March 14, 2002
Judge To Issue Decision On Poaching Case Against Sheriff
Judge Gary Wallace has taken under advisement the case the State of Missouri vs. Douglas M. Jones and indicated his decision would be forthcoming, likely sometime next week following the bench trial held in the Scotland County Associate Circuit Court March 11.
Jones, the Clark County Sheriff, is facing three charges stemming from an alleged deer hunting incident November 13, 2001. He was cited for attempting to take a deer with the aid of an artificial light, attempting to take a deer from a motor vehicle and attempting to take a deer from the roadway.
The prosecution called two witnesses in the case. A landowner adjoining the area where the alleged incident occurred testified he saw a vehicle stop in the roadway near his dairy barn. He told the court he watched the truck back up, pull sideways in the roadway and then heard a shot come from that direction.
The witness testified that he got in his truck and drove to the part of the road where he last saw the truck. When he arrived the vehicle had left the roadway and driven down into an adjoining field. At that point the witness told the court he heard two more shots coming from the direction where the truck was now located.
Following the incident the witness followed the truck, and ultimately got the vehicle to pull over. He testified that Jones exited the vehicle. He was wearing his sheriff's uniform and identified himself. The witness testified that Jones stated he had seen a light in the field and had went down to investigate.
The testimony went on to indicate that the witness saw the rear end of a deer carcass in the back of the truck when Jones reportedly opened the tailgate to rearrange a four wheeler.
During the defense's cross examination the witness stated he never saw a muzzle flash or any other lights inside the vehicle that would have indicated the shots came from the truck.
The second witness was the ticketing officer, Conservation Agent Gary Miller. Miller testified that he traveled to the Jones residence in Wayland to issue the tickets based on the statement by the witness.
Miller testified that Jones stated at the time the tickets were issued "Can't you cut law enforcement a break?"
Following the tickets being issued Miller stated he was en route to the scene when he was called away to another site. He was unable to make it back to the area until the following morning when he met with the witness.
Both Miller and the witness testified that they went to the scene the following morning and found only one set of tire tracks in and out of the field.
Pictures of two dead deer as well as a large pool of blood where a third deer apparently was picked up, were entered into evidence.
After the prosecution rested, the defense entered a motion for a judgment of acquittal. Previously the defense had entered a motion challenging the sufficiency of the tickets issued in the case.
At this time the defense indicated it would call no witnesses, stating it felt the state had failed to make a case against the defendant.
The judge heard the defense's argument regarding a motion to dismiss based on the sufficiency of the tickets. He informed the prosecution that it had failed to enter into evidence the Conservation Department's easy-reading pamphlet of deer hunting regulations. He also noted that the prosecution failed to request judicial notice of these wildlife codes.
The law cited on the tickets issued is the standard infraction written for most deer hunting incidents. However the law is broad and does not list the specific incidents Jones was ticketed for. These offenses are outlined in the pamphlet distributed each year at permit sales sites.
The prosecution made a motion to reopen the evidence to allow the code book to be entered into the case but the motion was denied.
The judge gave both sides in the case five days to brief the issue. This means the prosecution has five days to try to find case law that would either nullify the need for the wildlife code book to be entered into evidence or that would state there is no need to request a judicial notice of the laws.
The judge took the case under advisement pending the filing of any briefs on this issue.