Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I, the Jury

From the desk of Paul J. Levine, Esq.

"Has the jury reached a verdict?"

"I have, Your Honor."

"And what say ye?"

"Guilty of 19 counts of felony animal cruelty. To say nothing of being a mean little shit."

"The jury of one having returned its verdict, I now pronounce sentence. The defendant shall rise..."

Okay, let me back up. Let's start by saying I have no idea if 18-year-old Tyler Weinman brutally tortured and killed 19 cats, gutting them, gouging out the eyes of some, and cutting off their snouts. Maybe he's a sick, twisted, depraved serial-killer-in-training. Or maybe he's innocent.

He is, of course, presumed innocent. And he doesn't look like Charles Manson.

Maybe that's what makes the allegations even more sinister. He's the son of a Miami dentist. He's grown up in a nice neighborhood a short hike from my old home in Gables-by-the-Sea. So, is he a dangerous criminal or a mentally ill kid who needs help? Or both?

If he committed these heinous acts, what's the motive? None other than a cold, bloodless heart? A sociopathic personality? Is this a clue...his stepmother owns cats? Who the hell knows?

(Innocent or guilty, he's still a prick who smirked in his booking photo, as if the whole thing is a joke).

The judge has ordered a psychiatric exam and expressed concern for Weinman's safety if he is released on bail. The story has inflamed passions and caused a media sensation in South Florida. Here's the Miami Herald account, "Suspect in Cat Killings to Stay in Jail, Get Evaluation."

If that link doesn't open, please tell me in a comment. The Herald is updating its story several times a day, as if it's the invasion of Normandy. I'm not kidding. Here's a map showing the locations of the deceased felines. It could be Marine placements on Omaha Beach.

Let me state my biases...and they would undoubtedly keep me off any jury. I am the owner -- make that, "parent" -- of a rescue cat and a rescue dog. Taxi, the cat, pictured here in kittenhood, showed up outside the house one day and surely would have been eaten by one of the neighborhood coyotes, if not rescued. Or snatched from the ground by a neighborhood hawk the size of a Gulfstream.

If this had happened to my pets, what would the fitting punishment be? "An eye for an eye; a snout for a snout."

But we must distance ourselves, jurors. Putting ourselves in the places of the victims is not allowed. In fact, a prosecutor who asks -- "What if this would have happened to you?" -- just created a mistrial. (It's called the "Golden Rule" argument).

So, let's be calm and impartial. And I ask again, what is the fitting punishment for such a crime? My first rational and restrained response is that the guilty party should be tossed into the tiger cage at the Miami-Dade Zoo. At feeding time. Or maybe locked in a room with the owners of those 19 cats, each of whom carries a Louisville Slugger. Okay, maybe I'm wrong.

What say ye?



  1. This story is all over the blogosphere and Facebook.

    Chill, people. They're cats!

    Every day, human beings are gunned down in our cities; drunk drivers plow into school buses; our troops shoot missiles that kill Iraqi women and children.

    They're cats!


  2. Anybody who tortures and kills defenseless and trusting animals has a problem. A kid who kills 19 of them is a sicko. Did the parents not notice that something was "off" with their son? If he also sets fires and wets the bed, he fits the profile of a future serial killer.

  3. Yes, they're cats! People's beloved companions and friends. Cuddly, defenseless, innocent creatures who trust and depend on humans for care and love. It's absolutely unforgiveable and has left many of those of us residing in Miami distraught and angry. If anyone hurt one of my pets I think I might be the one who ended up in jail.

  4. Ray Banks and I talked about this one night, that you can kill a dozen people in your first chapter with a weed whacker but shoot one dog or cat and nuns will stand in line to kick your ass.

    But this isn't fiction, is it. This kid's seriously fucked up. Allegedly.

    And if I was in the jury pool they probably wouldn't seat me either.

  5. Of course he's mentally ill, even if he's simply psychotic, but regardless, he needs to be confined--it's a short hop from cat-icide to homocide, and torture of small animals is always an indicator of the desire to torture something larger.

    I am amazed that anyone can't see the connection between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humanity...

  6. definately the tiger cage!


  7. While, it's true everyday "human beings are gunned down in our cities; drunk drivers plow into school buses; our troops shoot missiles that kill Iraqi women and children." I have to wonder what this has to do with being outraged at this horrific crime? Is it made less heinous because there's other violence in the world? Does being outraged at this young man's alleged actions mean we have less outrage to go toward other atrocities? That is ridiculous.

    There's plenty of outrage to go around, and as a society we have to be sensitive to mindless violence in any form.

    That said: If the kid is proven guilty, I suggest sewing him up in a fur coat and dropping him at a PETA convention.

  8. Oh, let me just spit on my hands and roll out my list of nasty things that I would do to this kid if he came within a good five miles of my house!

    I don't care whether it's cats or human beings, if you have it in you to take life in such a heinous manner, one thing will lead to another. Cats today, dogs next time, and one day - someone's child, then another. This guy may have tortured animals, but I would hate to see him anywhere near a school gate.

    Tiger's cage? I'd leave him in the middle of the Serengeti at feeding time so that all the animals and birds of prey can have a go.

    And Patty, I would bet anything that this kid wets the bed. If he doesn't now, he will after Paul chucks him in with the tigers.

  9. how is Taxi fairing.....you haven't mention her in some time.

    Since, in a previous post to this blog, I suggested "the right to arm bears," [instead of bear arms]I would have to say either the suggestion you provided [letting the owners "go postal" on his ass----perhaps with a little dash of Pulp Fiction] or locking him in a cage and allowing a few hungry big cats to dispatch him........or we could go with the old, take him to Death Valley, tie him down, rub honey on his body and then release a few thousand fire ants......after a few a few days, the buzzards will have cleaned the carcass.

    DISCLAIMER: This applies if his is guilty ------ but tell us Paul Esq.,would it be "fair to say" that in general, if you get arrested and ultimately go all the way to trial, you are probably guilty [of something]......I know innocent until proven guilty.....but c'mon....did we have any doubts about Spector, or Blake, or the never ending story called OJ?

    at best your found "not guilty" ...which as we know isn't the same as innocent.


    PS: where there's smoke, there's fire

    PPS: if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quakes like a duck......it's a duck.

  10. Impale him and leave him out by I - 95......
    Or, one of my favourites, flay him and gradually lower him into salt water.....pull him out before the shock kills him.....repeat, as necessary.


  11. Jon,
    I just visited some friends at a gathering of international criminal defense lawyers in Santa Monica. They would be appalled to hear you say, "where there's smoke, there's fire."

    In fact, nearly every defense lawyer I know uses that line in voir dire in a reverse twist way. "Now, we've all heard the adage, 'where there's smoke, there's fire.' Do you understand that does not apply in a court of law?"

    My first fulltime job was covering criminal court for The Miami Herald, so I've been hanging around courtrooms for a while. How long ago was it? I covered Jim Morrison's indecent exposure trial and an abortive case against Meyer Lansky.

    And Taxi is doing fine. She's sitting on my desk, dipping her paw into my Jack Daniels on the rocks.

  12. What is the purpose of imprisonment? Do we simply wish to take "civilized" retribution? If this is a case of mental illness can it be cured? If it can't be cured can we live with an individual who is capable and willing to do such a thing?

    Lifelong imprisonment is a fairly new way of dealing with people society can't live with. It requires a rich population who are willing to fund this very expensive isolation. Branding, lopping off body parts, death, banishment. Restitution. Is that even possible?

    I don't know the answer. Imprisonment doesn't solve the problem anymore than any other solution I have read about.