Monday, November 5, 2007

Is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Government Dragging Its Feet in the Barceloneta Pet Massacre Investigation?

ASPCA has offered to the Commonwealth Department of Justice, free of costs, the services of a distinguished Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck (photo at right), who worked in the Michael Vick case. She had offered to come to San Juan this past weekend. All that was needed was the go-ahead from the Secretary of Justice. This is all to assist in the criminal investigation of the Barceloneta Massacre. As indicated in this ASPCA blog post here, this is some of what she has to say about the need for forensic veterinarians:
What tools do you use to do your job?

Because of TV shows like CSI and Law and Order, real-life jurors expect forensic science to back up all the evidence presented to them—and animal cruelty cases are no exception. These days, jurors don’t just want any old evidence—they want forensic evidence.

“It’s because of ‘the CSI effect,’” says ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck, who literally wrote the book on using science in investigating animal cruelty. Merck, who often testifies as a forensic veterinary expert for animal cruelty cases around the country—including animal hoarding, dog fighting and animal torture—has also recently authored the textbook Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations.
Unfortunately, her visit to Puerto Rico this past weekend did not materialize. The reason given for not having her come down this past weekend (see article here) was that Commonwealth prosecutors indicated it would take too long to obtain permits from the Commonwealth's Environmental Quality Board and the Department of Natural Resources so that the distinguished doctor could unearth the massacred pets. This is a very poor excuse! In fact, one can only conclude that it is foot-dragging by the Commonwealth Government, as the buried animals quickly decompose.

I would hate to think that this has something to do with the fact that Barceloneta Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez belongs to the same political party as the Governor. In the meantime, the Police Superintendent reports as to how evidence has been lost here. If evidence has been lost or destroyed, much blame falls in the hands of the Police Superintendent. What steps were taken to preserve evidence? None! It is true that Animal Control Solutions President Julio Díaz Cintrón has his hands dirtied with destruction of evidence, but much of that could have been prevented by the authorities if they had acted with a minimum degree of competence. As the Puerto Rico Tourism Company puts up its arms in disgust with the adverse press publicity this pet massacre has received world-wide, one would think that the Government would do all in its power to make sure that wrongdoers do not go unpunished. Such does not seem to be the way things are working out.


Yvette said...

What was the final outcome of this? Anyone charged? Anyone held responsible?

I am sadden to see so many strays everytime I go to Puerto Rico - we opted out of visitng this year, specifically because of this incident.

Tom Lincoln said...

Yes, Yvette, people were charged, and thereafter acquitted by a Commonwealth of Puerto Rico judge. The Department of Justice refused to use the services of the forensic veterinarian offered to them, and did everything possible to take a weak case to Court. Shame on them!

The Associated Press was able to publish accounts from former employees of Animal Control Solutions that took them to a number of places where they had dumped and/or buried alive animals rescued from other places. Why did the Government not go after those individuals, even if to give them immunity and use them as witnesses?

Until we as citizens start to demand stricter enforcement of the laws to these cases, too many prosecutors find them unimportant. But in this case, the damage to the case started with an extremely negligent and incompetent police investigation, followed through by an obstructionist Secretary of Justice. Shame on him!

Tom Lincoln said...

Let me make it clear. The incompetent and obstructionist Secretary of Justice was Roberto Sánchez Ramos a/k/a Boberto, who always spoke a big game, but whose actions left a lot to be desired and turned to be little more than a partisan hack. I have no problem insulting him, because his actions and inactions fully back me up.