New York Pit Bull Duke Still on Death Row 5 Years After Accused of Attack, No Positive ID or Proof That Duke is Guilty

 |  Nov 6th 2007  |   3 Contributions


dukeanddenisemenendez.jpg

Hasn't Duke proved his good nature by now?

Thanks to Newsday.com for this article.

Duke the death row dog might get second chance

BY CARL MACGOWAN
October 26, 2007

As she has done every week for nearly four years, Denise Menendez visited her pit bull terrier, Duke, at the Islip Town animal shelter Friday.


Seeing the dog was bittersweet for the Hauppauge resident and her children, Paulina, 10, and Trace, 9. They played with Duke for more than an hour before they went home, knowing it may be one of the last times they see him alive.

Duke faces canine capital punishment for allegedly attacking a neighbor's dog and horse four years ago. The 5-year-old terrier has been behind bars for most of his life.

"It's hard leaving, because we put him in the cage and he starts crying right away," Menendez said.

The visit took place after a Smithtown animal law attorney argued for Duke's release Friday morning in a state appeals court. The state Appellate Division had granted a temporary stay of execution in April. But judges still must be convinced that Duke is the victim of mistaken identity or wrongly sentenced under a law that did not exist at the time of the attacks.

The owner of the horse and the dog never positively identified Duke as the dog that attacked his animals, Menendez's attorney, Amy Chaitoff, told the four-judge panel. She asked the judges to release Duke or order a new trial. A decision is expected in several weeks.

"Duke is not a dangerous dog," Chaitoff told the judges.

The owner of the horse and the dog, Dominick Motta of Hauppauge, did not appear in court and could not be reached for comment. Lawyers for Motta did not address the court.

The hearing, and a news conference held outside the courthouse, attracted about a dozen supporters of Duke, including former Islip animal shelter supervisor Matt Caracciolo, who said Duke poses no threat to either animals or people.

"I probably handled over 100,000 animals, and he had to be in the top 10," said Caracciolo, of East Islip, who retired in September after working at the shelter for 30 years.

Duke receives many visitors and never has posed a problem, said another supporter, Mary Copp of Shirley, an Islip shelter employee.

"He's actually our mascot right now," Copp said.

Duke runs outside at least five days a week, Copp said, though he is in a cage most of the time. "It's like a prison for this dog," she said.

Jeff Kolbjornsen, an animal trainer who has evaluated Duke at the shelter, said the dog "still maintains his sweetness."

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