The prosecutor in an animal cruelty case told jurors Monday they only needed to "use their common sense" to reach guilty verdicts against a couple accused of neglecting three horses and a dog.
In closing arguments, Marianna Green told the seven-woman, five-man panel that Bloomfield residents Laura Valencia and Salvador Barrera, both 35, acted with gross negligence by failing to properly feed and water the animals, subjecting them to needless suffering and potentially great bodily injury.
One horse, a mare named Yiyo, died of a twisted colon, a condition both sides agreed was a painful and horrible death not caused by a lack of food. Two other horses were seized and have been adopted; the dog was later returned.
Barrera's attorney, Judy Conrey, asked jurors to be skeptical, arguing that his client's conduct wasn't ideal, but it didn't amount to a crime.
Valencia's attorney, David Sherer, went further, asking the panel to believe that county Animal Control officers and the prosecution's veterinarian acted in "an unholy alliance" to target Barrera and Valencia.
"I get it, it's a conspiracy. Haven't heard that one before," Green rebutted.
"Is that reasonable? This big agency of Animal Control came crashing down on Mr. Barrera, doctoring all this evidence . . . to advocate for their position that people should be prosecuted for things they didn't do? That's a desperate defense," Green said.
Jurors began deliberating late Monday and were expected to resume this morning.
Valencia and Barrera face a maximum of three years in prison and possible fines on one felony and three misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. They have pleaded not guilty.
During the four-day trial last week, jurors saw photos of a badly emaciated and bruised Yiyo, dead in his stall with what prosecution witnesses described as "snow angels" in the dirt around him from where he struggled before dying.
Dozens of animal lovers have attended the trial, often shedding tears when hearing about the pain the horse suffered before death or seeing photos of his emaciated body.
Prosecution veterinarian Grant Miller testified that Yiyo likely hadn't been fed in at least 30 hours before his death, judging from the lack of material in his stomach and intestines.
A horse that normally would have weighed 1,100 pounds weighed less than 800 at the time of his death, Miller said. Yiyo's bones protruded around his ribs, hips, spine and withers, areas that should have healthy fat deposits in a properly cared-for animal.
Animal Control officer Robin Brown and Miller both testified that there was no hay or grain in the three horses' pen. A water bucket was dry.
"It took months of lack of food to get to that level," Green said.
The two other horses seized by authorities each gained 150 pounds in the first month of rehabilitation, she said, the only change in circumstance being adequate food.
Arguing for Barrera, Conrey acknowledged that the animals didn't receive optimal care.
"There is good behavior. There is bad behavior. And then there is criminal behavior," she said. "What you witnessed is clearly not good behavior, but it is also not criminal behavior."
Barrera testified that the horse was skinny because it had cancer, although a post-mortem exam failed to detect the disease. Conrey argued that any neglect didn't amount to "gross negligence," and therefore wasn't criminal.