Jurors in Idaho have found a science teacher not guilty of feeding a live puppy to a snapping turtle as students looked on. The incident sparked huge public outcry and spawned a petition to have the teacher fired.
Robert Crosland, the Preston Junior High School teacher, was charged with a misdemeanor and could have faced 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine for feeding the newly-born puppy to the turtle in full view of the students in March last year.
Following a 30-minute deliberation on Friday, the jury put an end to the story that has garnered national attention, arriving at a not guilty verdict in Crosland’s case.
Crosland’s attorney said that the defense was sure from the beginning that the jury would take their side. Attorney Shane Reichert noted that while the incident might seem disturbing to some, there is no legal distinction between a puppy or another animal, so it could have well been a rat.
The teacher himself sported a smile, saying he felt “a lot of relief” when he heard the verdict.
“I would just like to thank all of the support that I’ve received,” Crosland said, as cited by East Idaho News.
Numerous witnesses, including Crosland’s own son, who was given the puppy by a neighbor, testified during the hearings.
Mario Crosland said that the neighbor had given him the puppy because its mother could not feed all its litter. The puppy, according to Crosland junior, would not eat despite all their attempts to feed it. The Croslands claimed that it was obvious from the beginning that the puppy was ill and on a verge of dying, so it was only a humane decision to dispose of it that way.
School officials also came to Crosland’s defense. The school’s Science Department Director said that everybody at the school knew that Crosland fed his two reptiles, a snapping turtle and a python, named Monty, living animals since they refused to eat dead meat.
Students also took the teacher’s side, saying that Crosland warned them beforehand that he would be feeding the animal the puppy and asked if they felt okay about it. Nobody reportedly objected. The ‘science experiment’ took place after hours, so only a small group of students were present.
Crosland told investigators that he tried to feed the puppy to his python first, but it refused the offering.
While the local community seemed to overwhelmingly back the teacher, the prosecution argued that the puppy had suffered during the feeding procedure. Crosland first put the puppy in the tank with the turtle, which promptly dragged it under the water.
Idaho Deputy Attorney General David Morse said that the puppy was fighting for its life before its inevitable demise, and was “flailing around and crashing” in the 350-gallon reservoir. The turtle was eventually euthanized by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
As the news hit the national headlines when the charges were filed in June, animal activists demanded the strictest possible punishment for Crosland, launching a petition to ban him from teaching at the school. The petition gained 190,000 signatures. Crosland remains a teacher at the Preston Junior High.