where two teen-aged brothers bound a dog and put it in a community center oven. That case ended in mistrial as well, though prosecutors quickly announced plans to retry it. The brothers eventually pleaded guilty.

Anti-animal abuse advisory commission and task force members plan to study the trial and alleged flaws in the dog-burning investigation, as identified by a defense attorney who listed 41 problems with the case for jurors.

"The defense really helped us out," Cogen said. "They laid it all out in detail."
Source: - Feb 9, 2011
Update posted on Feb 9, 2011 - 8:34PM 
The animal cruelty trial of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, charged in the 2009 fatal burning of a dog nicknamed Phoenix, ended in a mistrial Monday when jurors couldn't come to an agreement about the brothers' guilt or innocence on any of four animal cruelty charges against them.

The brothers smiled as the result was read about 6:30 p.m., after several days of jury deliberation and five days of trial.

Phoenix's death drew widespread attention and outrage from animal activists nationwide, who collectively donated thousands to find the dog's attackers.

"It was a very egregious case … It just struck a nerve," said Ann L. Gearhart, Director of Humane Education for the Snyder Foundation for Animals and a member of the city's Anti-Animal Abuse Commission, which was developed after Phoenix was attacked.

The group released a report last year showing inadequacies in the city's response to animal abuse incidents accompanied by a list of inexpensive recommendations for improvement, mostly training.

The Johnson trial underscored their concerns.

Prosecutors had little evidence to work with in making their case, and defense attorneys repeatedly pointed out the flaws in the dog-burning investigation, which they said began minutes after Phoenix was set on fire May 27, 2009.

The crime scene was never secured, photographed or documented, court testimony showed. A week passed before the case was assigned to an investigative police team. A third suspect, seen running from the scene behind two males identified as the Johnsons, was never identified. And police failed to follow protocols for securing and storing evidence, according to trial testimony.

"We're going to learn from this experience and this crime," Gearhart said. "I think it is going to be a rally for not just citizens but the professional organizations in the city in fighting violent crime, and that's what this case is [about]: violent crime."
Source: - Feb 7, 2011
Update posted on Feb 7, 2011 - 6:38PM 
UPDATE: Juror were unable to reach a verdict Friday and will resume deliberations on Monday.

UPDATE: The Sun's Tricia Bishop reports --The jury deliberating in the animal cruelty trial of Travers and Tremayne Johnson sent a note to the judge Friday morning suggesting that they are having trouble reaching a verdict.

They went at it for nine hours on Thursday, and still jurors couldn't decide on a verdict in the animal cruelty case against brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson. The jury will resume talks this morning.

The 18-year-old twins are charged with setting fire to a pit bull known as "Phoenix" in 2009, in a case that has become the centerpiece in a series of animal abuse cases. Defense attorneys say the teens were wrongly accused by Baltimore police under pressure from outraged animal welfare advocates.

Complete details of Thursday's courtroom drama can be found here. The Sun's court reporter, Tricia Bishop, wrote about Thursday's closings:

Prosecutors had spent the fifth day of trial " highlighting the evidence, while the defense team pointed to the lack of it. Prosecutors Jennifer Rallo and Janet Hankin systematically connected the dots in their circumstantial case and asked the jury to consider the testimony of their key witness, city police Sgt. Jarron Jackson, akin to that of a reporter: someone who watches and interprets information.

A defense attorneys questioned the timing of her clients on a video and provided a list of 41 things that the police allegedly failed to do in the investigation. They did not preserve the crime scene, she said; they waited a week to assign an investigator; they didn't collect important evidence; and they didn't investigate other suspects.
Source: Baltimore Sun - Feb 4, 2011
Update posted on Feb 5, 2011 - 5:15PM 
After four days of testimony in the trial of Baltimore twins accused of burning a pit bull, both sides have rested their case.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who were 17 at the time, are accused of dousing lighter fluid on the 2-year-old pit bull and setting it on fire on May 27, 2009. The dog, which was nicknamed Phoenix, died a few days later at a Pennsylvania animal hospital.

During Wednesday's testimony, Detective Lamont Davis played a taped of an interview between himself, another detective and Travers Johnson. 11 News reporter Lowell Melser said the tape was mostly inaudible, but through transcripts, the teen said he was on home detention the day the dog was burned.

When detectives told Travers Johnson they had video of him with the dog that day, the boy claimed the interview was over.

Following that, a representative from the Department of Juvenile Services testified that according to department records, Travers Johnson was not on house arrest at all during the month of May.

