On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court vacated the death sentence that had been meted out to Murphy, an Alaskan-malamute-shepherd mix, for injuring a neighbor dog in 2001.
The state supreme court reviews such cases in Nebraska because it has little else to do, as there are only a few dozen hardy pioneer families that still huddle in that cold and barren landscape and so few cases arise there. At least, I can't think of another reason.
But it was good news for Murphy, anyway. The high court concluded that "the order for the destruction of the dog was not reasonable" and that the county court issuing the order had abused its discretion. The court noted that the injuries to the other dog were "relatively minor," that the other dog's owner had not even taken it to the vet for two days, and even then the bill was only $34.06.
None of which had prevented the lawyers involved from wielding the usual rhetoric. At the hearing last year, Assistant Attorney General Kim Klein, prosecuting the assailant, described her attacks on other dogs as "deliberate and vicious." (How the State normally proves canine intent in cases like this was not disclosed.) For his part, dog defense lawyer Mark Fahleson said that it was the authorities who were the real criminals, as they had demonstrated "a bloodthirsty vengeance once thought reserved for only the most cold-blooded of human killers."