“ 'He is not entitled to put Murphy out of his misery when he is the one causing the misery,' Rock said."
Jury convicts man who battered dog at park
By April Hunt
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Joe Waters doesn't deny he smashed his dog in the head twice with a sledgehammer.
But he told a DeKalb County Superior Court jury Wednesday that he attacked his Australian shepherd, Austin, only because he feared the dog was sick.
“He was shaking and crying. At that point, I believed the right thing to do is put him out of his suffering,” Waters said during nearly an hour of testimony about the Dec. 1, 2008 attack.
It took the jury less than two hours Wednesday to agree, somewhat, with Waters' story. It found him guilty of one felony, attempt to commit aggravated animal cruelty, because he did try to kill his pet.
But jurors found him guilty of two lesser misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty instead of the two other felonies he faced.
No sentencing date has been set for Waters, who could serve prison time and pay thousands of dollars in fines. He was taken into custody after the verdict.
Neither prosecutors or Waters' attorney disputed the attack or that a Good Samaritan, Robert Kennedy, found the 9-year-old dog near death in Murphey Candler Park on the morning of Dec. 2.
The dog had a severe skull fracture and hypothermia. The dog lost an eye but has since recovered and lives with Kennedy, who has renamed it Murphy.
But instead of an ill-fated mercy killing, prosecutors argued the attack was the intentional act of a man who took out his own stress on his pet of more than six years.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Rock told the jury that Waters, 49, hid the dog’s body in a ditch in the woods, away from a path where he could be found.
Waters also gave several different reasons for why he beat the dog, including stress from a failing marriage, lack of sleep and having stopped taking medication for thyroid problems and depression.
Even when he confessed to police, Waters never asked about the condition of his dog, Rock said.
“He is not entitled to put Murphy out of his misery when he is the one causing the misery,” Rock said.
Waters had previously rejected a plea bargain of a five-year sentence, with two to be served in prison, and a $5,000 fine that would have been directed to the Atlanta Humane Society.
The vet bills to treat Murphy, who continues to receive care, have exceeded $10,000. Kennedy has paid the bills with money from a trust fund set up following the attack.