Jury selection in dog-burning case set for Monday

Twin brothers accused of setting fire to a pit bull in 2009

  • Her kidneys failing, veterinarians euthanized the extensively burned year-old dog known as Phoenix.
Her kidneys failing, veterinarians euthanized the extensively… (Photo provided )
November 18, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the second animal-cruelty trial of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, twin brothers accused of setting fire to a pit bull in 2009.

Their first trial was held in February and ended in a hung jury after three days of deliberation, with 11 members voting to convict and a single holdout saying she was unsure of the brothers' guilt.

They're accused of dousing a young female pit bull in accelerant in May 2009, setting her alight and leaving her for dead on a West Baltimore street. A city police officer discovered the dog, who had to be euthanized five days later. Rescue workers nicknamed her Phoenix.

The brothers were identified as the assailants from a police surveillance video, which prosecutors used to build their first case, relying on its fuzzy images and a police sergeant's interpretation of them. Most jurors found the office's testimony credible, according to interviews, but one woman believed there was reasonable doubt, leading to a mistrial.

The case was scheduled for retrial in May, July and September, but postponed each time. On Friday, it finally moved forward, with preliminary hearings held before Baltimore Circuit Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill, who also presided over the first trial

drew national attention and outrage from animal-welfare advocates.

The judge said he intends to call for a larger-than-normal pool of potential jurors, expecting to dismiss some people based on their travel plans and others who have formed strong opinions about the case based on its publicity.

He cautioned lawyers against mentioning that there had been another trial in front of jurors, instructing them to refer to a "prior proceeding" instead.

The brothers were brought into court in handcuffs. Each picked up new criminal charges while out on bail in the Phoenix case.

Travers is charged with burglary and attempted murder in separate incidents in October of last year. Charging documents state he got into a fight with a man and "pulled a black handgun from his waist area and shot" three rounds.

Tremayne was charged with marijuana possession shortly after the first animal cruelty trial ended.


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