Mistrial Motion Delays Horse Killing Case Verdict

The trial of two Pike County, Ky., teenagers accused of killing three horses and torturing several others was put on hold Sept. 11 when presiding Pike County Circuit Judge Eddy Coleman declared a mistrial in the case.

According to his spokesperson, Coleman granted Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Burchett's motion for a mistrial in the case against Jacob Ratliff and Michael Damron shortly after defense attorney Steve Owen told the jury that Damron required medication to control his impulses.

"Judge Coleman had to grant the mistrial motion because state law requires 20 days' written notice if an attorney intends to use mental illness or defect as a defense in a criminal case," the spokesperson said.

As a result of Coleman's finding, the trial was rescheduled for Feb. 4, 2008. A pretrial conference for the case was slated for Oct. 19.

Ratliff and Damron were charged last January. They allegedly ran down and fired repeated rifle and pistol shots into a herd of horses in a strip mine near the Breaks Interstate Park. Three of the horses were killed; another eight were injured. The horses, owned by Breaks Stables, and used for trail rides in the park, had been grazing at the strip mine since the end of the trail ride season. (For more information see www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=8962.)

In May, both Ratliff and Damron pleaded guilty to three counts of felony criminal mischief, five misdemeanor criminal charges, and eight misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty under a plea bargain agreement with the Commonwealth's Attorney's office. Presiding Judge Coleman rejected the plea deal and Ratliff and Damron withdrew their guilty pleas, seeking a jury trial instead.

If found guilty, Ratliff and Damron face up to five years in prison for each felony charge and up to one year in prison for each misdemeanor count.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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