A jury has found that a man accused of maliciously shooting his neighbors' dog without proper cause was indeed within his rights.
The verdict was returned last week, approved by nine of the 12 jurors, stating that Thomas "Bruce" Murphy had a valid claim of defense of property when he shot and mortally wounded the dog owned by his neighbors, Robert Engle and Sarah Minnis on May 20, 2006.
"We lost," said attorney Heather Cunningham in a written statement. "We are disappointed in the result but appreciate the jury's service."
Lawyers for both sides in the civil lawsuit did not return calls by press time.
The case stemmed from an incident that made headlines across the valley. While Murphy never denied shooting the dog, the two parties' versions of why and how were very different.
Murphy claimed he was protecting his dog, a springer spaniel, after it was attacked by the other dog. Minnis said she was in her front yard with her dog on a leash when the dog tore the leash out of her hand and ran across the street to greet Murphy's dog. Minnis then followed her dog, grabbing the leash and apologizing to Murphy. Minnis had turned and was leading her dog away when she heard a loud noise, and the dog collapsed against her leg, Cunningham said.
Minnis called the police and then took her dog to the veterinarian, where it had to be euthanized because the bullet had severed its spinal cord.
Cunningham said Murphy, who does have a concealed weapons permit, shot the dog with a .32 cal., hollow-point round.
While Boise Police cleared Murphy, Minnis and Engle filed a lawsuit claiming battery and infliction of intentional emotional distress.
Cunningham said the charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress comes from Murphy having shot Minnis' dog from two feet away while Minnis was standing next to it. She said Minnis has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been in therapy since.
The first of two battery charges comes from the fact that after it was shot, Minnis' dog fell against her leg. The second comes from an incident after the shooting. According to Cunningham, Engle went to Murphy's home to ask what had happened, and Murphy poked him in the foot with a ski pole.