September 29, 2008
Who sets the priorities of New York City prosecutors?
This new story on CNN allows be to do some cat blogging and also has me wondering if all human-related crimes have been solved and resolved in New York City. The story is headlined "Prosecutors consider retrial in cat-killing case," and here are excerpts:
New York City prosecutors say they're considering a retrial for the former minor league pitcher and actor who killed his girlfriend's cat.
Manhattan jurors deadlocked 11-1 on Friday at the aggravated animal cruelty trial for Joseph Petcka. Petcka says he didn't mean to hurt Norman the cat. He said he overreacted when the cat bit him. The former Mets minor leaguer and "Sex in the City" actor said on NBC's "Today" show he's grateful for the lone juror who believed he didn't act intentionally.
The jury deadlocked Friday, after five days of deliberations.
Prosecutor Leila Kermani portrayed Petcka as "washed up," saying in closing arguments that he had "zero income and no prospects" last year when he became jealous and killed the cat. Petcka, who pitched in the New York Mets' minor league system in 1992, was a "washed-up, never-made-it-to-the-big-leagues athlete" and a "D-minus" actor, she said.
Kermani has told jurors that Petcka brutally killed the neutered and declawed cat after complaining that his girlfriend at the time, Lisa Altobelli, loved the cat more than him. Petcka testified that he was defending himself after the 8-pound orange and white tabby bit his right hand and drew blood.
Since I no longer pay New York City taxes, I suppose I need not care how much public time and taxpayer money has been spent trying to convict a "washed-up" athelete and "D-minus" actor for his feline crime. But, after a juror refused to convict Petcka, do New York City prosecutors to have nothing better to do than go after Petcka again? I am a huge cat-lover, but how just much public time and New York taxpayer money should be spent seeking justice for Norman the cat rather than keeping prosecutors focused on the more than 8,000,000 humans that live in the city?
September 29, 2008 at 03:27 PM | Permalink
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Tracked on Sep 16, 2009 8:55:09 AM
Sounds like the prosecutor is going for the human-interest political ratings points that she thinks this will bring her. Obviously she's "tough on crime", a phrase used so much it brings bile up in my throat whenever I hear it. Politically it's probably a good decision for her, as long as we're not talking about common sense or fiscal responsibility, of which she obviously has none.
Posted by: babalu | Sep 29, 2008 3:57:42 PM
1. People accused of cruelty to animals are not entitled to a presumption of innocence. The administration has taken the position many people can be held without trial indefinitely. Therefore, my views are in line with the administration.
2. The time and energy devoted to this case takes prosecutors away from prosecuting people for victimless crimes such as “driving while poor” or “pot.”
3. Making an example of this human slime who has not proved his innocence will make the world a better place.
Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 29, 2008 4:00:53 PM
"Tough on crime" is more of a "little people line" then a statement of policy or substantive law.
Even in the most "liberal" jurisdictions in the country, the jails are filled with people who say that the prosecutor was quite "tough" on them.
Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 29, 2008 4:02:17 PM
If the people of New York think it's a waste of money to prosecute animal cruelty cases, then they should repeal the statute. Otherwise, the prosecutor should enforce the law. An 11-1 deadlock is a far cry from an acquittal.
Posted by: Regina | Sep 29, 2008 4:54:39 PM
Regina, you are missing the point. IMO, it is not a waste of money "to prosecute animal cruelty cases," but the prosecutor already tried to do so and could not prove the case. In this situation, and considering there are scarce resources available, it would be a waste (IMO) to re-prosecute this case.
Your post also ignores a big component of any criminal law discussion: prosecutorial discretion. Your post seems to argue that anytime a law is broken, prosecutors must prosecute it (and re-prosecute it) until they acquire a conviction, and that if the public doesn't want this, then the law should be repealed. This is almost laughable. A lot of good statutes go unenforced because prosecutors make necessary calculations. This doesn't mean the statute should be repealed; it means you rightly considered all the circumstances in deciding among what good statutes to prosecute.
Finally, I don't believe anyone claimed this was close to an acquittal.
Posted by: DEJ | Sep 29, 2008 5:32:14 PM
The strongest theory for prosecuting animal cruelty is that it is believed to be a good predictor of future violent criminal acts against people.
This makes animal cruelty a more serious crime than the economic value of the animal, or even the sentimental value of the animal as property with sentimental value, would suggest.
Posted by: ohwilleke | Sep 29, 2008 7:25:21 PM
Someone had to come up with ohwilleke 's preventive state argument.
Posted by: | Sep 29, 2008 11:46:32 PM
That closing argument seemed very questionable. I wonder if it was based on evidence introduced at trial or if the prosecutor was essentially testifying? Why is the defendant's financial condition and status as an actor relevant to this type of prosecution? If the prosecution was in the jurisdiction where I practice, I am fairly certain that I would be filing a motion in limine to preclude that testimony and argument.
Posted by: Tim Holloway | Sep 30, 2008 8:20:55 AM
It is relevant because it shows what his state of mind was. In NYC, it is fairly common to argue that a defendant is poor and therefore drawn to crime. After all, it is true. This is why the poor are bad.
Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 30, 2008 1:17:06 PM