A Question of Justice: Houston Couple Charged With Distributing Films Showing the Torture and Killing Of Puppies

crushvidmugs-660x485Brent Justice, 51, and Ashely Richards, 22, have been indicted in the latest case involving “snuff film.” In this case, prosecutors say that the Houston couple distributed films showing the torture and killing of puppies and other animals. The case could raise a question over the scope of the federal law. According to PETA, which revealed the films to authorities, one film allegedly shows Richards “cutting the leg and slashing the neck and throat of a puppy before beheading the struggling animal with a meat cleaver.”

The federal indictment details eight videos with titles like “Crushblackluvsample” showing puppies, chickens, kittens and other animals being tortured and killed.

Here is the federal definition:

(a) Definition.— In this section the term “animal crush video” means any photograph, motion-picture film, video or digital recording, or electronic image that—
(1) depicts actual conduct in which 1 or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 and including conduct that, if committed against a person and in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, would violate section 2241 or 2242); and
(2) is obscene.

What is interesting is that serious bodily injury would appear to cover hunting and impaled could cover trapping. Not surprisingly, those activities are exempted under 18 U.S.C. 48:

(e) Exceptions.—
(1) In general.— This section shall not apply with regard to any visual depiction of—
(A) customary and normal veterinary or agricultural husbandry practices;
(B) the slaughter of animals for food; or
(C) hunting, trapping, or fishing.

So, it is lawful to film the shooting or trapping of an animal if done as an outdoor activity but not as an indoor activity. There is also the absence of an exception for the use of images in non-sexual or conventional films. In many countries (and in older U.S. films), animals have been routinely subject of serious bodily injury. It will be interesting if that will be used as the basis for a challenge. This is the type of case that a defense lawyer does not want to risk going to a jury. That creates considerable pressure to reach a plea bargain. In what is not a good sign for the defendants, a Harris County magistrate suspended reading of the allegations “because they were too gruesome.”

I remain disgusted by the very existence of these films — and alarmed that there are obviously a segment of our population that wants to watch such depravity. The question could come down to how such a crime can be defined to avoid vagueness problems or even free speech issues.

Justice and Richards are facing seven federal charges, each of which carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Source: Wired

26 thoughts on “A Question of Justice: Houston Couple Charged With Distributing Films Showing the Torture and Killing Of Puppies

  1. There is a somewhat double standard, at least on the surface it would appear that way. It could be argued in one sense that impaling an animal with a rod would be considered animal cruelty if for just the purpose of making a film others pay to watch yet if someone were to shoot an animal with an arrow while lawfully hunting it would be considered legal. Either way the animal suffers and likely dies. The animal doesn’t care for why this happened, just that it doesn’t want it to happen.

    One could look at what the actors, that is hunters or snuff filmographers, have for their intentions. A true, sporting hunter does not want the animal to suffer. There have been many examples of hunters discussing which bullets or hunting tips cause the animal to bleed out the fastest and suffer the least. The intention on behalf of the snuff film maker is to exact as much suffering as possible to the animal. I believe that is at the heart of the matter.

    Humans have been hunting animals since, oh before we were human, like it or not that is the way it is and has been. It is a survival need in one way or another. There is not survival need for depravity and it is against all that is civil in civil society. Society enforces rules to preserve its civility and the law is one of those tools.

  2. In all hunting societies, the sacred spirit of the animal was honored. Prayers were said. Paintings were made. Tools were honed and eyes were trained to spot signs. Highly developed skill was and still is necessary. Traditions were honored and still are.

    This is nothing like that. Pure sadism.

  3. Why on earth would anyone want to see this kind of thing? I am beginning to think maybe there is something to the theory that a lot of people are really aliens living among us in disguise.

  4. Nick S, well if I get a donated degree and profession, I may as well get a CoverGirl photo to go along. And this is from the gang that thinks they’re insulting me! They think I’m pretending to be a dumpy 65-year-old grey-haired Jewish high school graduate. To what purpose I can only imagine! (Think of the work to disguise myself each morning, OY!)

  5. This is a scary world with sick, twisted, psycho, and putrid individuals!! This is only one case of such torture and decapitation of harmless, innocent, voiceless, creatures/beings on earth! This makes me sick to my stomach! These disgusting excuses for human beings deserve the same torture in return! There need be harsher laws and penalties for crimes such as these against nature!! I am a dog owner and lover. My life’s mission is to end the cruelty, abuse, and neglect of companion animals! It’s a sad, scary, and psychotic world out there. Who is to say that these monsters will stop with animals and not children?! They really need to be on death row for these inhumane crimes!!

  6. I wonder if the old practice as mentioned by Shano in hunting societies bringing prayers and the spirit of the animal being respected could be held to be a marker of when humans began having empathy for the animal they had killed and wanted to rationalize the animal was spared suffering and offered an afterlife or other benefits bestowed upon deceased fellow humans.

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