Monday, May 23, 2011

Reasonable doubt

[This post is archival material and is not supported. 07/06/15]

 There's a reasonable doubt as to whether this dog was a pit bull.
        Judge Mark K. Wiest

The only thing the paper got right was it was a pit bull.
        Nate Gray

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The attack on Kamaria Simpson was not unusual. The dog attacked for no known  reason, caused extensive injuries to a number of people, and continued berserking after the victims escaped into a home. The dog held the victims hostage while attempting to break through doors and windows to continue the attack. When the police arrived it was tazered but bit off the probe, continued to attack a police officer, was shot and continued to attack until it was shot two more times, after which it ran off to die.

"For about 10 minutes the dog went from one window and door to the next, looking inside and hurling its body against the openings. It already had a lot of blood dripping from its mouth from Kamaria. It kept looking in at us and trying to get in. It was like he was possessed. It was like a nightmare."

And Kamaria's injuries were hardly unusual for a pit bull attack. Hundreds of stitches were required to close the wounds on her face and scalp, from which the dog had also torn chunks of her hair. Her cheek was nearly ripped off. Kamaria escaped with minor injuries, considering it was a pit bull attack. It's likely that her thick hair protected her from being scalped, which is not uncommon for pit bull attacks on children.

None of this is unexpected for those who follow pit bull attacks. What happened afterwards is far more interesting and has all the ingredients for a segment of CSI: Orrville. Lovely small towns in a bucolic countryside setting; a dynamic, ambitious, female prosecuting attorney; crafty defense attorneys; a dynamic, vivacious veterinarian on whom the case turned; hints of arson and dogfighting and special favors, a courageous, moral small town cop with enemies and small time criminals with friends.

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In the aftermath of the attack the community experienced a convulsive reaction, with those defending the Grays and the dog far outweighing those who expressed concern over the attack. Orrville Police Chief Dino Carozza  said some people need to express less remorse about the fate of the dog and more interest in the welfare of the victims.

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Nate and Dainyelle Gray have since been divorced,  but at the time lived in the house Kamaria visited and where the attack occurred, and while they own a pit bull, it is not the dog blamed in the attack.

Jump ahead a few months and Dainyelle Gray, 29, and Lester Bullard, 31, both of 206 E. Water St., are standing trial, charged with failure to confine or restrain a vicious dog. Dainyelle is familiar with the courthouse, having been in and out nearly a dozen times in the last decade, and so is Lester. SRUV is unable to find Wayne County property records for a residence at 206 E Water Street,  but we will ignore that as a likely reporting error. The testimonies of both Gray and Bullard were presented in court on DVD video recordings and the prosecutor did not question the defendants in court.

There are conflicting reports about the dog that attacked Kamaria. The dog may have been dropped off near the Gray home a couple days prior to the attack, or according to Nate Gray, on the day of the attack while the Grays were in Marietta, a two hour drive away. Dainyelle and the children had returned home by the time of the attack.

There are also conflicting reports about who dropped it off, and why. Nate Gray claims he doesn't know who dropped the dog off, and that the dog was roaming. Shagala Simpson, Kamaria's mother, claims it ran out of the east door of the house. Lester Bullard, a Facebook friend of Nate's, told the Orrville police he dropped the dog off on Saturday, the day before the incident, and left the dog in the basement. The claims that the dog belonged to a friend of Nate's brother, who died two days previous to the attack, strain credulity.

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Defense attorneys Clarke Owens and Beverly Wire built their case by questioning the breed of dog that mounted the attack, an important point under Ohio law. The outcome of the trial was an anti-climax; the two defendants were released. The reason: there is reasonable doubt that the dog was a pit bull.

The judge's finding rests on the post-mortem performed by Dr. Kristen Scrafford of Ark Veterinary Clinic in Wooster. Dr Scrafford graduated from the OSU school of veterinary medicine in June of 2010 and performed the evaluation of the dog a little over a month later.

She could not say for sure whether the dog was a pit bull or a breed of pit bull, but the dog did have some physical features resembling a pit bull.

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Here is a bit of wisdom for the Judge and the novice veterinarian:
  1. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If a dog has physical features of a pit bull, and it tries to break through doors and windows to prosecute an attack, it's a pit bull. No other breed of dog will continue to attack until it dies, unless it is rabid.
  2. Nate Gray admits it was a pit bull. Let's take his word for it.

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News coverage of the berserking attack on Kamaria and the subsequent trial appeared in The Daily Record September 1, 2010 and on May 10, 2011.