See Spot Appeal:
                   A Condemned Dog
                   Bites Back in Court
                   ---
                   California's Judicial System
                   Grinds Slowly for a Pit Bull
                   Waiting on Death Row
                   By Joan E. Rigdon

                   10/24/1990
                   The Wall Street Journal
                   PAGE A1
                   (Copyright (c) 1990, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.)
 

                  SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The condemned prisoner whimpers in the
                   damp cell block on death row.

                   Meet Spot, an 85-pound pit bull with a bad reputation, a homeless owner
                   called "Crazy Ed" and a recent arrest for biting three people. In other
                   cities, where pit bulls are generally reviled, feared and executed without
                   much delay, Spot would have been a dog gone long ago.

                   But this is Santa Barbara, where professionals attend public pray-ins for
                   rain and a scientist has sued for the right to be killed and have his head
                   frozen so it can be revived someday and attached to another body when
                   there's a cure for the tumor infecting his brain.

                   Here, few are fazed to learn that a dog has an attorney. Actually, Spot
                   has had two attorneys, and the latest promises to take his case all the way
                   to the California Supreme Court.

                   Spot is on his second stay of execution, this one from the state Court of
                   Appeal. Meanwhile, a crack team from this city's prosecutor's office is
                   plowing through a pile of papers filed on his behalf: more than 100 pages
                   of testimony and appeals.

                   This is Spot's tale: His owner is a 38-year-old bearded homeless man
                   named Ed Mannon, who is known as Crazy Ed because of his violent
                   temper. Mr. Mannon got Spot as a puppy four years ago after Spot
                   failed to prove his worth as a fighter in an initial bout with another pit bull.
                   Mr. Mannon says homeless people need dogs. "The reason I got into a
                   dog as a protection number is because there was a guy shot dead in his
                   sleep," he explains.

                   One night in March, while Mr. Mannon and Spot slept at an encampment
                   for the homeless, two pedestrians walked by. What happened next is in
                   dispute. The pedestrians say Spot attacked them without warning; Mr.
                   Mannon claims the passers-by were trying to steal a radio.

                   Police say they arrived in time to see the pedestrians running from Mr.
                   Mannon, who was yelling "Attack!" to an excited pit bull. The passers-by
                   and Mr. Mannon all suffered dog bites and were treated and released at
                   a nearby hospital.

                   After police impounded Spot, Mr. Mannon hounded lawyers in search of
                   counsel. Most laughed at him. But Steve Balash, a high-profile,
                   $150-an-hour criminal defense attorney, agreed to take the case on what
                   could be called a pro bone basis as a favor to a friend of Mr. Mannon.
                   Without legal representation, says Mr. Mannon, "I would have been
                   rolled by the bureaucracy."

                   Mr. Balash, a Marine Corps veteran who often rides his Harley Davidson
                   to work, says, "It just wasn't fair. Spot got a bum rap." He says a second
                   pit bull did some of the biting. And noting Mr. Mannon's claim that the
                   passers-by were trying to steal a radio, he adds: "If someone stole
                   something from my back yard, I hope my German shepherd would bite
                   them."

                   Mr. Balash demanded a trial, called a vicious-dog hearing, for Spot.
                   Normally, the hearing would take place at police headquarters. But with
                   more than a dozen witnesses and dozens more supporters, it was
                   rescheduled for a community center near downtown. Mr. Balash hired his
                   own court reporter. The atmosphere was tense. Reporters stood by. The
                   only one missing was Spot, who remained in his cell in the county dog
                   pound 10 miles to the west.

                   Sitting behind a cafeteria table, the "judge," police Lt. A.N. Katzenstein,
                   listened patiently as several police officers and animal-control officers
                   recounted the fight. But none personally saw Spot bare his fangs,
                   bolstering one of Mr. Balash's defenses: that Spot's ex-girlfriend, another
                   pit bull named Tina, did some of the biting that night.

