LOS ANGELES, April 14, 2016 – In a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Kenneth M. Phillips, the nation’s leading dog bite attorney, challenges Harris to take on the criminal prosecution of Alexandria Griffin-Heady, the owner of pitbulls that killed her 9-year-old brother Tyler Huston on January 3, 2016.
On March 25th, Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath announced he would not prosecute Heady on child endangerment charges. He did not address what Phillips calls “the real crime,” which is negligently allowing a “mischievous animal” to kill a human. McGrath thus committed “an error unworthy of a first-year law student with failing grades,” and therefore should be taken off the case, says Phillips.
The legal definition of “mischievous” means unreasonably dangerous. Heady’s pitbulls fit this definition, according to Phillips, whose law practice consists solely of representing the families of people killed by dogs and victims who are disfigured or disabled from dog attacks. He does not represent any of the parties involved in connection with the Tyler’s death.
On January 3, 2016, Tyler was killed by pitbulls belonging to his sister, Alexandria Griffin-Heady, 24. She left him asleep and alone with two pitbulls that were in a wire cage. The dogs previously had escaped from the cage. It had been breaking apart; Heady had applied a padlock on each door and single zip tie on its roof to hold it together. She knew the dogs previously had attacked her niece, were destructive, and that Tyler did not know how to be safe around them. When she returned three hours later, the roof of the cage was bent off and her brother savagely mauled. He died of his injuries the same day.
“If McGrath had simply read the newspapers during the past 25 years,” says Phillips, “he would have known that the correct criminal charge was ‘keeping a mischievous animal that killed a human being,’ not merely endangering a child.” He cites four precedents published in law books where dog owners were convicted of the “mischievous animal” felony from 1991 on. The most infamous of these cases involved the 2001 death of Diane Whipple, who was killed by two Presa Canario dogs outside her San Francisco apartment. Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel were convicted of the “mischievous animal” felony and Knoller also was found guilty of second-degree murder.
In Phillips’s letter to Kamala Harris, he urges her to take over the prosecution of Alexandria Griffin-Heady so the public can learn whether she committed the mischievous animal crime. “For sure, little Tyler was killed, not merely endangered,” Phillips says. “The public needs to know whether Griffin-Heady was criminally responsible for her brother’s death, and that means the state’s chief prosecutor has to review the case under the right law.”