Lawyer for Cullman Alabama Men on Trial for Rooster Fighting says birds are not animals
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The reader should also be aware that the Republican stronghold of Cullman county was home to the nation’s longest running “dry” Oktoberfest, and the Ku Klux Klan. But perhaps in this case it should be the Ku Clucks Klan?
Defendants cry foul on definition of ‘animal’ in cockfighting trial
MOULTON — Jury deliberation will continue today in the trial for five men facing charges in connection with the raid of a cockfighting operation in August 2011.
On trial are Joseph Lynn Holmes, 36, of Hanceville; Larry Dale McCroy, 53, of Hanceville; Zackary Clay McLeroy, 33, of Cullman; James Russell Garnett, 34, of Vinemont; and Grady Darrel McCroy, 54, of Cullman. All face charges of cruelty to animals and gambling on cockfighting.
Testimony began Tuesday and concluded with only one witness being called, Lawrence County Drug Task Force investigator Shannon Holland. Holland testified that through a confidential informant, he received information about a cockfight held at the edge of Bankhead National Forest at a residence off Lawrence County 81.
He said that, as an undercover investigator, he attended the event held in a barn Aug. 6 through Aug. 7. He said an admission charge was required to enter, and gamecocks fought in an octagon-shaped ring with bleachers and chairs on both sides. He testified he saw several dead and injured gamecocks and saw all the defendants handling the birds before or during fights.
The jury viewed video Holland captured on his cellphone of a cockfight and of injured birds.
But the defendants’ attorney, Mark Dutton of Moulton, said throughout the trial the cruelty charges do not apply because they stem from a cockfight on private property, which he said is not illegal. He said historical figures such as Andrew Jackson, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln participated in cockfighting. “Honest Abe,” he said, earned his nickname for his honesty in cockfighting matches.
Gamecocks, which are school mascots, he said, are “bred to be aggressive, and they are aggressive.”
“This is a sport, and it has been recognized as a sport for 6,000 years,” he said.
He argued other activities, such as baiting deer and hunting from a tree stand, or hog hunting, where he said dogs grasp hogs’ testicles, causing the hogs to stand still while a hunter cuts their throats, are considered cruel by some, but are not illegal.
Dutton also argued gamecocks are not animals, according to Webster’s dictionary, because they do not have four legs or fur.
An animal, according to “Webster’s New World Dictionary,” Third College Edition, is “any living organism, excluding plants and bacteria.”
Lawrence County District Attorney Errek Jett said cockfighting isn’t a sport, and that hunting is legal. Though the cockfight was at a residence, the event wasn’t private and was open to the public, he said, adding that Holland was able to attend though he knew no one there other than an informant.
Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig included in his instructions to the jury for deliberation that chickens and other foul are animals.
Larry McCroy said after testimony concluded he disagreed with Craig’s instructions stating chickens are animals.
“We had Webster’s dictionary stating the definition of foul is a bird and an animal has fur and has four legs,” he said.
McCroy said he has attended cockfights since he was 14, and that the fights are part of history.
He said cockfighting isn’t inhumane because birds are foul, not animals. He said he attended the cockfight, held on private property.
“The law says it’s legal to fight in a private place,” he said.
McCroy’s wife, Dawn, said she too disagreed with Craig’s instructions to the jury about the definition of an animal.
She said gamecocks aren’t domestic pets, and that one caused an injury to her face, drawing blood.
“…if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas, upon his deathbed, 7 March 1274
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