Excluding Animal Killing from Jayson Williams Case Was Appropriate

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals overstepped its bounds quite a bit in arguing that prejudicial evidence about Jayson Williams killing his dog should have been allowed in Williams’ manslaughter trial.

For those not following this case, Williams is a former National Basketball Association star who is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a limousine driver who drove Williams and his party to Williams’ mansion in February 2002. According to witnesses, Williams was showing off a shotgun to guests when the gun discharged while aimed at limousine driver Costas Christoffi. In addition to manslaughter, Williams is charged with trying to cover-up the crime including asking guests to lie to police about the circumstances of the shooting.

Testimony at his trial portrayed Williams as a depraved individual. According to one witness, for example, while Christoffi lay wounded and dying, Williams pressed the shotgun into his hands in order to set up a defense that Christoffi had accidentally shot himself.

That testimony was allowed in, but testimony about an alleged incident in 2001 was excluded as prejudicial. Williams’ former teammate Dwayne Schintzius claimed that in 2001, Williams bet him $100 that he could not get one of Williams’ guard dogs out of the house and onto the porch. According to Schintzius, when he returned a few minutes later with the dog, Williams went into the house and returned with a rifle. He then shot and killed the dog and threatened Schintzius with the gun.

After hearing Schintzius’ claims with the jury in recess, Judge Edward Coleman ruled that Schintzius’ testimony would be overly prejudicial and refused to allow the jury to hear testimony about the alleged incident. The judge apparently agreed with Williams’ defense attorney that putting Schintzius on the stand was simply “a strategic attempt by the prosecution to smear Mr. Williams in the eyes of the jury and deny him a fair trial.”

In response, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a press release in February expressing its disappointment at the judge’s decision. According to the ASPCA,

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is shocked by the decision a New Jersey judge has made which bars the submission of evidence that basketball star, Jayson Williams killed his pet Rottweiler at his home in Alexandria, NJ. Williams, who is accused of aggravated manslaughter in the death of Costas Christofi, allegedly shot his pet twice in the head and abdomen just six months prior to the the Christofi shooting.

“There is clearcut evidence which indicates that people who intentionally injure or kill animals are inclined to act violently towards people,” says Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, Director of the ASPCA’s Counseling Services department. “Research has shown that people who are violent toward the family pet as Jayson Williams allegedly was, are more inclined to be violent towards their family and friends.”

What is shocking is that the APSCA would put out such an absurd claim. In fact, it demonstrates exactly why the judge was correct in excluding any evidence about the alleged shooting of the dog — because jurors are likely to jump to the conclusion, as the APSCA apparently has, that if he shot his dog he is “more inclined” to have shot the limousine driver.

Fortunately, in the United States we still judge people based on evidence rather than on studies about possible “inclinations.” The judge in this case was correct — Schintzius’ would have been overly prejudicial and had no business being brought up in his manslaughter trial.


ASPCA Disappointed at Decision of Judge in the Pretrial Hearing of Jayson Williams. Press Release, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, February 6, 2004.

Humane Seal of Approval Label

Humane Farm Animal Care has an interesting approach to promoting what it sees as the humane treatment of farm animals. It has begun a labelling program for meat, poultry, dairy and egg producers who meet its criteria for raising farm animals under humane conditions.

The program works like this — farmers who want their products to receive the “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” pay a royalty free, such as 50 centers per pig, as well as pay for annual inspections at $400/day of their procedures. The group also pays the U.S. Department of Agriculture to check documents filed by farmers to ensure the group is actually meeting its standards.

And what are those standards. According to the group’s web site,

The Animal Care Standards require that livestock have access to clean and sufficient food and water; that their environment is not dangerous to their health; that they have sufficient protection from weather elements; that they have sufficient space allowance in order for them to move naturally; and other features to ensure the safety, health and comfort of the animal. In addition, the standards require that managers and caretakers be thoroughly trained, skilled and competent in animal husbandry and welfare, and have good working knowledge of their system and the livestock in their care.

For processors, the standards require that American Meat Institute Standards are adhered to, which are generally more stringent than slaughter standards from the Federal Humane Slaughter Act.

A number of groups are supporting Humane Farm Animal Care’s labelling program, including American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; The Humane Society of the United States; Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; Animal People; Dubuque (Iowa) Humane Society; Hawaiian Humane Society; Humane Society of Carroll County (Maryland); Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County (Florida); SPCA Erie County, NY; and, SPCA LA.

So far the group has certified five producers that meet its requirements.

Kara Flynn of the National Pork Producers Council was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying that the program was part of “an anti-meat agenda.” According to Flynn,

It’s saying if you don’t adhere to this, you’re going to be seen as someone who’s not rearing or treating animals humanely, and that’s false.

Flynn’s concerns seem a bit overblown. If a private group wants to define a more stringent definition of “humane” treatment of animals and arrange to label the meat that comes from such producers as “Certified Humane” more power to them. I doubt there will be a big demand for meat labelled in this way, but so long as they are not trying to force it down producer’s throats through regulation or taking the ALF route and terrorizing those farmers they disagree with, I don’t see what Flynn’s so upset about.


New labels give ‘Humane’ Seal of Approval. Associated Press, May 23, 2003.

?Certified Humane? Food Label Unveiled. Press Release, Humane Farm Animal Care, May 22, 2003.

