Dog Gone 

Dog-shooting case heads to court

Testimony is under way in a civil case that involves dogs, guns and a quiet Boise neighborhood.

Jury selection began Monday in the case filed by Robert Engle and Sarah Minnis, who are accusing their neighbor, Thomas "Bruce" Murphy, of inflicting intentional emotional distress and battery after Murphy shot the couple's dog on May 20, 2006.

The incident earned headlines across the Treasure Valley after Murphy shot the boarder collie/shar pei mix. While no one disputes that Murphy shot the dog, the discrepancy comes in the explanation of why he shot it.

Murphy claims he was protecting his dog, a springer spaniel, after it was attacked by the other dog. Engle and Minnis' description of events are far different.

According to attorney Heather Cunningham, Minnis was in her front yard with her dog on a leash when the dog tore the leash out of her hand and ran across the street to greet Murphy's dog. Minnis then followed her dog, grabbing the leash and apologizing to Murphy. Minnis had turned and was leading her dog away when she heard a loud noise and the dog collapsed against her leg, Cunningham said.

Minnis called the police and then took her dog to the veterinarian, where it had to be euthanized because the bullet had severed its spinal cord.

Murphy's attorney, Mike Stefanic, declined to comment, other than to say that Murphy was justified in his need to protect his dog, and shot the other dog as an act of last resort. He added that Engle and Minnis are in the wrong since they failed to control their dog.

Cunningham said Murphy, who does have a concealed weapons permit, shot the dog with a .32 cal., hollow-point round.

She said an electrical contractor, who was standing in the driveway and witnessed the incident, will provide testimony during the trial. She will also present evidence that the dog was walking away and that Murphy's dog had no injuries.

And while Boise Police concluded that Murphy was within his rights to protect his property, Engle and Minnis feel the case is far from closed.

Cunningham said the charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress comes from Murphy having shot Minnis' dog from two feet away, while Minnis was standing next to it. She said Minnis has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been in therapy since.

The first of two battery charges comes from the fact that after it was shot, Minnis' dog fell against her leg. The second comes from an incident after the shooting. According to Cunningham, Engle went to Murphy's home to ask what had happened, and Murphy poked him in the foot with a ski pole.

Cunningham said none of these claims are an effort to get money, but rather to hold Murphy accountable for his actions.

"It's up to the jury to determine how much emotional distress is worth," she said. "In an ideal world, they'd like to have their dog back, but that's not possible."

The trial is expected to last through the week.

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