Trial Begins for K-9 Cop Accused of Dog's Kicking Death
The animal-cruelty trial of former Miami police Sgt. Allen Cockfield, accused of kicking his K-9 partner Duke to death in 2006, began Tuesday with a jarring demonstration of the cause of the dog's death.
It's hard to read about, so you might want to skip the quoted section if you think it will disturb you.
It's also hard to write about, so I'm going to do what I don't often do, and quote a big chunk of story from another source. The Miami Herald describes Duke's last day, and a disturbing demonstration at today's trial:
Nearly a dozen dogs were being trained in "obedience control'' -- teaching them to stay still and obey commands while a "decoy'' officer swings a whip in the air to agitate them.
(Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez) told jurors that Duke was not obeying commands. Enraged, Cockfield picked the dog up by the leash, leaving the canine hanging from his choke collar, she said.
That's when Cockfield delivered three to five kicks, all witnessed by a slew of fellow officers, she said.
Miami-Dade K-9 Officer Andy Giordani, testifying first, held up a black leash and chain collar to mimic what he saw, booting the wooden jury box with loud, fierce thumps.
As Cockfield let Duke slip to the ground, Giordani looked away briefly, then looked back when he heard "a moan.''
"He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,'' Giordani said of Duke.
Defense attorney Douglas Hartman disputed this description, saying the 70-pound dog had attacked his client, and that he felt threatened. "He was simply trying to save himself," Hartman told the jury. He said Cockfield was holding Duke away as Duke lunged for him, and that his kicks were soft.
But according to the Miami-Dade chief medical examiner, the kicks were hard enough to disrupt Duke's heartbeat, which killed the 2 1/2-year-old German shepherd.
Cockfield, 55, could spend up to six years in jail if found guilty of animal cruelty and killing a police dog. He has pleaded not guilty.
The Palm Beach Post reports that several police officers confirmed the brutal, heart-disrupting kicks when questioned by internal affairs.
I'll try to report the trial's outcome when the jury reaches a verdict.
Update: Dogsters, sit. You are not going to believe this: Not only did the judge drop the felony charge against Cockfield (as someone had mentioned in the Comments section), but after two hours of deliberation, the jury found him not guilty of animal cruelty in connection with Duke's death. I kid you not. This is how it was reported on justnews.com:
The defense's argument was that the dog was simply being disciplined and that there was no medical evidence of any killing.
"This is clearly a training accident. They have training accidents out there on a daily, weekly basis, and this is just another one. How it rose to this level is beyond our imagination," (Cockfield's attorney, Douglas) Hartman said.
Really? Hanging his dog by the collar and brutally kicking the life out of him was a training accident? This is within the normal range for discipline? What kind of precedent does this set? And they have training accidents pretty much all the time? Doesn't it seem like if they're this common, more can be done to minimize them?
It's not often that cops testify against one of their own. Without their testimony I could see how the jury might not be convinced. But with it I thought there would be no question of cruelty.
Apparently you have to do something REALLY bad -- maybe premeditated murder? -- to be convicted of cruelty to your K-9 in Miami.
Cockfield is now trying to get his job with the Miami-Dade Police Department back. "He is in the middle of his appeal now, and I'm confident that he will prevail and get his job back," Hartman said.
I'm truly stunned. If he can do this to a dog, I wouldn't want to think of what he could do to a person. I usually try to keep fairly middle of the road on most stories, but if anyone hears of a petition or anything Dogsters can do to dissuade the department from reinstating him, please leave a comment and if it checks out I'll post a new update up here. I sniffed around a little and didn't unearth anything, but maybe it's just that I haven't had time to dig deep enough.