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Sunday, Apr 25, 2010County: Park
Person of Interest: Stanley Bearpaw, Sr.
The Wyoming Supreme Court may review a Park County animal cruelty case involving an alleged horse slaughter.
One felony and one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty against Stanley Bearpaw Sr., 56, were dismissed with prejudice by District Judge Steven Cranfill on March 2 on grounds that evidence had been destroyed.
But Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips filed a writ of review March 19, asking for the decision to dismiss charges be reviewed. The court has discretion in hearing these cases.
The state performed an examination of the horse in question - which eyewitnesses have said had its throat slit - and then disposed of it in a landfill before Bearpaw had a chance to request an independent examination regarding its condition and cause of death.
Evidence from the necropsy would have been presented during trial.
"It should have been preserved," Cranfill told the court. "I'm sure it was difficult, but when we've got a felony at issue, that discussion should have taken place."
Cranfill ruled due process had been violated and dismissed both charges related to the horse.
The writ of review alleges Cranfill should not have dismissed the charges for a number of reasons.
First, citing Arizona v. Young Blood, 1988, the state argues a due process violation only occurs if the defendant can show evidence was destroyed in bad faith, and not simple negligence.
They claim Bearpaw failed to prove this standard and also failed to show how his own examination would have provided meaningful evidence for his case.
The state also argues that even if a due process violation occurred, it was prepared to offer independent evidence of the alleged animal cruelty acts of April 25, 2010.
"Disposal of the body could not have impaired Bearpaw's ability to counter eyewitness testimony about the cruel manner in which he killed the horse," the writ of review states.
It goes on to state, "The district court's decision simply has no basis in logic or law."
In conclusion, the writ cites U.S. v. Bohl, 10th Circuit 1994, saying Judge Cranfill should have considered the centrality of the destroyed evidence to the charge, the reliability of secondary evidence, and how the destruction of evidence would affect Bearpaw's ability to present a defense.
"Already in Park County the evidence destruction issue has arisen in a new case," the writ of review states, explaining the need for guidance from the Wyoming Supreme Court on the issue.
The remaining misdemeanor counts against Bearpaw for failure to provide proper feed to five other horses were remanded to circuit court.
Bearpaw pleaded not guilty to those charges March 19. No trial date has been set.
- codyenterprise.com - Mar 26, 2010
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