I find dog fighting absolutely repulsive! And I’m shocked to read that it actually happens in our state. I thought this was a down south kinda thing, but apparently not. Although this case was in Eastern Washington. No offense.
Nelson and Renteria appeal their convictions of animal fighting and operating an unlicensed private kennel. Their appeal is based on the trial court allowing an expert from the Humane Society (Eric Sakach) to testify about the evidence in the case and the totality of it.
Evidence included the eight dogs (all with some kind of evidence of dog fight injury), training equipment, extensive veterinary supplies, pictures of the defendants’ dog fighting tattoos, dog fighting publications, and log books. Expert Sakach had 32 years experience in investigating animal fighting and had testified at 50 to 75 trials as an expert in dog fighting cases. In Mr. Sakach’s opinion, the evidence pointed to the existence of a dog fighting operation. The defendants claimed that they were training dogs for weight pulling contests. Yeah.
Defendants also claim that Sakach’s testimony was improper because it was an opinion on the defendant’s guilt.
Expert testimony is allowed if “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.” ER 702
There is no doubt that Sakach is a qualified expert, but the defendant’s objections were based on the fact that Sakach was going to testify about the ultimate issue of the case: there was a dog fighting operation. However, as Division III pointed out, “we have long held in this state that expert opinions are not prohibited because they embrace the ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact.”
Division III affirmed based on the fact that even with the expert’s testimony it was still up to the jury to look at all the evidence, the testimony of the expert and the defendant’s claims of a weight pulling training facility. The jury did not have to accept the expert’s opinion. It was an OPINION.
Please, please, please can I impose sentence? This will be your cell mate for the next few months: