Trial starts in deadly seal pup beating - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Trial starts in deadly seal pup beating

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A transient used a rock to kill a defenseless elephant seal pup in San Diego Bay, a prosecutor said Tuesday, but a defense attorney said her client mistakenly thought something was wrong with the animal and wanted to put it out of its misery.
    
In her opening statement in the trial of Roy Lee Miller, Deputy District Attorney Karra Reedy told jurors that Miller bashed the head of the seal pup "again and again and again" in a "vicious and extreme act of animal 
cruelty."
    
Reedy said the seal pup -- thought to be about a month or two old -- had multiple skull fractures and a brain hemorrhage.
    
Boaters alerted officials to the newly weaned Northern elephant seal pup on Feb. 27.
    
A seal pup has a distinctive call or "cry," calling for its mother, the prosecutor said.
    
Researchers kept an eye on the animal, but it ended up under the Sonar Bridge near Spanish Landing, where Miller and friend Mark Valentine had been hanging out, Reedy said. Miller was on his second bottle of vodka when he attacked the seal, according to the prosecutor.
   
Deputy Public Defender Joey Super said Miller thought he was doing the right thing by ending the seal pup's misery.
    
"A mistake is not malice," Super told the jury.
   
Super said Miller, 45, and Valentine described the sounds the animal was making as "worse than a baby crying."
    
The defendant and Valentine tried to feed the seal pup, and when that didn't work, Miller hit the animal in the head to end its suffering, Super told 
the jury.
   
A marine mammal veterinarian testified in September that the seal pup -- not normally found in San Diego Bay -- was fine and making normal seal "calls" when she observed the animal on Feb. 27.
   
The veterinarian said a lay person could think that a seal was in distress if they heard the "unique" pup calls.
   
Harbor police Detective Robert Twardy testified that Miller approached him after the detective found the seal's body on the beach.
   
"He said he was responsible for putting the seal out of its misery," Twardy testified.
   
When asked why he didn't call 911 when he came upon the seal, Miller said he didn't know and was "distraught," Twardy testified.
   
Miller faces up to five years in state prison if convicted of cruelty to an endangered or protected animal.

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