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A Bad Day for Justice

An Open Letter to Judge Brian Hill


I was in your courtroom on June 30 to hear you pass sentence on Duanying Chen. I am an educated, well-informed citizen, and I pride myself on trying to understand another’s point of view, even when I do not agree with her or him. However, I am so befuddled by your thinking and, no matter how hard I try to figure why you did what you did, it still makes no sense to me in any way.

What Chen did to the puppy was not just the whimsy of youth as you implied when you mentioned that he was “only 19” when he committed the crime. I have heard people relate their one-time childhood experience with harming an animal (shooting a bird with a BB gun, for example). For a normally developing human being, this is done from curiosity, and the experience of causing pain to another creature is so traumatically unpleasant that they never do it again. That is normal. Also, Chen was not a child. At age 19 we are counted as fully grown adults, so the point is moot.

If you stop and think about the injuries to Davey, Chen would have had to restrain and hold it while the helpless animal screamed in pain and fear. This was done for a long time while the puppy tried to escape. Does this seem at all normal to you? What normal person can even contemplate such acts, much less perform them on any living being.

When I try to understand why you did not levy harsher punishment on Chen, the only possible reason I can think of is that his mother “got to you” when she pled for mercy for her son. The fact that he was raised in a country which tolerates animal abuse seems irrelevant to me. This is not really even about whether or not Chen knew the law. We are talking about a human being who takes pleasure in doing unthinkable acts. It seems so clear that a person like this is not safe for any community and that his actions should be severely punished as an example to others of what will happen if you are caught and prosecuted for torturing an animal. The message you sent is that it is really not a very big deal and the rights of a puppy to have a pain-free and healthful existence are not even worth considering.

From all that I have read and heard about, the tendencies to enjoy inflicting pain are a feature of a psychopath’s personality … they have no conscience and they are born that way; it is who they are. Chen cannot be rehabilitated. He may learn how to behave as if he were “cured,” but this leopard will not be able to change his spots. Before you announced his sentence, you even alluded to the “sadistic tendencies” of this man and how it was obviously a “pattern.” This is why I felt sucker-punched when you announced that he is not “beyond redemption” and we want to give him a second chance. I am sure your faith in his ability to reform will be shown to be unfounded and I wonder who else will be tortured as a result.

I would love to understand what you were thinking because, as I said, I cannot come up with a plausible explanation. As I sat and had to listen to the video of Davey’s agony, the only thought which allowed me to keep sane was the knowledge that a stern sentence would be imposed to tell the world that, here in Santa Barbara, we are leaders in compassion and we do not tolerate animal torture. This would also help me to heal from the horror of it all, because I would know that Davey’s suffering was not in vain and that humans are evolving in a direction of caring for our fellow sentient beings. I will not now recover from my day in your courtroom for a long time, and I will be part of the effort to change the laws so that a judge will not be able to let a practicing sadist off with a slap on the wrist.



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