Certified Humane Certification Program
Frequently Asked Questions
. Humane Farm Animal Care, Accessed: June 24, 2003.

Man Sues ASPCA, Animal Planet Over Cruelty Allegations

Newsday reports that New Yorker Rossano Case-Irwin has filed a $46 million lawsuit against the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Planet, and the show Animal Precinct over allegations Animal Precinct broadcast accusing Case-Irwin of cruelty to animals.

Animal Precinct showed ASPCA investigator Annemarie Lucas arresting Case-Irwin on animal cruelty charges as well as featuring video documenting Lucas’ investigation leading up to the arrest.

The case involve a horse that Case-Irwin owned which had a wound on its belly. According to Case-Irwin it was a minor friction wound that a veterinarian informed Lucas was healing properly. Case-Irwin maintains Lucas ignored this to make a case for the cameras.

Case-Irwin was found not guilty of animal cruelty by a jury, but claims he lost his job as a result of the publicity over the case. Case-Irwin says the show featuring his arrest continued to air after his exoneration.


Cowboy’s arrest spurs $46M lawsuit. Rocco Parascandola, Newsday, April 23, 2003.

Renewed fight between Chinese merchants and animal rights activists

Just when it looked like animal
rights activists and merchants in San Francisco’s Chinatown had reached
an uneasy truce, once again the two groups are squaring off over the sale
of live animals in Chinatown’s markets.

For a brief recap, the animal
activists charged live animals being offered for sale in the markets were
being treated cruelly. The merchants argued the activists were interfering
with their traditional cultural practices. The activists sued, but the
whole issue appeared to be resolved when the merchants agreed to abide
by a voluntary code of conduct and the activists agreed, in return, not
to appeal a judge’s ruling against the activists.

The whole agreement broke
down, however, over hard-shell turtles. The merchants currently remove
the turtle’s shell and then cut off the animal’s head, which the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals considers cruel. Instead,
it wants the merchants to cut off the turtle’s head first and then remove
the shell. The merchants argue that because turtles instinctively withdraw
their heads into their shells, trying to cut the head off before removing
the shell is too dangerous.

The markets are very crowded,
and “when you try to chop off (the head)while your finger is right
next to the butcher knife, you have to beware of the workers walking back
and forth behind you,” said Michael Lau who works in the market.
“Sooner or later you’ll chop off something besides the head.”

The ASPCA accuses the merchants
of failing to meet an October deadline for adopting humane practices on
the storage and slaughter of frogs and soft-shell turtles. The merchants,
in response, say the ASPCA never really gave them a fair shot at resolving
the implementation problems.

The ASPCA is now apparently
going to join animal rights groups appealing to the California Fish and
Game Commission seeking legislation to regulate the markets’ treatment
of live animals.

The ASPCA's road to animal rights

The Capital Research Center, a conservative-oriented group that tracks charity and philanthropic groups, recently issued a report documenting the |American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals|’ gradual shift away from a strictly animal welfare position to what is now almost a traditional animal rights organization.

The ASPCA, of course, is the oldest humane association in the United States, and is famous for its support of animal shelters. But since Roger Caras became president of the group in the early 1990s the ASPCA move closer and closer to the animal rights community. Caras has, for example, come out in opposition to meat eating saying “nothing is worse than reducing a living creature to a steak or chop wrapped in cellophane.” In its Animal Watch newsletter, the ASPCA has urged readers at Thanksgiving to “save” a turkey “instead of serving one.”

More alarmingly, Animal Watch has encouraged its readers to visit the Rutgers University Animal Rights Law Center web site. The law center seeks to have animals legally recognized
as persons. The ASPCA has also gotten firmly behind the “Pet Theft” issue and supporter various legislative proposals to make it more difficult
for medical researchers to obtain lab animals from pounds (animal rights
activists are convinced that large numbers of pet animals are stolen by
pounds specifically to be sold to medical researchers.) The ASPCA has
also endorsed various anti-Hunting and anti-Trapping legislation, including
those that would make it more difficult and expensive to deal with predators
that threaten endangered and protected species.

The Capital Research Center recommends
people concerned about animal welfare donate their money to local shelters
rather than national organizations such as the ASPCA.


From Animal Welfare to Animal Rights. Daniel T. Oliver, August 1998.

Animal rights activists lose to Chinatown merchants

For the past few months animal rights
activists in San Francisco have been harassing Chinatown merchants who
sell live animals for food. The activists were upset that live turtles,
frogs and fish are sold in Chinatown markets and allegedly treated “inhumanely.”
The Chinatown merchants accused the animal rights activists of racism
and claimed they were only preserving the traditional practices of their

California Superior Court Judge
Carlos Bea did the sensible thing and ruled that neither the activists’ concerns
nor the merchants claims about their traditional culture were relevant,
but instead that people have a right to kill animals for food even if
doing so inflicts pain.

Bea told the animal rights activists
that if they want new standards for the way animals are treated in the
markets, they would have to appeal to state legislators.

Prior to the lawsuit, the merchants
and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had entered into
a voluntary agreement setting conditions on housing and killing of animals.
Merchants effectively ignored that agreement once the lawsuit was settled,
but may return to it now that the case seems to be resolved.


Chinatown merchants allowed to sell live animals for food. Greg Chang, Associated Press, July 23, 1998.