LOS ANGELES – A state appellate court panel Tuesday rejected the latest appeal filed on behalf of a Littlerock man who was convicted of second-degree murder for a woman’s fatal mauling by four pit bulls he owned.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that Alex Donald Jackson is “not entitled to relief” under a recent change in state law that affects some murder cases.
Superior Court Judge Lisa M. Chung had earlier rejected a bid for re-sentencing by Jackson, who is serving a 15-year-to-life state prison term for the May 9, 2013, dog attack on Pamela Devitt.
The 63-year-old Palmdale grandmother sustained about 200 puncture wounds in the dog attack, which began when she was walking about one-eighth of a mile from Jackson’s home as part of her exercise routine. She died in an ambulance while being taken to the hospital, according to the appellate court panel’s 13-page ruling.
A motorist’s pickup truck was also chased by the dogs after the motorist — who called 911 — honked her horn in an effort to stop the dogs from attacking the woman, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Williams said after the verdict.
Jackson was also found guilty of three drug-related charges — cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of a controlled substance — but acquitted of one count of assault with a deadly weapon involving an alleged run-in with a horseback rider in January 2013.
A state appeals court panel upheld Jackson’s conviction in an April 2016 ruling, and the California Supreme Court refused in July 2016 to hear the case.
In the latest ruling, the appellate court justices noted that Jackson regularly took in stray dogs abandoned in the desert that were used to guard his fenced property and protect his drug production and sales operation.
“In the 14 months preceding Devitt’s murder, dogs that escaped from appellant’s yard committed multiple attacks in which at least nine people and/or their horses were injured,” the panel noted. “Appellant watched at least two of these attacks as they took place, but did little or nothing to contain or control his dogs … Most, if not all, of the attacks occurred after appellant claimed to have reinforced the fence.”
During Jackson’s sentencing hearing in 2014, the victim’s husband, Ben, said he and his wife had begun walking regularly after their grandson’s birth.
He said then that he had moved to Washington state after his wife’s death, saying he couldn’t bear watching all of the work she had done in their yard “turning brown and withering away.”
“Her story should not have ended in such a horrific way,” Ben said.
During the trial, Jackson testified in his own defense, telling jurors that he felt “terrible” about what had happened. DNA testing confirmed that dried blood from the victim was found on four of Jackson’s dogs, who were found locked in a garage. The four dogs involved in the attack on Devitt were euthanized, while four other dogs found on the property were adopted by other families, according to the prosecutor.
The case was the second tried in Los Angeles County in which a dog owner was convicted of second-degree murder for a mauling death.
The case against former attorney Marjorie Knoller was moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles following extensive publicity in the Bay Area. Knoller was convicted in March 2002 of second-degree murder for the January 2001 mauling of lacrosse coach Diane Whipple in an apartment hallway by two Presa Canario dogs owned by Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, who was also then an attorney. Noel was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and owning a mischievous dog that kills.
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