A city trace analyst specializing in fire debris also took the stand. She said she ran tests on two pairs of jeans, a backpack and a pair of sneakers taken from the Johnson home.

The analyst testified that a mixture of some sort of ignitable substance was found on the items, although they were packaged incorrectly by investigators and could have contaminated each other.

The state rested its case after that.

The defense's only witness was a fire protection engineer, who downplayed the analyst's findings. He said that more items, such as the dog's fur and a sweater used to put it out, should have been tested to compare results.

The defense then rested its case.

During the trial, the state called 10 witnesses to the stand, while the defense only called one.

Closing arguments are set for Thursday. The case will then go to the jury.
Source: - Feb 2, 2011
Update posted on Feb 2, 2011 - 9:59PM 
While trying to avoid incriminating his friends, a reluctant witness in the animal-cruelty trial of twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson came close to implicating himself while testifying Tuesday.

Prosecutors interrupted Michael Taylor, 21, while he was answering defense questions on the stand, raising Fifth Amendment concerns and leading the court to call in Taylor's attorney before allowing him to proceed.

The disruption occurred after defense attorneys pointed out that Taylor's appearance matched a description of someone seen running from the West Baltimore alley where a pit bull nicknamed Phoenix was set on fire May 27, 2009.

The Johnson twins, who turn 19 on Saturday, are charged in the crime. Their third day of trial testimony was characterized by lengthy bench conferences, held privately before the judge, and heated questioning of witnesses.

Defense attorneys verbally sparred with the police sergeant who handled much of the investigation, apparently trying to make him agree that Baltimore officers did a poor job by failing to investigate other suspects and not chemically testing certain clothing items.

Instead, they elicited literal responses to hypothetical questions, like whether Tremayne can fly. A surveillance video showed a male identified by police as Tremayne running in one direction, then allegedly walking from another area two minutes later.

"I can't testify as to whether [Tremayne] can fly or not," Sgt. Jarron Jackson said. He added, however, that an individual could run around the block and come from another area. He answered similarly when asked by prosecutors why Tremayne appeared to be wearing a white t-shirt and long sleeves while running, then a blue t-shirt while walking.

"Persons who commit crimes normally try to alter their appearance," Jackson said.

Jackson's testimony appeared to link Tremayne to the dog, by pointing out that the defendant's nickname "Mayne," which is tattooed on his forearm, was found written inside the vacant house on Gilmor Street where the dog stayed and also on a backpack seized from Tremayne's home.

Taylor's testimony was designed to separate the brothers from Phoenix, however. The Johnsons are close friends, and Taylor's home is in the area where the crime occurred. He repeatedly said he didn't want to testify Tuesday, and labeled earlier statements to police "lies."

His goal was "just to make up something … in exchange for freedom," he said.

Taylor was questioned about the dog-burning incident after police raided his home on June 6, 2009, found a gun and marijuana inside, and arrested him and his girlfriend. His case is not resolved.
Source: - Feb 1, 2011
Update posted on Feb 1, 2011 - 9:24PM 
A witness said Monday, during the second day of testimony in the animal-cruelty case against Travers and Tremayne Johnson, that she saw the defendants "running from the scene of the crime" seconds after a pit bull puppy was set on fire.

The identifications could net her thousands of dollars in reward money collected after the dog, nicknamed "Phoenix," was fatally burned in 2009, leading defense attorneys to question the motives of the witness. But Tiera Goodman, who is jailed in an unrelated case, readily acknowledged that she was there for the cash " to "get paid," as one lawyer put it.

"I know what I saw, I just didn't care until I seen the reward," Goodman said, explaining why she waited six days before approaching police.

It was a blunt admission of indifference compared with the outrage stirred in others over the burning death of the puupy, which was euthanized days after being doused in fuel and set ablaze. Hundreds of people donated nearly $28,000 in reward money, which will be paid out if there's a conviction in the case. And animal welfare representatives have been sitting in on the drawn-out proceedings for days, occasionally alongside law enforcement and local politicians.

Video from a city surveillance camera, narrated and interpreted by Sgt. Jarron Jackson, who was assigned to the case June 2, showed the dog's last moves before the attack in late May.

At 11:48 a.m., a man summons Phoenix and walks her over to two men standing on a street corner in West Baltimore. Their faces aren't visible, and it's hard to make out what they're wearing. The camera is posted high up and yards away.

