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Yet another example of the rush to judgement of law enforcement being led by the nose by the "humane" societies that juries and judges are seeing through over and over when people have the intestinal fortitude and resources to see these cases through.

NOT GUILTY!: Jury finds Tennessee man innocent of all charges in dog fighting case

Friday, January 16, 2009
George Anderson


Following his trial on Thursday, Curtis Pickering, left, was greeted by family and friends in celebration of his victory after being found not guilty on two felony charges related to dog fighting.
Staff photo by George Anderson

Tears of joy streamed down the face of a Tennessee man's relatives following a Dunklin County jury's "not guilty" verdict in a dog fighting case on Thursday evening.

Going into the trial, Curtis Pickering, 29, of South Fulton, Tenn., faced two class D felonies for allegedly possessing a dog to be used for dog fighting, and the intent to engage the dog in fights.

Pickering, and two others, Jamie Sifford, 29, of Dudley, Mo., and Jessey Short, 30, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., were arrested on Oct. 20, 2007, at Sifford's farm in Dudley after Stoddard County Sheriff's Deputies and members of the Humane Society of Missouri raided the home on County Road 481. During their search of the property, authorities discovered several items they believed were used in dog fighting and a case against Pickering ensued as an investigation began.

In court, attorneys Steve Walsh and Daniel Moore, both of Poplar Bluff, Mo, represented Pickering

Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Briney Welborn represented the state of Missouri.

Judge Scott E. Thompsen, of Bollinger County, presided over the case.

Welborn faced the task of proving to the jury that Pickering was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." To prove his case, Welborn brought forth several pieces of evidence that were collected from the scene of Sifford's property, including two treadmills, a "bait cage," a "till death do us part" plate, a toolbox full of veterinary supplies, several "break sticks" - used to break a dog's bite, many books and magazines relating to dog fighting, a rope-spring - used to strengthen a dog's bite, bovine colostrum - used to enhance a dog's immune system, several weights and a pull harnesses - used to increase a dog's strength and stamina.

Welborn also showed a photo of a horse stable that had allegedly been converted into a fighting pit.

Members of the Humane Society backed up Welborn's evidence with descriptions of how the items could be used for a dogfight and were commonly found at dog fighting rings. Humane Society authorities also took blood samples from the fight pit, which, following a lab analysis was, in fact, canine blood.

The defense pushed the issue that all of the evidence came from the home and property of Sifford and was in no way related to Pickering. The defense also insisted that there was no physical evidence provided that could directly connect Pickering to the charges he was facing.

The major item tying Pickering to the ring was a large dog kennel that had Pickering's nickname "Boogeyman" written on the outside.

During an interview conducted by the Stoddard County Sheriff's Department following his arrest, Pickering stated that he had sold the kennel to Sifford and was in town to watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship style fight in Dexter, Mo., and to pick up some dog food from Sifford's residence. Sifford was said to possess large quantities of dog food, available in bulk, according to defense attorneys.

Based on testimony, while interviewing with police, Pickering denied bringing dogs to Sifford's residence and denied fighting dogs. He maintained his innocence regarding the charges he faced throughout the entire case.

In its closing statements, the defense team insisted what it had throughout the entire trial, that there was no evidence that proved entirely that Pickering was guilty and that, "[Pickering] can't be found guilty by association."

The defense also said it would hope the jury in Dunklin County chose not to equate what the prosecution had earlier referenced as "earmarks of criminal activity", with "beyond a reasonable doubt."

After a daylong trial experience, the jury entered the jury room to deliberate at 5:29 p.m., and emerged with a "not guilty" verdict on both counts, shortly before 6 p.m.

With the "not guilty" verdict fresh in the air, Pickering said he was relieved and that he can now focus his attention on his next big trial -- parenthood.

"We're [about] to have a baby," Pickering said. "It's a huge stress off my family."

Short goes to trial in March. In July 2008, Sifford was sentenced to three years in prison on dog fighting charges and six years for a probation violation.