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Man Acquitted in Death of Ex-Girlfriend's Monkey

June 04, 1993|THOM MROZEK | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A jury acquitted a man Thursday of animal cruelty charges, rejecting allegations that he killed his ex-girlfriend's beloved pet Capuchin monkey Amanda out of jealousy.

"It's very bizarre, I just happened to meet the wrong person and make an error in judgment," a relieved but still shaken James Mardis said after the verdict was announced.

"These are especially weird charges for someone to bring up against me because of my love for animals. I've always been an animal lover," he said.

Mardis, who denied all charges, faced a maximum of nine years in prison had he been convicted of animal cruelty and burglary charges.

At the bizarre four-day trial in Van Nuys Superior Court, Mardis was accused by his former girlfriend, 26-year-old Victoria Walker--described Thursday as an exotic dancer--of seeking revenge against the 7-month-old monkey because Walker paid more attention to the animal than to him.

Walker testified that she loved Amanda like a daughter, fed the creature from a bottle and kept it in diapers. Mardis testified that Walker mistreated the monkey, forcing it to drink alcohol and ingest drugs. Each accused the other of drug use.

A distraught Walker refused Thursday to discuss the verdict.

"She's disgusted . . . extremely disappointed and hurt," said the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathleen M. Cady.

Jurors reported that there simply was not enough evidence to prove that Mardis was responsible for the monkey's death.

"It could have been other people involved," said juror Matt Kovaks. "There were other individuals who were potential (animal abusers). It was just the evidence in the case did not prove him by the laws of the court (to be) guilty."

Amanda, a 2-pound, 4-ounce monkey, died in a Van Nuys apartment March 4, 1992, when someone smashed in its skull.

It took jurors less than 2 1/2 hours to find Mardis, 21, not guilty.

"We did the best with what we had, and we'll just have to respect the verdict they reached," Cady said. "The case was a very circumstantial one and some of the material witnesses we were unable to locate."

In her closing argument Thursday morning, Cady attempted to defuse charges of drug use and poor character made against Walker, her star witness, whom Cady described as an exotic dancer.

Mardis admits being in the apartment the night the monkey was killed, and he was seen running from the residence after a witness heard a loud scream. Walker said her boyfriend was jealous and acted strangely around Amanda, Cady told the jury.

In arguments to the jury, defense attorney Michael Pogue stressed the lack of direct evidence in the case and accused Walker of lying.

Pogue also portrayed Walker as a money-grabbing woman who went to police only after Mardis' family refused to reimburse the $3,000 she paid for the South American monkey.

"This case stinks," Pogue said. "This case has not been proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt."

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