Jackson identified the two males as the teenage Johnson brothers, however, based on their general appearance and mannerisms. Tremayne has a characteristic "wrist flick" move, Jackson said.

At 11:51, Travers kicks the dog, according to Jackson, and the brothers walk her to an alley entrance off Presbury Street. Seven minutes later, the brothers bolt from the direction of the alley and sprint away " right by Goodman, who's standing in the street with a friend, the sergeant said. Seconds later, Phoenix is seen on fire.

A minute passes, officers arrive and one tries to help the dog while gawkers gather. Then Tremayne Johnson reappears, two minutes after he allegedly ran away, Jackson said.

The figure walks up North Gilmor Street, seems to peek down Presbury toward the dog and officers, and does a quick about-face, returning from the direction he came. The move allows camera operators to capture a close-up shot that shows a young black man wearing a blue T-shirt with white lettering.

Goodman said she left when the police arrived, and came forward only "because there was a reward. It's posted all over the projects."

She first identified the brothers, who turn 19 on Saturday, by vague physical descriptions, then through nicknames and photo line-ups in subsequent visits.

"I was in the area a lot," she said.

Defense attorneys will have a chance to question Jackson when the trial resumes Tuesday, provided bad weather doesn't close the courts.

Video time sequences

11:50:56 a.m.: A man hands over Phoenix by leash to two males, identified as Travers and Tremayne Johnson by Baltimore Police Sgt. Jarron Jackson.

11:51:06: The male identified by police as Travers kicks the dog.

11:51:50: The two males and the dog walk down Presbury Street toward an alley.

11:57:14: Witness Tiera Goodman stands in street near convenience store.

11:58:03: Two males, identified by Goodman as the Johnson brothers, run from the direction of the alley.

11:58:09: First view of Phoenix on fire, near the mouth of the alley, which is obscured by bushes.

11:59:11: Officer Syreeta Teel uses her sweater to smother Phoenix's flames.

12:00:01: A male identified by Jackson as Tremayne appears to check out the situation and quickly leaves, turning to face the surveillance cameras, which capture a close-up.
Source: - Jan 31, 2011
Update posted on Jan 31, 2011 - 8:03PM 
A city detective choked up on the witness stand Friday as she described the moment she spotted a young pit bull " like her own pet, Blu " engulfed in flames on a West Baltimore street.

Detective Syreeta Teel testified that she leapt from her squad car and smothered the blaze with a sweater, while the female pup, later named "Phoenix" by rescue workers, wailed.

That account set the tone for the first day of testimony in the trial against teenage brothers Travers and Tremayne Johnson, who are accused of dousing the dog in accelerant and setting her on fire on May 27, 2009.

The proceedings are expected to be emotional for onlookers, who will repeatedly hear about Phoenix's trusting nature, sweet disposition and the pain endured for days before euthanasia. One juror was moved to tears Friday. And the case could be difficult for prosecutors, who acknowledge they have little physical evidence to present.

Teel left the sweater, which might have provided traces of accelerant, on the sidewalk, testimony revealed. The scene was never secured. The police crime lab was never called. And a treating veterinarian was never interviewed in the arson investigation.

"The Baltimore City Police Department completely botched this," said Assistant Public Defender Karyn Meriwether, who represents Tremayne in the case. It was only after public pressure mounted that officers acted, Meriwether said, and arrested the troubled twins because they "had to put somebody in those [defense table] seats."

The abuse of Phoenix drew national attention and strong reactions " unlike much violent crime against humans. Hundreds of people donated thousands of dollars to catch the dog's attackers, and the city created an Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force to analyze the law enforcement response to such incidents, deemed flawed in a report last year.

"There are no fingerprints in this case" or much in the way of "scientific evidence," Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Rallo acknowledged during opening statements to the jury of seven women and five men.

Instead, she and her partner, prosecutor Janet Hankin, are largely relying on officer interpretations of grainy surveillance video to make the state's case, as well as the word of witnesses " including a woman who the defense says came forward for a reward that swelled above $25,000.

Rallo described the fateful day in detail, based on a video account captured on a police CitiWatch camera.

A dog walked swiftly along the street, a long piece of rope dangling from her collar, Rallo said. The animal approached a man, dropped her head, "wiggled her little body" and was led by the rope to two others standing on the corner of Presbury and North Calhoun streets.

"He handed the little dog over to the defendants," Rallo said. "Within minutes, the little dog was engulfed in flames."

The jury was shown a portion of the video, with Phoenix obscured by a clump of trees. Teel's police car was parked midstreet, and smoke hung in the air at camera level. It was impossible to make out the animal.

