PORT TOWNSEND — A second trial for a Chimacum man facing eight counts of first-degree animal cruelty begins today in Jefferson County Superior Court.
Denver Lee Shoop, 73, is accused of starving eight bison on his farm, where the animals were discovered and seized in April 2018.
Shoop has pleaded not guilty on all of the Class C felony charges. Each is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
The first trial ended in February with a hung jury.
Shoop appeared Friday for a motion hearing to determine which evidence can be presented during the scheduled two-week trial.
Judge Keith Harper ruled there was to be no mention of a dead bison or animal carcass, siding with defense attorney Jack Range because no charges resulted from the report of a dead animal found on the property.
“Lab results that came back disprove the state’s theory in the case that the animal died of starvation,” Range said in his argument.
Range said the dead animal had its bone marrow examined, and the lab results showed the fat content of the marrow had not been compromised.
“It has no relevance to this case, and it’s prejudicial for Mr. Shoop,” he said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Julie St. Marie argued it would provide background and potentially show how long the conditions existed at Shoop’s farm.
“There will be no evidence of any deceased bison or carcasses that we have no evidence of how they died,” Harper ruled. “It calls for speculation.”
St. Marie said the state intends to show the bison had a parasitic infestation that led to their starvation.
“There are various ways starvation can occur,” St. Marie said. “Withholding nutrition is one way; parasitic infestation is another.
“It’s a question of fact. To bar the prosecution from arguing the animals were starving makes no sense. It is paramount to the case.”
St. Marie said the state’s theory is that Shoop was not only aware of the parasitic infestation but he refused to get medical treatment for the animals.
Harper read the state statues between first-degree animal cruelty and the second-degree offense and attempted to set the groundwork for jury instructions. He said the jury was sent out of the courtroom on several occasions in February so he could discuss the differences with attorneys, and he’s not willing to send the jury out again.
The first-degree charges include criminal negligence by starving or dehydrating an animal, St. Marie said.
Range argued the parasites were a medical condition and should be viewed as second-degree charges.
“First degree requires a person, not a parasite, to starve the animal,” Range said.
“We’re not going to have the jury go out and have a long argument about whether this is first degree or second degree,” Harper ruled. “In fact, I’m never going to do that again.”
Harper also ruled the animal control officer who responded to the call to sheriff’s deputies can say he was there for an animal complaint, but no evidence can be presented that says the officer was there to investigate a dead animal.
The felony charges only deal with the eight bison that were seized from the property, he said.
The court summoned 110 potential jurors for today’s proceedings, Harper said. The potential jurors will gather in the superior courtroom to watch a video and fill out a questionnaire before they’re assigned random numbers.
Harper told both attorneys he didn’t want the trial to continue for seven days.
“Let’s do it professionally and efficiently,” he said.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].