Jury Selection Scheduled in Burned Puppy Case

Jury selection for three men accused of setting a puppy on fire has been scheduled for Tuesday.

The cases against defendants Darius Carey, Darius Ewing and Richard Valentine were originally scheduled to start in March, but were pushed back multiple times and are now scheduled to start selecting a jury on Aug. 20.

A fourth defendant, Adrian Ayers, already plead guilty to animal cruelty charges and was sentenced to two years in prision.

The four men are charged with animal cruelty after they were accused of dousing a four-month-old Labrador-terrier mix in lighter fluid before set him on fire.

The puppy, later named Justice by his rescuers, was found severely burned on April 4, 2012, at a Dallas apartment complex. Despite efforts to save Justice's life, he 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.

Both Ayers and Ewing filed requests to get probation for the offense. Each of the men face a penalty of 2- to 10-years behind bars if convicted.

Crowd Laughs While Puppy Burns: Witness

Police received a call April 4, 2012, 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 puppy hiding behind an air conditioning unit a short time later.

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, an amount animal rights activists said was 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.

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