The dog was burned on more than 95 percent of her body. Veterinarians would later find that her corneas had melted, the inside of her mouth was torched, her footpads had sloughed off, her skin had peeled back and her kidneys had begun to fail.

"On a scale of one to 10," her pain level was "10," said veterinarian Jennifer McGough, who treated Phoenix at a Pennsylvania emergency animal center for several days. The dog had puncture wounds on her neck and a leg, as if she'd been in dog fights before, but she showed no aggression.

"The degree of pain she was in was beyond belief," McGough said, yet Phoenix "was just a lovely dog throughout the experience."

After five days, Phoenix was put down, once doctors determined that her kidneys were failing and she couldn't recover.

Police later said they identified the Johnson brothers, who will turn 19 next week, from the video footage that the jury hasn't yet seen. Baltimore Circuit Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill declined media requests Friday to provide a copy of the footage while the trial is under way, but said the recording would be made available afterward.

Three males can be seen in the footage standing with a brown-and-black dog, according to a June 5, 2009, police report that claims one of them clearly kicked the animal.

"A short while later, two of the males could be seen running from the alleyway at a brisk pace," the report states. "Also in the same footage, the dog, completely engulfed in flames, could be seen falling into the street in agony."

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, 17 at the time, were later identified by "a reliable confidential informant" and anonymous citizens, the report said.

Both teens have juvenile records and were initially charged in juvenile court. They were later indicted as adults on the animal cruelty charges, which carry a maximum prison sentence of three years.

Travers has since been arrested on attempted-murder charges. His arraignment in that case was set for Thursday but postponed because of the snowstorm.

His lawyer in the Phoenix case, Sharon May, said he did not hurt the dog.

The case resumes Monday morning and is expected to last through midweek.
Source: - Jan 28, 2011
Update posted on Jan 28, 2011 - 10:05PM 
The prosecution of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, both charged with animal cruelty, will resume Monday morning with pretrial motions, followed by jury selection.

The schedule was set back six hours Friday because a jury deliberating in a separate case needed access to the courtroom and Travers Johnson, who is in custody on unrelated attempted-murder charges, was not transported to court in time.

The brothers are accused of dousing a pit bull puppy with gasoline in 2009, then setting it on fire. The dog, nicknamed Phoenix by rescue workers, had to be euthanized.

The proceedings will move to a ceremonial courtroom Monday so Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill can assemble a larger-than-average pool of potential jurors. The case has received national attention, and it may be difficult to find jury members who are not familiar with the allegations against the 18-year-olds.

The trial is expected to last between two and six days, attorneys said. On Friday, an attorney for Travers Johnson argued that his brief statement to police should be suppressed. The argument will continue Monday with testimony from a Baltimore detective.

Other defense pretrial motions involve suppressing witness identifications, issues with city surveillance videos, a witness who has expressed an intent to recant, and whether the prosecution can include references to the teens' tattoos and alleged gang involvement.

During a hearing in October 2009, Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Rallo outlined plans to present expert testimony about the brothers' "affiliation with a gang."
Source: - Jan 21, 2011
Update posted on Jan 21, 2011 - 6:04PM 
The state has dropped several charges against teenaged twin brothers who are accused of setting a puppy on fire.

The pit bull later had to be put to sleep.

Tremayne and Travers Johnson will no longer face gun and drug charges.

They will still face animal cruelty and abuse charges. The 18 year olds claim they are innocent.

Police said they found weapons and drugs in the rowhouse on Pulaski Street, the Sun reported.
Source: - Mar 25, 2010
Update posted on Mar 25, 2010 - 3:20PM 
Jury selection will begin Wednesday for the firearms possession trial of twin brothers accused of setting fire to a pit bull in May.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, both 18, and their father, Charles Johnson, 76, were charged in June with possession of firearms and marijuana. Police say the drugs and weapons were found that month in a raid of the Johnsons' South Pulaski Street home while investigating the dog burning.

Prosecutors plan to handle the firearm case before the animal cruelty charges, which drew nationwide attention.

The brothers were indicted by a Baltimore grand jury in November on aggravated animal abuse charges. The two pleaded not guilty in December to burning the dog, named Phoenix by rescuers. Workers ultimately had to euthanize the dog, which had burns over more than 95 percent of its body.
Source: Baltimore Sun - Mar 22, 2010
Update posted on Mar 22, 2010 - 5:32PM 
State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy announced today that the Baltimore City Grand Jury indicted both Tremayne and Travers Johnson, 17, of S. Pulaski Street in a five count indictment charging animal abuse and cruelty.

