dog Judge Overseeing Hearing For Tortured Puppy Suspect Recuses Self

A puppy named Justice is fighting for his life after being set on fire in Dallas. (credit: Jim Wenger/DFW Rescue Me)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The judge residing over a hearing to reduce the bond of an accused puppy killer recused himself Thursday, saying he forgot he had once spoken to the animal’s veterinarian concerning its care.

Judge Rick Magnis said he forgot about the conversation until the morning before the hearing. He said he spoke to the vet before he received the case.

Public reaction was swift.

“I was disappointed,” said Jim Wenger, spokesman for DFW Rescue Me, the group that attempted to save the dog. “We’re all in our group wanting to go forward and get some resolution for this.”

The four-month-old puppy named Justice was doused with lighter fluid and set on fire at a Pleasant Grove apartment complex on April 4. He died 10 days later.

During an April 20 candlelight vigil at Dallas City Hall, the city’s Assistant District Attorney announced that Darius Ewing, 18, had turned himself in. He’s charged with cruelty to non-livestock animals, which carries a two-10 year sentence if convicted.

The hearing Thursday was to lessen his $100,000 bond.

Supporters of the puppy were frustrated that the hearing was postponed –– but they’re happy the judge recused himself before going further.

“Because this is a truly violent crime, so as I said, any personal knowledge the judge said he had made absolute sense for him to recuse himself,” said Jody Jones, manager of Dallas Animal Services.

Before Thursday’s hearing, Ewing’s family and friends argued police have the wrong man –– despite the fact that he turned himself in.

Ewing’s mother Keesha Hood said her son was praying about the issue.

“He hopes something will get resolved and, like I say, he’s praying every day that they actually catch the people that did it and that something happens to whoever gave his name to police, too,” she said.

Rev. Ronald Wright of Justice Seekers Texas spoke on Ewing’s behalf, saying the bond was set too high and that the arrest was racially motivated.

“It says that dogs are more important when it comes to African-American men,” he said. “What would be better, for him to turn himself in or the police picking him up somewhere or probably shooting him?”

Wenger denied the arrest was racially charged.

“It’s an animal cruelty issue. His bond was set where it was because he was a flight risk, it’s a felony,” the DFW Rescue Me spokesman said. “If he’s the one that did it, he had some buddies that were helping him. Nobody wants to man up and face what they did and face the music.”

Ewing’s supporters look to documents like the original police report, which says men nicknamed Ohio and Slim hanged the puppy and then doused him with lighter fluid. Those supporters claim Ewing wasn’t even there.

No matter the arguments, the case is now delayed at least a week while it’s reassigned –– and Ewing’s $100,000 bond remains.

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