Jury gets a graphic look at 'Phoenix' in dog-burning trial

Jurors got a closer look Friday at Phoenix, a pit bull set aflame in West Baltimore in 2009, in the retrial of the twin brothers accused of the crime.

Panel members looked ahead without reaction as they were shown images of the dog almost entirely wrapped in bandages at an animal hospital. One showed the dog lying on its side, with a catheter tube leading to a bag of blood-red urine. Another showed her badly burned face — what would normally be a shiny black nose and pair of lips turned raw and red.

Jurors also got a second look at a police surveillance video showing parts of the burning, guided through this time by the police officer who discovered the dog in flames at the mouth of an alley in Sandtown-Winchester. Responding to prosecutors' questions, Detective Syreeta Teel pointed out a puff of black smoke emanating from the dog and described bystanders' efforts to give the dog water.

While prosecutors emphasized the gravity of the crime, defense lawyers focused on what they said were police failures to gather evidence immediately after the dog was found or to test the remains for gasoline or other accelerants after she was euthanized.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, now 20, are standing trial for a second time for the crime, which occurred May 27, 2009. Their first trial ended in a hung jury in February 2011, with one juror unconvinced they were responsible.

Both witnesses prosecutors called Friday, Teel and emergency veterinarian Jennifer McGough, described the dog as in extremely poor condition after the burning. She was placed on three different intravenous painkillers, and painkillers were injected in areas that were particularly badly burned, McGough said. Teel said the dog refused to sit still, frequently moving as if she were trying to escape the pain.

"It was awful," Teel said of the smell emanating from the dog. "It smelled like burning meat. A very burnt smell."

Prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over the questioning of McGough, with defense lawyers objecting when prosecutors asked her about how long the dog must have been burning for her corneas to have melted away. Prosecutors objected when defense lawyers asked McGough whether she could be sure that an accelerant was used or where the fire came from.

During Teel's testimony, defense lawyers asked the detective whether she cordoned off a crime scene, called in the crime lab or looked around for other evidence of fire. Teel said no to each question, adding that she was not part of the criminal investigation.

Earlier, her testimony provided context to the 35-minute surveillance tape taken from a CitiWatch camera atop a pole, half a block from where the dog was found burning. Jurors watched it Thursday for the first time, but without narration and with little explanation.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.



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