Court documents allege that on May 27, 2009 Tremayne and Travers Johnson were responsible for setting a pit bull dog on fire in the 1600 block of Presbury Street. Police responding to a call in that block discovered a pit bull dog engulfed in flames. The dog, affectionately named Phoenix, was put down due to injuries while being cared for at an animal shelter in Pennsylvania.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceeding.

Both Johnson brothers are being held at the Baltimore City Detention Center without bail.

An arraignment is scheduled for December 9, 2009 before the Honorable David W. Young, 227 Courthouse East.
Source: Baltimore Sun - Nov 13, 2009
Update posted on Nov 13, 2009 - 7:10PM 
There are new developments in a shocking animal cruelty case. A two-year-old pit bull was doused with gasoline, then set on fire and left to die in Baltimore City. The teenagers charged with the crime appeared before a judge Tuesday.

Derek Valcourt has details from court.

Defense attorneys tried to argue that since the twins were 17 at the time the dog was lit on fire, they should be tried as juveniles, but the judge ordered they be tried as adults.

In the city, they called her Phoenix. In May, the pit bull was doused with gasoline and then set on fire. An officer saw the dog on fire and ripped off her sweatshirt to put the flames out. But the injuries were too severe and she had to be put down.

Prosecutors say evidence led them to Travers and Tremayne Johnson, 17-year-old twin brothers, who they say are members of the 1600 Boys gang.

Their father refused to answer questions when he left the courtroom Tuesday, but prosecutors say crime cameras captured most of the chaos of the burning dogs and the twins running from the scene.

The case sparked outrage across the country and in Baltimore, led to the creation of an anti-animal abuse task force, chaired by Caroline Griffin.

"Everyone agreed this was an absolutely horrific crime," she said. "What impressed me is how seriously both the state's attorney's office is taking this and how seriously the court is taking this."

The twins both face charges of felony aggravated animal cruelty. If convicted, they could face three years in prison.
Source: WJZ - Nov 3, 2009
Update posted on Nov 9, 2009 - 4:52AM 
Corrections officers escorted the twin brothers into the courtroom together, the smaller one trailing just behind the other, their hands shackled behind their backs, their feet shackled at the ankles. Both wore blue jeans and white T-shirts. They looked younger than their 17 years.

The guards brought them into the sixth-floor room after most of the day's chaotic docket of drugs and violence had concluded and the spectator benches had emptied but for two women. The youths stood in front of Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles G. Bernstein to be arraigned on adult charges that they had weapons in their home on South Pulaski Street.

A spokesman for the city state's attorney's office sat in a jury seat.

A private attorney, Caroline Griffin, who serves as chairwoman of Baltimore's newly formed Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force, sat in the back and waited patiently for three hours until the twins, Travers and Tremayne Johnson, were paraded in front of the bench.

Griffin and the spokesman were there because the youths have also been charged as juveniles with fatally setting a pit bull on fire in West Baltimore in May. It was a case that attracted national attention, a reward that far exceeded those handed out for tips in murder cases involving humans and made a hero of a city officer who rescued the dog named Phoenix and smothered the flames with her sweater.

But the defense attorney, the prosecutor and the judge did not bring those topics up at the hearing, reserved exclusively for the young defendants to enter pleas in the gun case and have a trial date set for Oct. 13. Court documents filed in the gun case (they said they were not guilty) name them as suspects in the dog burning, which is scheduled for a separate juvenile hearing this month.

While Bernstein offered opinions on other cases before him Tuesday, there was no similar banter when the Johnson twins' turn came. They were represented by a public defender, but a private attorney will represent one of them. Both are being held without bail.

Tuesday was the first time the youths had been seen in public. Two relatives, including their grandmother, sat in back of the court and talked privately with the public defender when the hearing ended. Neither wanted to talk to reporters and simply shook their heads no as they walked down a courthouse hallway.

While the burning drew national attention and daily news updates - an animal rights group has posted on its Web site a personal plea to the prosecutor, Jennifer Rallo, to "vigorously prosecute" - the judicial proceedings have not generated sustained attention, in part because the brothers were charged in the secretive world of juvenile courts.

It's only now, with them facing adult gun charges stemming from a raid police conducted at their house after the arrest in the dog case, that details are slowly emerging.

