A high-profile animal cruelty case in Dallas involving a dog named Justice moved to the next phase on Wednesday, when Judge Larry Mitchell ruled that all four defendants accused of setting the dog on fire would be tried together.
Darius Ewing, 19, Adrian Ayers, 21, Richard Valentine, 25, and Darius Carey, 25, were charged with felony animal cruelty after the 4-month-old puppy was found in an apartment complex in Pleasant Grove in April with burns on more than 70 percent of its body.
"Justice left an impact, and he will be saving lives because he's the one who started this campaign," said Barbara Naylor of DFW Rescue Me.
The case drew national attention when animal rescue group DFW Rescue Me coordinated an effort to save the puppy. The cause got bigger when the dog died 10 days later. The case prompted a petition on Change.org to ensure that Ewing — accused of dousing the dog with lighter fluid — receive the maximum sentence.
Lawyers for Ayers, Valentine and Carey filed motions for severance, hoping to get their defendants separate trials.
All four defendants, garbed in gray-and-white prison uniforms, and their attorneys were at the hearing, along with five TV cameras and a couple dozen animal advocates.
The lawyers went into the judge's chambers to decide who would go first, and then each lawyer made individual arguments for separate trials.
All three said basically the same thing: that a joint trial would create a situation of guilt by association for their individual clients, and that their Fifth Amendment right to testify would be compromised.
Carey's lawyer, City Council member Vonciel Jones Hill, said that Ewing had tried to implicate Carey, who shook his head repeatedly during the hearing.
The judge listened impassively, but once they were done, he ruled quickly that all three motions to sever were denied.
The parties agreed that the trial date would be January 28, 2013.
Using donations made for Justice, DFW Rescue Me established a fund for other abused and neglected dogs, all of which have been given the "Justice" nickname, such as Daisy Justice, a dog that was thrown from a third-floor balcony, and Isabella Justice, a dog found partially skinned.
"It's a shame there are so many instances of abuse, but Justice left an impact, and he will be saving lives because he's the one who started this campaign," said DFW Rescue Me spokeswoman Barbara Naylor.