                   Then Mr. Balash called numerous character witnesses, including a retired
                   woman who thinks Spot is as sweet as Lassie and the president of a local
                   engineering firm who sometimes brings food to the homeless, who
                   testified that Spot is a milquetoast compared to domestic poodles. The
                   climax of Mr. Balash's presentation was a color videotape of Mr.
                   Mannon frolicking with Spot in his kennel on death row.

                   Nevertheless, Lt. Katzenstein sentenced Spot to death or life without
                   parole in a dog kennel. Mr. Mannon says he would rather kill Spot than
                   have him live that way. Besides, without a home, he has no back yard in
                   which to build a kennel.

                   Mr. Balash responded with a 28-page appeal to county Superior Court.
                   He argued that Spot didn't get a fair shake because he was judged by
                   police in a case that involved police. He said police seized Spot without
                   due process and failed to prove Spot is vicious. And, he said, the police
                   are prejudiced against Spot and Mr. Mannon. In one confrontation, Mr.
                   Balash alleged, a police officer pulled an apparent bag of ashes from his
                   pants and told Mr. Mannon, "This is your dog, Spot." (The officer says
                   Mr. Mannon provoked him.)

                   The county judge, a self-professed dog lover, agonized over the case and
                   then refused to overturn the ruling. But he granted Spot a 30-day stay of
                   execution. By then Mr. Balash was embroiled in a human murder
                   defense, so he handed Spot's case over to a second lawyer, Will
                   Hastings of the nonprofit Legal Defense Center.

                   Mr. Hastings obtained a longer stay of execution from the state appellate
                   court, where he has filed an appeal. If the court agrees to hear the case,
                   Spot gets a court date. If not, Spot gets executed.

                   Mr. Hastings vows to take the case to the state's highest court, but city
                   officials say it won't get that far because the defense's arguments have no
                   foundation in law. Besides, they note, Spot's rap sheet goes way back.

                   Pamela Christian, an animal-control officer, complains that since 1986
                   she has often seen the dog illegally leashed to the city courthouse while
                   Mr. Mannon has been inside contesting a wide range of charges from
                   illegal camping to possession of marijuana. Moreover, she says, the dog
                   is mean.

                   Two years ago, Spot was impounded after he broke loose from Mr.
                   Mannon, bounded across a four-lane street and bit a pedestrian, Ms.
                   Christian says. According to police reports, the victim was beating on a
                   pickup truck when Spot ran over. (The victim later said he was in town to
                   tell President Reagan that the FBI had kidnapped his family.) Frightened,
                   the victim hit Spot, whereupon Spot bit him.

                   In court, Mr. Balash argued that Spot only bites when provoked. Mr.
                   Mannon testified that Spot is "100% friendly" as long as no one hits him
                   with sticks or does other "freakazoid" things. City officials aren't biting.
                   "Freakazoid things happen in society," says city law clerk Denise Kale.

                   Those officials are determined to keep Spot off the streets, but he has his
                   supporters. Among them is the gossip columnist for the local weekly
                   newspaper, who goes by the pseudonym Trixie. The column uses the
                   unusual heading "Angry Poodle Barbecue" and a picture of a poodle with
                   a bow in its hair and a barbecue fork in its paw. Trixie says that he would
                   support a law against homeless people owning pit bulls, but that Spot is
                   an exception.

                   Mr. Balash estimates he donated about $6,500 of legal time to Spot's
                   case. So far, the Spot Legal Defense Fund, which has attracted donations
                   from local citizens, has paid him $500.

                   For his part, Mr. Mannon takes 40-minute bus trips to visit Spot at the
                   pound three or four days a week. He keeps a file of legal arguments,
                   court documents, news clippings and letters on the case. "The only reason
                   I'm doing it is because I owe it to him," Mr. Mannon says, explaining that
                   once, when he was about to face a rap for possession of marijuana, Spot
                   stepped in and ate the evidence.

                    -30-
 

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