Burned Puppy Trial Pushed to April

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The trial has been pushed back to April 22 following a continuance motion due to one of the defendant's attorneys being unable to attend. (Published Monday, Mar 18, 2013)

    Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Monday for a trial that will see four men defending charges of animal cruelty after allegedly dousing a four-month-old Labrador-terrier mix in lighter fluid and setting it on fire.

    The trial has been pushed back to April 22 following a continuance motion due to one of the accused men's attorneys being unable to attend.

    Prosecutors are continuing to swear in and secure witnesses despite the delay in the start of the trial.

    Jury selection is likely to take multiple days, but testimony is planned to begin on April 25.

    "Justice the Puppy" Jury Selection Begins

    [DFW] Jury Selection Begins in Burned "Justice the Puppy" Case
    Jury selection begins Monday for four men charged with burning "Justice the Puppy." (Published Monday, Mar 18, 2013)

    Four men, Adrian Ayers, Darius Carey, Darius Ewing and Richard Valentine, are charged in connection with the case.

    Their attorneys argued that one trial for all four men would not be in their best defense, considering each defendant may implicate the other in testimony.

    Dallas County Judge Larry Mitchell denied the motions for separate trials in December, meaning all four defendants will be tried together.

    Each of the men face a penalty of 2 to 10 years behind bars if convicted.

    4 Men in Court in Justice the Puppy Trial

    [DFW] 4 Men in Court in Justice the Puppy Trial
    Four men accused of setting Justice the puppy on fire earlier this year were in court for a hearing to determine if they would be tried together or separately. (Published Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012)

    The puppy was found severely burned on April 4 at a Dallas apartment complex.

    Despite efforts to save the animal's life, Justice, who was given the name by members of the animal rescue group DFW Rescue Me, had to be put down by veterinarians nine days later due to the extent of his injuries.

    Justice was estimated to be burned over 70 percent of his body on his legs, back and face.

    Crowd Laughs While Puppy Burns: Witness

    Controversy Brews in Justice Bond Case

    [DFW] Controversy Brews in Justice Bond Case
    Darius Ewing, the man accused of setting Justice the puppy on fire will have to wait to see if his bond is reduced because the judge in the case recused himself, but there's more controversy brewing behind the scenes. (Published Thursday, May 10, 2012)

    Police received a call April 4 at about 9 p.m. about a group of males setting a dog on fire at an apartment complex.

    A witness told police someone poured lighter fluid on the puppy before setting him on fire and that they might have even tried to strangle the dog with a rope.

    Before police arrived, a woman tried to put out the flames while the crowd laughed, witnesses said.

    Dallas police arrived and the crowd scattered. Officers found the Labrador-terrier mix hiding behind an air conditioning unit a short time later.

    Puppy Fights for Life After Being Set on Fire

    [DFW] Puppy Fights for Life After Being Set on Fire
    Dallas Police are looking for the people who doused a lab-terrier mix puppy with lighter fluid and set him on fire. The puppy is now known as Justice. (Published Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012)

    The puppy was then turned over to animal services who contacted DFW Rescue Me -- a volunteer group who transported the puppy to an emergency clinic.  The rescue group named the dog Justice after another dog that was burned years ago.

    Civil, Animal Rights Debated

    A Dallas judge cut bond for one of the men, 18-year-old Darius Ewing, in May of 2012, reducing the amount from $100,000 to $50,000. Ewing is accused of lighting a 4-month-old Labrador-terrier mix on fire.

    Animal rights activists said the new $50,000 bond is too low.

    "It's a helpless creature that was tortured, tortured," said Diane Phillips, of Justice for Justice. "We need to let the people know that this will not be tolerated."

    Civil rights activists, who had said the original bond amount was too high, said the new amount was also too high.

    "I still think that $50,000 is ridiculous, because they have yet to present any evidence that this man committed the crime," said the Rev. Ronald Wright, of Justice Seekers Texas. "There were three suspects, where are the other three suspects."

    In the past, Wright said the original $100,000 bond was too high and put more value on the life of a dog than the life of a black man. He said he now plans to lead a community-wide effort to raise the money for Ewing's bail.

    But Ewing's uncle said his nephew may be safer in jail.

    "The racial comments I've been looking at -- hundreds of comments I've been looking at -- I believe he would be better off," Fred Ewing said.

    At the end of the May 18 hearing, prosecutor David Alex said a grand jury had indicted Ewing on the animal cruelty charges.

    Multiple NBC 5 reporters and editors contributed to this report.