After calling a total of two witnesses, the defense rested its case today in the trial of Arcata rancher Ray Christie.
The second and last witness for the defense was Samuel Dibble, who showed drone footage of some of Christie’s property. Dibble said he was paid $7,100 for the video.
Jurors, who have spent days viewing photos and video of dead and nearly dead cattle, have Thanksgiving week off and will not return until Dec. 2.
Judge Christopher Wilson told the jury Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada has the option of calling witnesses to challenge the defense case, and defense attorney John Cogorno has the option of calling witnesses to challenge Kamada’s rebuttal.
Other than that, jurors can look forward to closing arguments and then to deliberating on whether Christie is guilty or innocent of animal cruelty and dumping animal carcasses within 150 feet of state waters.
The only witness to testify for Christie was Brandon Horn, Christie’s ranch hand. Horn said animals videotaped by law enforcement during raids in March 2018 had been dropped off in the middle of the night, without Christie’s knowledge, by an unknown truck driver.
Today, under cross-examination by Kamada, Horn said he took three dead calves left by the truck driver and deposited them in the large pile of carcasses on Christie’s ranch on Jackson Ranch Road in the Arcata bottoms.
Shown a photo of an apparently dead calf in a pen, Horn said the truck driver “must have thought it was alive.”
Then Horn backtracked, saying he couldn’t tell by looking at the photo whether the calf was dead or alive.
Kamada quizzed Horn on why he hadn’t revealed important information to a district attorney’s investigator who called to ask him questions about the case. Horn didn’t tell the investigator he had been on Jackson Ranch Road ranch just hours before it was raided, and he also returned the next day after the raid.
Also, Horn didn’t mention that two of three dead cows found on a Christie-leased ranch in McKinleyville belonged to him. Nor did he say that a dead cow he had dragged to the bank of the Mad River belonged to him. He said he didn’t know that was a crime at the time.
“If he’d (the DA investigator) asked me about it I’d tell him,” Horn said. “I didn’t give him an answer to things he didn’t ask.”
As to why he’d given defense attorney Cogorno the information during an interview a few months ago, “he asked me specific questions and I gave him what he needed … I’m not in a position to know what’s important and what’s not important.”
During his trial testimony, Horn portrayed Christie as a conscientious rancher who was particular about how the animals he bought were cared for. Christie bought so-called “junk” cattle and attempted to restore them to health, but that method didn’t always succeed.
Up to 200 rotting carcasses were found on the Jackson Ranch Road property, with dozens more found on property Christie owned or leased around the county.
In addition, law enforcement officers found cows allegedly starving to death. A state veterinarian testified that on property off Park Street in Eureka, up to 90 percent of the herd was “very thin to dying.”
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