"If I think it's better for the cat and better for the birds I'll do anything necessary to protect wild birds."
-- James M. Stevenson
Bird lovers all over the world are still whooping it up following serial cat killer James M. Stevenson's great victory last Friday afternoon in a Galveston courtroom. Even the usually dour cat-hating monster found it difficult to contain his elation as he strutted out of court all the while laughing up his blood-soaked sleeve at the travesty of the American judicial system. (See photo above.)
After deliberating a scant eight and one-half hours over two days, a panel comprised of eight women and four men told Judge Frank T. Carmona that they were hopelessly deadlocked and he then declared a mistrial. Although the sadistic killer needed only one bird lover or ailurophobe to vote in his favor in order to produce a hung jury, in this instance he got four.
Following the announcement of the verdict, Alley Cat Allies called upon the prosecution to retry the case. "We are frustrated that justice was not served today, but we are confident the prosecutor will make the right decision to retry the case," Wendy Anderson said in a November 16th press release. "Intentionally shooting a cat is cruelty. While a mistrial is disappointing, it is not unusual and it does not mean the defendant is innocent of this crime."
Her confidence in the prosecution proved to be short-lived, however, as First Assistant District Attorney Joel Bennett soon thereafter announced that the case would not be retried. "We have gathered all the evidence that is there to be gathered, and a jury that heard all this evidence could not reach a unanimous verdict," he told the Galveston County Daily News
on November 17th. (See "Mistrial Declared in Cat-Shooting Case.")
"There is no reason to suspect another jury would be able to do so, and we're considering the matter closed."
Bennett's spurious reasoning was wholeheartedly endorsed by Heber Taylor in a November 20th editorial for the Galveston County Daily News. (See "DA Was Right to Call Off Cat-Killing Case.")
Surprisingly, neither Bennett nor Taylor uttered one word of concern about justice not being served, the preservation of the integrity of the judicial system, or the horrible murder of the cat.
It is highly unlikely, however, that either the prosecution or the moneybags media would have been quite so willing to drop the matter if the victim had been either an adult or a child. For example, Phil Spector is being retried after the jury in his murder trial deadlocked ten to two in favor of conviction.
Usually, prosecutors pull out all the stops in order to bring the guilty to justice; journalists, on the other hand, react as their prejudices and financial interests dictate. In reality, neither party really cares how many cats are brutally murdered.
The case began on November 8, 2006 when Stevenson, a former schoolteacher from Tallahassee, used a .22 rifle equipped with a scope to pump a hollow-point bullet into a gray and white pregnant cat known as Mama Cat. The bullet severed the cat's spine and she lived on in excruciating pain for another forty minutes before asphyxiating on her own blood, according to the testimony of Galveston police officer John P. Bertolino Sr.
Dum-dum bullets have hollowed-out tips that cause then to mushroom upon impact; consequently, they destroy a considerable amount of surrounding tissues and prolong death instead of killing instantly. (See photo below of a trio of spent hollow-point bullets fired from a .22 rifle measured alongside a fresh round.)
Stevenson, of course, selected this type of shells with the intent of inflicting as much pain as possible upon the defenseless cat. Although the use of them has been banned in war ever since the Hague Convention of 1899, they are commonly used by both policemen and civilians.
Compounding matters further, Mama Cat already walked with a limp as the result of another gunshot wound inflicted earlier by Stevenson. In spite of that, Stevenson has maintained all along that he shot the crippled cat because it was killing birds. As any fool knows, it is extremely difficult for even a healthy cat, let alone a handicapped one, to catch a bird on an open beach.
Stevenson gunned down Mama Cat from the deck of the San Luis Pass Toll Bridge and then fled in his truck like the coward that he is when toll collector John Newland ordered him to stop shooting. Newland then gave chase in his own vehicle and was eventually able to catch up with the killer.
Stevenson then rammed Newland's vehicle and fled on foot but was apprehended by Bertolino. He then spent one night in the can before being released the next day on a $10,000 bond.
Specifically, he was charged with only killing Mama Cat and even if he had been convicted the severest sentence that he was eligible for under Texas's draconian animal protection statutes was two years in jail and a minuscule fine of $10,000. Since his victim has pregnant, at the very least he should have been tried on multiple counts of animal cruelty just as individuals who murder pregnant women are charged.
