Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Judge finds stomping bird was mercy killing

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Killing an injured animal out of mercy might be difficult for some people to stomach, but one Campbell County District Court judge says it doesn't amount to cruelty.

        Citing personal experience Tuesday, Judge Gregory T. Popovich found Thomas Durm, 26, of Clifton not guilty of cruelty to animals for stomping an injured black bird to death June 2.

        “From what I've heard, I don't like the method (Mr. Durm) used to do it. But I cannot find him guilty.

        “If he had not done something, a cat would have come along in 15 to 20 minutes and tortured the bird,” Judge Popovich said.

        Mr. Durm said he was pulling into his brother's driveway on John's Hill Road in Highland Heights when he spotted the bird. After examining the bird, he said he noticed that it was injured, twitching and had fluid oozing from its beak. After talking it over with his brother, Steven, Mr. Durm decided to kill the bird out of mercy.

        As he stomped on the bird, John Christmann, a patrol sergeant with the Highland Heights Police Department, drove by. Officer Christmann, who testified Tuesday, said Mr. Durm and his brother cheered at the bird's death and flashed a thumbs up sign.

        Officer Christmann said both brothers became menacing and verbally abusive when he asked about the incident, prompting an additional charge of disorderly conduct.

        While he admitted to being angry about the animal cruelty charge, Mr. Durm denied acting disorderly.

        Judge Popovich disagreed, finding Mr. Durm guilty and ordering him to pay $100 plus court costs.

        Mr. Durm said he would probably appeal the disorderly conduct ruling.

        “It's very much the principle and my reputation.”

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