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Jury says 'guilty'

Appeal planned in cruelty case

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2000

Although Miriam Mahan was found guilty of animal cruelty by a jury of four men and six women at 3:25 Thursday afternoon, the case is not yet over.

Defense Attorney Carol Brenckle said she intends to appeal the verdict.

"There are a number of issues I plan on appealing," she said.

One of her primary concerns is the amount of pretrial publicity, both print and broadcast.

"I believe the media played a very significant part in the guilty verdict," Brenckle said. "I don't believe Miss Mahan could have gotten a fair trial anywhere."

Defense has 30 days to file a notice of appeal with the court system.

The misdemeanor charge against Mahan, 36, stems from a Sept. 10 incident in which Alaska State Troopers and members of Alaska Equine Rescue seized 125 animals of 16 species from her home on Funny River Road.

Initially, Mahan faced nine counts of animal cruelty. Citing Alaska law, Superior Court Judge Joseph Link consolidated the charges, since they all stemmed from a single incident.

A sentencing hearing will be set by Link Monday afternoon.

Should the guilty verdict stand, the maximum sentence possible is a $5,000 fine and a one-year prison term.

Assistant District Attorney John Wolfe said the state will focus on preventing Mahan from regaining custody of the animals.

"The main thing that a lot of people are concerned about is we want to be sure Miss Mahan does not get these animals back and, if it's within the power of the court, that she not have animals (in the future)," he said.

Brenckle said she is not planning to spend much time on the sentencing and instead will concentrate on the appeal.

"I don't beleive she was guilty," Brenckle said.

Wolfe said the case reflects society's views on how animals should be treated.

"Even though we eat and use animals, people respect their rights to be free of a certain amount of pain and suffering," he said.

In contrast, Brenckle said the central issue in the case was the prosecution's portrayal of the animals' situation.

"There isn't any one of us who supports abuse of any kind," she said. "We were dealing with a very emotional presentation by the people.

"Alaska Equine Rescue tried to make it look like her animals were eating each other."

Both attorneys recognized the efforts of the jurors.

"It was a long case," Wolfe said. "We're very gratified the jury paid such close attention."

Brenckle agreed, to a point.

"I feel the jury did their best, but I don't think the process worked in this case," she said.



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