Since the average cat litter is six, he should have been charged and convicted of seven counts of animal cruelty. That would have sent this fiend away for fourteen-years and cost him and his fellow bird-loving homicidal maniacs $70,000. The entire world then would have been treated to the spectacle of moneygrubbing bird lovers crying a river at the loss of their precious shekels.
Stevenson's murder of Mama Cat was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. During the first week of November of 2006 he gunned down four cats at the bridge on top of the six others that he had shot earlier in the year.
In fact, the number of cats that he has shot with his .22 rifle most likely numbers in the hundreds. In a January 21, 1999 post on a website maintained by the University of Houston (listserv.uh.edu), he confessed to having killed hundreds of cats.
"... I sighted my .22 rifle and killed about two-dozen cats in about the first year," he bragged. At that rate he may have killed as many as two-hundred-forty cats during the past decade.
Some of Stevenson's victims, particularly those that he shot near his property, were sans doute
domestic cats. It is truly amazing that cat owners never complained about his killing spree and that he was not arrested and brought to justice years ago.
Of course, Texas still considers itself to be part of the wild, wild West and the protection of animals has never been a priority. (See Cat Defender post of October 27, 2006 entitled "Tiny Kitten Named Zoe Has Her Ears Cut Off by Fiends but Texas Police Do Not Seem to Care.")
Moreover, it is unlikely that he has limited his homicidal tendencies to firearms. Being such an inveterate cat hater, it is likely that he has poisoned countless others as well as trapped and nefariously disposed of God only known how many more. (See Cat Defender post of November 22, 2006 entitled "Evil Galveston Bird Lover Is Finally Arrested After Having Gunned Down Hundreds of Cats.")
He kills cats on the beach. He kill cats that venture near his house. In short, he kills every cat that he comes across if he thinks that he can get away with doing so. All the while that he is engaging in this criminal behavior he is cowering behind the cloak of protecting birds.
Unfortunately for cat lovers, he is not only a sadistic killer but blessed with the luck of the devil himself. His first big break came when he was charged with killing only one cat when in fact he has killed hundreds. His second break came when he was indicted under a Texas law that only outlaws the killing of cats that have owners.
Apparently it was not illegal to shoot feral cats in Texas at the time of Mama Cat's murder. That law has since been amended but Stevenson had to be tried under the old statute.
It is conceivable that the old law conflicted with anti-cruelty legislation already on the books but for some unexplained reason the prosecution chose not to pursue that avenue of attack. For instance, it is difficult to understand how repeatedly shooting the same cat with hollow-point bullets would not be considered to be cruel and inhumane by any legal yardstick. Nonetheless, the prosecution chose to take the much more difficult route of proving that Mama Cat was Newland's cat.
Although Newland and co-worker Howard Etzel provide food, water, bedding, and toys for the cats as well as inter the ones that Stevenson guns down, the killer's shyster,
Tad Nelson, argued that those acts of kindness do not constitute ownership. "He (Newland) loves the cats. He doesn't own the cats," he is quoted by the Associated Press
on November 15th as telling the court. (See "Jury Gets Case of Birder Who Shot Cat.")
Veterinarian Timothy Harkness, who performed the necropsy on Mama Cat, disagreed. Since she had commercial cat food in her stomach and a higher degree of muscle and fat on her body than most feral cats, he testified in court that he would classify her as a domestic cat.
The fact that Newland chased down and apprehended Stevenson demonstrates ipso facto
a strong proprietary interest in Mama Cat. Her death also has caused him extreme pain. "He was very upset; he was crying, actually," Bertolino testified at trial. (See Houston Chronicle, November 14, 2007, "Bird Expert Thought He Was Shooting Feral Cat, Attorney Says.")
"I can't talk about it. I'm almost afraid to get them too tame because they trust people and people like this morning come out here and shoot them," Newland told KHOU-TV in Houston on the day of Mama Cat's murder. (See "Prominent Bird Expert Charged With Shooting Cat.")
"They're just like family. I told my wife that when I die, I want my ashes to be buried here under the bridge so I can protect the cats."
Perhaps more importantly, there are many municipal statutes which state that anyone who feeds a feral cat is its de facto
owner and therefore liable for getting it vaccinated and licensed. It is not clear, however, if Galveston has such a law.
Stevenson's third coup de chance
occurred when Carmona instructed the jury on the third day of last week's trial that the defendant could be exonerated if he had formed a "mistaken belief" about the ownership of Mama Cat. (See photo above of the judge.)
