Plot Thickens Around Judge Burke
UPDATE 04/18/08: The Star Tribune newspaper says that 7 of the 15 complaints by the one neighbor were unfounded. More importantly, following Burke's ruling, he had an email exchange with Animal Control and learned for the first time that King had been warned and cited about his dog. Strangely, there was no evidence about these warnings in the court record.
Knowing after the fact that King had been warned, Burke said he isn't sure it would have changed his ruling.
Burke's ruling, which freed Zachary King of responsibility in his son's death, said that Animal Control knew of the dog's previous bites but hadn't classified it as dangerous or potentially dangerous. Essentially, he said the agency failed Zachary King -- they did not warn him that his dog was dangerous, therefore King did not know. But it turns out they did.
04/18/08: Judge Had 15 Run-Ins With Animal Control
Minneapolis, IA - Last week, Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke acquitted a Minneapolis dad of a manslaughter charge in the pit bull mauling death of Zachary King, Jr. But Judge Burke has had 15 contacts with Animal Control in the last two years for incidents involving his two dogs, so should he have recused himself from the pit bull mauling case?
In his ruling, Judge Kevin Burke said there was reasonable doubt Zachary King, Sr. knew the pit bull was dangerous. He also placed the blame of the boy's death squarely on the shoulders of Minneapolis Animal Control. When asked why he did not recuse himself, given his prior contact with them, he said that he has traffic tickets on his record, but those don’t stop him from judging those cases.
The judge has two Australian shepherds, Mulligan and Caddie. In September 2006, both dogs attacked another dog on the sidewalk. One month before that, a mail carrier needed to use mace to fend off the dog. Another complaint said the dog appeared vicious and was throwing himself at the window. Added to those complaints are nine others for barking.
Judge Burke told animal control he has a trainer working with his dogs and that he paid a $25 fine. But the judge also received two letters from animal control, saying if the problems continued, the city could potentially declare the dogs dangerous. The letters came in the same form as the one animal control sent to Zachary King, Sr. before his pit bull killed his son.
At least two neighbors on the block say there's another side to the story -- that the dogs are perfectly fine, and that most of the complaints are from his neighbor, and this is really a domestic dispute.
04/13/08: Judge Acquits Father, Blames Animal Control in Death of Zachary King Jr.