The court documents filed in the gun case say the twins were seen "running out an alley with the burning dog" and that the "incident was captured" on police surveillance video. Police arrested them and then raided the family house on Pulaski Street where, according to authorities, they seized a loaded handgun hidden inside a rubber boot, a shotgun and a rifle.

Their 75-year-old father, in a previous interview, said the guns were his, not his sons', and that the twins had nothing to do with burning Phoenix.

Neither twin talked during the hearing; the judge simply entered the not-guilty pleas on their behalf and then made them fill out paperwork. "As soon as you sign, you are free to go, so to speak," the judge told them, knowing they were in handcuffs and leg irons and were definitely not free to go anywhere but back to jail and wait for their next appearance in court, the one everyone is anxiously awaiting.
Source: The Baltimore Sun - Aug 5, 2009
Update posted on Aug 6, 2009 - 1:11PM 
Two teenage twin brothers charged as juveniles with fatally burning a pit bull are being held without bail on new adult charges after police said they raided their Southwest Baltimore rowhouse and found guns and marijuana inside.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, 17, are each charged with possession of firearms, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to police and prosecutors. Court documents say the two were suspects in the dog burning last month, and their father confirmed that they are charged as juveniles with animal cruelty in the case.

The death of the dog, which had been doused with gasoline and set aflame, attracted national attention, led to donations for a reward fund that grew to $26,000 and prompted calls for stiffer penalties in animal cruelty cases. Caregivers, who named the dog Phoenix, had to euthanize the animal because she had burns on 95 percent of her body.

Mayor Sheila Dixon and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III held a news conference about the case, and the officer who found the dog on Presbury Street and used her sweater to put out the flames became a hero. The commissioner has said the animal might have been used in dog fighting.

Baltimore police announced the arrest of the youths June 8 in connection with the dog case but did not release their names because they were charged as juveniles. They canceled a news conference, saying they were conferring with prosecutors on the charges, and officials left open the possibility that the state's attorney's office might not proceed with the case. The youths were released to the custody of their father.

According to court documents, police raided the house in the first block of S. Pulaski St. on June 16 and filed adult charges against the twins two days later. Authorities did not divulge details of that raid and those charges until Thursday.

Details in the newly filed court documents say that detectives have a witness "who positively identified both Travers Johnson and Tremayne Johnson as the individuals who were running out of the alley with the burning dog." The documents also state that the "incident was captured" on police surveillance video.

Police said that when they searched the Pulaski Street house, they found three guns - a loaded .38-caliber Taurus handgun inside a rubber boot, a 20-gauge shotgun and a Marlin Firearms .30-.30-caliber rifle. In addition, police said they found a digital scale with a small amount of marijuana.
Source: The Baltimore Sun - Jun 26, 2009
Update posted on Jun 26, 2009 - 12:25PM 
The pit bull set on fire in West Baltimore last month might have been part of a dog-fighting operation, Baltimore's top police official said Tuesday.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said there were indications that dog fighting "may have been at the core" of the case, but he declined to elaborate.

There had been previous reports that the dog had bite marks on its body.

Police charged two teenagers over the weekend with setting the dog ablaze, but few details have been released as police and prosecutors pore over evidence. Prosecutors have declined to comment, but Bealefeld said he remains optimistic that the case will move forward.

"I understand there are still some concerns about some of the things that [prosecutors] are looking for us to do in continuing with the investigation, but I'm confident that we have the right guys, based on all that I've heard," Bealefeld said.

The case sparked anger and generated more than $26,000 in donations to find the culprits. Bealefeld said the community came forward with tips that helped police close in on the suspects.

"We got some information in the early stages concerning [the] possible identity of these guys, and then, based on a review of evidence from the scene, we were able to secure another witness who put us over the top," Bealefeld said.
Source: Baltimore Sun - June 10, 2009
Update posted on Jun 10, 2009 - 4:14AM 
Two Southwest Baltimore juveniles have been arrested for the burning of Phoenix, the pit bull, that spurred such outraged that an award fund reached $24,000, according to The Baltimore Sun story.

The dog was initially saved by a Baltimore City police officer, Syreeta Teel, who was on routine patrol May 27 and saw the dog in the middle of Presbury street. She put out the fire with her sweater and has since been called a hero by her superiors and many in the community.

The dog suffered burns on 98 percent of her body and had to be euthanize last weekend.

No word on what lead to the arrest.
Source: Baltimore Sun - June 8, 2009
Update posted on Jun 8, 2009 - 2:07PM 


  • WJZ - May 27, 2009

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