Jury: 5 defendants not guilty in cockfighting trial
By Nancy Glasscock
MOULTON — Five men on trial in connection with the 2011 raid of a suspected cockfight were found not guilty on all charges today by a Lawrence County jury.
Joseph Lynn Holmes, 36, of Hanceville; Larry Dale McCroy, 53, of Hanceville; Zackary Clay McLeroy, 33, of Cullman; James Russell Garnett, 34, of Vinemont; and Grady Darrel McCroy, 54, of Cullman faced charges of cruelty to animals and gambling on cockfighting in connection to the August 2011 raid.
Testimony began Tuesday and concluded with only one witness being called, Lawrence County Drug Task Force investigator Shannon Holland. Holland testified that through a confidential informant, he received information about a cockfight held at the edge of Bankhead National Forest at a residence off Lawrence County 81.
He said that, as an undercover investigator, he attended the event held in a barn Aug. 6 through Aug. 7. He said an admission charge was required to enter, and gamecocks fought in an octagon-shaped ring with bleachers and chairs on both sides. He testified he saw several dead and injured gamecocks and saw all the defendants handling the birds before or during fights.
The jury viewed video Holland captured on his cellphone of a cockfight and of injured birds.
But the defendants’ attorney, Mark Dutton of Moulton, said throughout the trial the cruelty charges do not apply because they stem from a cockfight on private property, which he said is not illegal. He said historical figures such as Andrew Jackson, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln participated in cockfighting.“Honest Abe,” he said, earned his nickname for his honesty in cockfighting matches.
Gamecocks, which are school mascots, he said, are “bred to be aggressive, and they are aggressive.”
“This is a sport, and it has been recognized as a sport for 6,000 years,” he said.
He argued other activities, such as baiting deer and hunting from a tree stand, or hog hunting, where he said dogs grasp hogs’ testicles, causing the hogs to stand still while a hunter cuts their throats, are considered cruel by some, but are not illegal.
Dutton also argued gamecocks are not animals, according to Webster’s dictionary, because they do not have four legs or fur.
An animal, according to “Webster’s New World Dictionary,” Third College Edition, is “any living organism, excluding plants and bacteria.”
Lawrence County District Attorney Errek Jett said cockfighting isn’t a sport, and that hunting is legal. Though the cockfight was at a residence, the event wasn’t private and was open to the public, he said, adding that Holland was able to attend though he knew no one there other than an informant.
Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig included in his instructions to the jury for deliberation that chickens and other fowl are animals.
Larry McCroy said after testimony concluded he disagreed with Craig’s instructions stating chickens are animals.
You are full of chicken poop. It is a federal law against cockfighting because of gambling. Federal means Alabama too. You are misinformed or making up your own laws. Are you by any chance an Obama?