After a full day of witness testimony and courtroom procedures, it took a jury less than 20 minutes to find a Preston science teacher not guilty of animal cruelty.
“I’d like to thank this community for staying behind me, it’s really what got me through this,” Robert Crosland said.
“Obviously we’re extremely happy with the outcome of this case,” according to Defense Attorney Shane Reichert. “As we set out from the beginning, we thought the State was going to have a difficult time proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Friday marked the second day of Robert Crosland’s trial at the Franklin County Courthouse.
The case stemmed from an incident last March where Crosland, a science teacher at Preston Junior High School, fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of a number of students in his classroom after school.
The teacher was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in June.
The facts of the incident where never in dispute, however. Prosecuting Attorney David Morse tried to convince the six member jury that Crosland’s actions that day constituted “needles suffering” to the puppy.
“The puppy swims for a minute. The turtle grabs the puppy to drown it,” Morse told jurors. “The turtle slashes skin and the leg off the puppy then eats it. You’ll hear evidence the puppy was sick. That’s not the case,” according to Morse.
However, every witness who had contact with the puppy testified that it was indeed sick, including Crosland’s son Mario.
Mario Crosland was given the puppy by a close friend and told at the time it was sick and would likely die.
Mario took the puppy home and tried to feed it, but with no success. “It was dying,” he said. “His eyes were cloudy.” That’s when Mario gave the puppy to his father and suggested he feed the animal to a snake at the school.
Crosland was “taught to not let animals suffer,” according to his attorney. Reichert said, “The puppy was sick, weak, wouldn’t eat and didn’t have any quality of life.” He said Crosland felt “this was the humane thing to do for the puppy.”
Crosland told his attorney, “honestly I thought I was doing the right thing by not letting the animal suffer.”
According to the testimony of three students who were in the classroom, Crosland did try to feed the puppy to a snake, but apparently the snake wasn’t interested. That’s when Crosland decided to try and feed it to the turtle, the students testified.
All three boys agreed the puppy was sick. “The eyes were covered over with goopy stuff,” according to 12 year old Eli Hammons. “You could see it’s ribs.”
The students testified that Crosland dropped the puppy into a large water tank with the snapping turtle. They said the puppy swam for a few seconds and then it was pulled down to the bottom of the tank and eventually eaten by the turtle.
It was well known throughout the school that Crosland fed live animals, usually rats, to the snake and the snapping turtle.
Two co-workers and fellow science teachers testified that reptiles prefer to feed on live animals and that Crosland was not doing anything out of the norm. Camille Jensen said, “I completely, wholeheartedly trust his judgement.”
The prosecutor tried to paint a picture of the puppy thrashing around and suffering in pain during the incident. However, Morse was never able to produce a witness to testify to that assertion.
It was left up to jurors to decide if the incident constituted “needless suffering” to the puppy. The five men and one woman came back with a unanimous decision and acquitted Crosland of the charges against him