This ludicrous ruling instantaneously transformed ignorance into a justification for breaking the law.
amounts in reality to saying that under the old statute Stevenson or anyone else could have killed as many cats as they pleased, both domestic and feral, and gotten away with it by simply pleading ignorance as to the ownership of the cats.
A fourth factor that weighed heavily in Stevenson's favor was the public relations campaign that Harvey Rice and the Houston Chronicle
had mounted on his behalf. (See Cat Defender post of May 1, 2007 entitled "Houston Chronicle Launches a Propaganda Offensive on Behalf of Serial Cat Killer Jim Stevenson.")
With the deck stacked so heavily against it, it is not surprising that the prosecution lost. Even if it had won, Carmona probably would have let Stevenson off the hook with probation and a minuscule fine.
Nonetheless, Stevenson and bird loves everywhere are going to take this verdict as a carte blanche
vindication of their right to kill cats with impunity. Since he is such an enormously clever chap, Stevenson will now resort to either poisoning cats or trapping and dumping them in order to get around the new statute. (See photo below of one of the imperiled cats that lives near the bridge.)
When asked by KHOU-TV on November 16th if he planned on killing more cats, Stevenson tersely replied, "Get real!" (See "Prosecutor: Cat Killer Won't Be Retried.")
Nonetheless, he has never uttered one word of remorse. In fact, he told the Galveston County Daily News
in the November 17th article cited supra
that his only regret is that he "can't get the reporters to stop calling."
The fact that he is not about to mend his cat-killing ways was made perfectly clear in an interview that he gave to KVUE-TV of Austin following his arrest last year. When asked if he would continue to kill cats in order to protect birds he replied, "If I think it's better for the cat and better for the birds I'll do anything necessary to protect wild birds." (See video entitled "Birder Faces Jail Time for Killing Cats.")
What he is actually saying is that he will do anything in order to protect his financial interests. His buddies within the capitalist media generously portray him as a concerned birder but in addition to providing him with a cover for his criminal activities, the birds also are his gravy train.
For example, he not only makes money off of a bed and breakfast that he operates but he also conducts bird-watching tours. Since an estimated half a million birders flock to Galveston each year, his cut of the bird-watching pie is substantial.
This petit fait
alone highlights one of the major differences that separate cat lovers from bird advocates. Whereas Stevenson and his minions look upon their feathered friends as cash cows, cat lovers have never made a solitary shekel
off of their charges. In fact, caring for cats is expensive. The food, shelter, veterinary care, sterilization, and licenses that they require do not come cheap.
Bird lovers won this round but in doing so they have exposed their lawless natures for all to see. Not one bird lover or bird advocacy group has condemned Stevenson's killing spree. In fact, most of them have voiced their full support for his actions. Additionally, many of them have made financial contributions to his defense.
This case should disabuse all cat lovers of any lingering illusions that they might harbor of ever being able to peacefully coexist with bird lovers. That is not possible. A war is coming and cat lovers must prepare for it.
Above all, it is unrealistic to expect any leadership on this issue from well-known cat advocacy groups and individuals. Alley Cat Allies, Nathan Winograd, and others prefer to bury their heads in the sand like ostriches and pretend that bird lovers and wildlife proponents are not hellbent upon eradicating all cats. Perhaps someday they will come to the realization that cat advocacy involves more than issuing press releases and going on book tours.
In addition to being total frauds, bird lovers are criminals and must be dealt with as such. Since the law enforcement community and the courts are unwilling to safeguard the lives of cats, this responsibility falls by default to the owners of domestic cats and the caretakers of those that are feral.
Providing food and shelter is no longer sufficient. Cat lovers must now take it upon themselves to dig a little bit deeper in their pockets and provide armed security for feral cat colonies.
This situation need not have reached this juncture. The court in Galveston was presented with a golden opportunity to issue a clear and unmistakable ruling that individuals and groups who take the law into their own hands will be swiftly punished but it declined to do so. Instead its ruling, devoid of both justice and common sense, breeds only contempt for the law that it is charged with upholding.
Photos: Jennifer Reynolds of the Galveston County Daily News (Stevenson), Wikipedia (hollow-point bullets), Washington Post (Carmona), and Chad Greene of the Galveston County Daily News (San Luis Pass Toll Bridge cat).