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Bulk of animal cruelty case remains in limbo 

Jurors in the Cynthia Walsh case delivered their verdict against the 57-year-old Edna Valley woman late the afternoon of Dec. 27 at the courthouse in San Luis Obispo. The panel dealt guilty verdicts to the pet owner on three misdemeanor counts of neglect, abuse, and improper licensing, while remaining deadlocked on six counts of felony animal cruelty.

Jury troubles delayed the verdict by more than a week expending all available alternates to cap the already grueling yearlong proceeding. Superior Court Judge John Trice declared a mistrial on the remaining charges.

Walsh could face jail time for the misdemeanor convictions.

Head deputy DA Steve Brown called the consideration to launch a new prosecution a "balancing process" that cannot be adequately determined until more of the office returns from break. According to Brown, the department has not yet fully analyzed prosecutor Nancy Fede's post-game report.

"It's not unusual to retry a case that's 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict," Brown said. "We'll probably be staffing and making a determination next week."

Walsh's defense attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, was on vacation and unavailable for a response. Following deliberation, Funke-Bilu had expressed displeasure with the guilty verdicts passed down, but plans to serve as Walsh's defense if the prosecution decides to try again.

The animal-cruelty case one of the largest such cases in Central Coast history began in December 2005 when Animal Services officers served a warrant at Walsh's house and seized more than 100 pets. The raiding officers testified at the trial to the allegedly inhumane conditions of the home. In Walsh's defense, Funke-Bilu asserted that the animals received better care with the defendant than they did in the custody of the county. Several Animal Services volunteers and veterinary professionals testified for the defense.

The next stage of the case begins Jan. 10. Walsh is not allowed to own any pets, by judicial order, until the sentences for the misdemeanor counts are delivered.


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