District Attorney Wrong in Deciding Not to File Criminal Charges Against the Owner of Pitbulls

LOS ANGELES, April 5, 2016 ─ In deciding not to prosecute Alexandra Griffin-Heady, 24, the owner of the pitbulls that killed her brother Tyler Trammell-Huston, 9, on January 3, 2016, the District Attorney of the County of Yuba, in Northern California, failed to follow the law, says leading dog bite law attorney Kenneth M. Phillips of Beverly Hills.

According to published reports, Griffin-Heady left the boy alone in her mobile home with three pitbulls, two of which were confined in a wire cage. She knew the cage was breaking apart, the two dogs were dangerous, and the 9-year-old boy did not know how to be safe with them. Those dogs got out of the cage and fatally mauled the child while Griffin-Heady was absent for two hours.

The District Attorney’s press release on March 25th proves that he overlooked the real crime. It was not child endangerment. The young boy was savagely mauled to death because Griffin-Heady had dogs which she knew were “mischievous” and which she failed to confine properly. California Penal Code section 399(a) makes it a felony to keep a “mischievous” animal without ordinary care if it kills a person. “Mischievous” is a legal term that refers to tendencies which may naturally pose a risk of harm or injury to others.

Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel are the most infamous of those who have been convicted under California Penal Code section 399. They owned the Presa Canario dogs that killed Diane Whipple in 2001. Under similar circumstances, other defendants have also been convicted under section 399:

  • Michael Berry (People v Berry (1991) 1 CA 4th 778)
  • Armando Gonzales Flores (People v. Flores (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 251)
  • Carla Ramirez Cornelio (People v. Cornelio CA4/1, D063608 (Cal. Ct. App. 2014)
  • Jose A. Lopez Gonzalez and Judith Mendez Lopez (People v. Gonzalez CA4/2, E053751 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013)

“Clearly Mr. McGrath should have considered whether Alexandria Griffin-Heady committed the same offense that other prosecutors have successfully relied on to obtain guilty verdicts in similar cases,” said attorney Phillips. “The public will never know whether Griffin-Heady committed this crime unless the case is filed in court or submitted to the Yuba Grand Jury.”