from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. JV599661 The
Honorable James P. Beene, Judge
Maricopa County Public Advocate's Office, Mesa By Jason
Kinsman Counsel for Appellant.
Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Phoenix By Lisa Marie
Martin Counsel for Appellee.
Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Judge Patricia A. Orozco (Retired) joined.
Judge Donn Kessler concurred in part and dissented in part.
Jessie T. appeals the juvenile court's delinquency
adjudication finding that he committed animal cruelty in
violation of Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.")
section 13-2910(A)(9) (subjecting an animal to cruel
mistreatment), a class six felony. Because we conclude that
the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support
the court's adjudication, we modify the adjudication to
reflect that Jessie committed the lesser-included offense of
inflicting unnecessary physical injury to any animal, a class
one misdemeanor, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2910(A)(3).
Police detectives discovered a Facebook photo of Jessie
holding a pellet gun in one hand and a black cat by its tail
in the other. The detectives also observed photos of a
subsequent mutilation of what appeared to be the same cat.
Jessie later admitted to a police officer that he shot the
cat and did so "because it was a stray, and it was
black." Jessie also admitted that after the shooting, he
took pictures of a female friend disemboweling the cat.
The State filed a delinquency petition alleging Jessie
intentionally or knowingly subjected an animal to cruel
mistreatment in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2910.
A person commits cruelty to animals if the person . . .
[i]ntentionally or knowingly subjects any animal to cruel
. . .
"Cruel mistreatment" means to torture or otherwise
inflict unnecessary serious physical injury on an animal or
to kill an animal in a manner that causes protracted
suffering to the animal.
A.R.S. § 13-2910(A)(9), (H)(2).
At the adjudication hearing, after the close of the
State's evidence, Jessie moved for a judgment of
acquittal pursuant to Rule of Procedure for the Juvenile
Court 29(D)(2). The State responded that it had made a
"showing beyond a reasonable doubt" because
"[Jessie] did cause reasonable risk of death or serious
injury to the cat, because he shot the cat and killed
it." The court denied the motion.
In its closing argument, the State asked the juvenile court
to focus on "inflicting unnecessary physical injury to
an animal" and argued that Jessie "did create a
reasonable risk of death or serious impairment, because he
actually killed the cat." The State highlighted the
Facebook photo of Jessie holding the cat by the tail as
evidence that he "actually did kill the cat."
Alternatively, the State argued that if it had failed to meet
its burden of proving Jessie subjected the cat to cruel
mistreatment under A.R.S. § 13-2910(A)(9), the court
should adjudicate him delinquent for violating A.R.S. §
13-2910(A)(3), as a lesser-included offense that prohibits
unnecessarily inflicting "physical injury" to any
animal. Defense counsel countered that "killing an
animal and causing serious physical injury [are] not the
same." Counsel also pointed to the distinct elements of
"killing" and "serious physical injury"
within the statute to support his argument. The State