The jury came back with a decision. Interestingly, they gave the German Shepherd back to the Gracias along with the chickens; forfeited the other animals. I find the return of the German Shepherd most interesting. This is a dog that was allegedly amongst the HSPCA's major initial concerns upon trespassing upon the Gracias' property. They claimed the dog had no water, no food; that their "investigator" had to share water from her personal water bottle because he was in such desperate shape. (The investigator was not carrying water to share with animals in need. Food? Yes. But not water. Is that odd or what?) Yet the jury returned this dog.
Why did the jury return some animals and not others? We'll probably never know. The jurors are now free to speak if they choose but that rarely happens. We do know they deliberated at length and asked some questions that indicated they didn't understand and/or didn't like the instructions they were given and that often indicates some bargaining went on in the jury room. Juries are strange critters. They are stuck in a room and it's hard to hold one's convictions if one or two disagree with the rest. Everyone wants to go home, to get back to their lives. Most of us consider jury duty a burden instead of the privilege it is.
The other frustrating thing about juries is they rarely get to hear all the information THEY would consider relevant. We ask them to make decisions in a vacuum. We ask them to make decisions without knowing what the consequences of those decisions will really be.
In this case, I suspect the jury thought the division of the animals was the end. It is not. Now the HSPCA and Attila the Prosecutor get a hearing where they will present their bills to the court which may well rubber stamp them. Why didn't the jury get to decide the reasonableness of the amounts HSPCA has been charging for tending these animals? Or at least to know that such billing being assessed against the Gracias would result if they forfeited even one animal? Beats the living hell out of me!
The hearing on $$ will be next Thursday and I expect the $$ that HSPCA wants will be in excess of $100,000 and wouldn't be at all surprised to see upwards of $200,000 (as they claimed for a much briefer period in the Boado case last year). I do know that if these were the reasonable costs of tending animals that damned few of us could afford a pet. But, of course, that is HSPCA's point - none of US should have pets. They and their brethren (HSUS, PETA, et. al.) will simply not be happy until they've killed all the pets and forced all of us into veggie only diets.
How much else Attila will want? Who knows.
The humaniacs were promptly spreading the "news" of a victory in the Gracia case far and wide. "It's over, no appeal, we WON." What a bunch of ignorant idiots!
First, whenever a jury "splits the baby", no one won. In this case, the government contended that, if one animal was cruelly treated, then they were entitled to all the animals. Didn't get them. That's a huge loss for them on that point. No, even if the jury finds some animals were cruelly treated, you do NOT get to swoop them all up and keep them. That is the message from the jury. (No doubt the HSPCA will claim they get the caretaking costs even for the animals the jury returned though.)
Second, anyone with half a wit would know that the jury might have reached an entirely different decision if they'd been told of the fees HSPCA will be trying to collect, of the amount of donations they received from their promos of this and other seizures they've instigated, of it's TRUE involvement.
Third, there's still a huge issue of the onset of this case. The County claimed it didn't have to file petitions in these cases. They LOST that argument. How many thousands of these cases have been filed and how many thousands of animals have been forfeited illegally because, prior to this, there appear to have been no petitions filed in these cases at all? In this case, the petition wasn't even filed until AFTER the trial started in county court. Um, the purpose of a petition is to allow the defense to know the issues and prepare. Hmmm, the Gracias sure didn't get that little fundamental.
Fourth, the jury charge was, frankly, bizarre. It's a wonder the jury could reach decisions at all. (I can't wait for the file to go to the clerk where it's more readily available for viewing and copying so I can get some copies of Attila's pleadings!)
Fifth, the "no appeal" claims. Oh, PLEASE! Yeah, that's what it looks like the statute says. Actually it DOES say that. Yeah, well, in law one learns quickly not to take a single item at face value. Whether or not one can appeal in these cases HAS been appealed a few times. That they have been appealed is proof they can be appealed. (Good thing too because otherwise we'd have different "law" in each and every county court.) And, while the Texas legislature has delusions of godhood, it does not have that status. It cannot cut off the right to appeal constitutional issues. The federal courts are the final arbiter of those and they don't give much of a rat's butt what the Texas legislature passes. There's really no such thing as "no appeal" of cases; nearly all cases can be appealed and the results changed on appeal.
No one had a sweeping win in this case, least of all the animals. The prosecutors and groups like HSPCA certainly have more input and clout in the legislative process than we mere pet owners. That this statute is so poorly written that some of the above issues even had to be addressed is proof of that. Sooner or later, it was bound to happen that animals would end up in this limbo for extended time because they, the humaniacs, wanted a vague statute and to cut corners. The responsibility for that lies squarely with the humaniacs and they've now been told that several of their shenanigans are impermissible and won't fly.
I do not envy the Gracias having to make the decisions they will have to make. I do know that we ALL need to know what is expected of us as animal owners and this case barely made a dent in that issue.
I am already extremely grateful to the Gracias and their attorneys for the smaller wins within this case. That the prosecutors MUST file a petition was obvious to me and it is just amazing they've ducked this fundamental for a decade. Hopefully, that will stop immediately as it should never have been an issue. That the "one animal = sweep them all up" was trounced by the jury should also send a huge message to the humaniacs to stop that practice immediately.
While the humaniacs run around claiming victory, I must disagree. In fact, there are far more "wins" in this case for pet owners, for property owners, for fundamental rights than losses. In past cases, the owners have simply been run over in star chamber proceedings but not so in the Gracia case. And more of those wins to come I'm sure. Perhaps in this case, if not, in other cases. Sadly, when the law goes as wrong as it has with these poorly drafted animal laws, the issues rarely get sorted out quickly but the Gracias and their attorneys have worked hard to present as many of the issues as they could. When the government and radical activists swoop in, it takes a while to get our rights back. It is up to us to keep trying.
One thing that came out as clear in the recent elections is that we're mostly fed up with over reaching government and these anti-animal, anti-property owner, laws are just more of that over reaching which we need to crush. That the government or some private NPO like HSPCA can swoop in and snatch up your property summarily goes way beyond socialism. The past behavior of the government and the NPOs in these cases borders more upon dictatorial authority than socialism. I am thrilled that the court and jury put a dent in their delusions of monarchy.