In September last year, Gerald Wayne Cruz II was accused of trespassing the Mapson family’s private property, where he shot dead a family pet dog named “Pugua.” No argument of self-defense was raised. Cruz also admitted to shooting a cat in the neighborhood in May of 2018. Numerous other pets were shot in the neighborhood as well, and firearms used for such killings were recovered from the defendant’s home.
A ruling on Feb. 11 (not April Fool’s Day, surprisingly enough) by Judge Michael J. Bordallo dismissed all felony charges against Cruz. The judge cited the lack of “cruelty” as a main reason for dismissal.
Understandably, the ruling generated widespread and immediate outrage on social media. No reasonable person could see the picture of Pugua’s body shot straight in the gut, and think it wasn’t a cruel death. The public has the right engage in important legal cases. You don’t have to be a legal expert to have a legitimate voice.
But we also have to mindful of “trial by media” and the even worse new trend, “immediate trial by social media” where commenters, often with limited or wrong information, seek to out-virtue signal each other.
These social media threads quickly devolve into Inquisition-like condemnation, calling for outright punishment. We need to avoid this mob mentality. The defendant is entitled to due process.
In 2015, Farkhunda, a 27-year old woman in Afghanistan, was killed by a mob that accused her of burning a Koran. Public figures used Facebook — the same Facebook that hosts your barbecue pictures at Ypao Beach — to endorse the murder. It turns out, the accusation was false. But she was already “cruelly” beaten to death by the mob. Oops. That’s what happens when a vigilante-like punishment is imposed without due process.
So as part of due process, many, like GAIN board president Cyrus Luhr, are calling for the Office of the Attorney General of Guam to appeal the court’s ruling. There are also calls for new legislation to make sure a cruel act doesn’t result in dismissed felony charges again.
I would think that the new legislature would have to time to address the issue. After all, the legislature seemed to find the time to host a meeting fairly quickly in January, when the feds banned cockfighting on Guam. It was defended as a local cultural tradition, even though it was an imported activity by the Spanish colonialists. But unlike that issue, there is little division among the diverse Guamanian community that the shooting and killing of pets, should not stand as a minor offense, but be considered a felony.
In the ruling, the judge said it is “difficult to think of a less cruel way to kill an animal, than death by gunshot.” Wow! How about a sedative and pentobarbital, which veterinarians use to euthanize sick animals. The judge has a very limited imagination. But it’s Judge Michael J. Bordallo, not Judge Michael J. Fox. And he wears a robe and a wields mallet, not an orange jacket and a Delorean. We can’t go back in time, Huey Lewis style, save everyone and get a happy ending.
But we can look at what happened to Aaron Persky, the California judge who was recalled for his lenient sentencing in the Brock Turner rape case.
In the Yigo pet killing case, we wonder how the judge can agree with the defendant that the charge is deficient because Cruz “only shot the dog” and did not cruelly kill them? Well, interpreting laws is a complex matter. Attacking a judge’s unpopular decision is an easy thing to do. It is unfortunate, however, that even cases that matter to human sensibility are guided by the language of the law. But for laymen, the senseless act of shooting dogs and cats is clearly cruel and malicious, regardless of the vagueness of the law.
Pets may not be people but they are family. Shooting a pet is not a technicality, it’s cruelty.
Joseph Meyers is a professional pilot and an armchair social commentator. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org