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Oct 18, 2011 7:35 PM by Matt Stafford

Dog killings appeal heard in Community Court

It was an unusual courtroom setting -- Fountain-Ft. Carson High School doesn't host many hearings -- and they were taking a look at an unusual case.

In 2006, Adams County rancher Daniel Bowen had lost several of his cattle to coyotes. He decided to poison them by putting an herbicide in some meat and leaving in an area the coyotes had been seen. Five local dogs ate the meat and died.

In court, the jury told Bowen to pay for the market value of the dogs, but not for extra damages -- like emotional distress.

The dog owners filed an appeal, saying the trial court made mistakes in the proceedings -- like giving incorrect instructions to jurors before they made their decision.

The appeal was heard in front of an auditorium of Fountain - Ft. Carson students; it was part of the Courts in the Community program -- teaching students about the legal system.

The defense argued that the case was handled correctly; that the plaintiffs had received what they sought in trial, and that they couldn't seek new damages that hadn't been proven in the trial.

Three judges heard the case; they'll form an opinion later on, sharing the results. It can be weeks before the parties know the outcome of the case.

"We look for cases that would be of interest particularly to students," Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Richard Gabriel.

"We got to hear like both sides of the story," says student Linda Davis.

A high school may not be the typical setting for an appeal, but everything went like it would have in court. The only thing that changed for today's hearings was the location.

"These are real cases; involving real people, and the lawyers are really doing their job and working very hard," says Judge Gabriel.

The attorneys even spent time to talking to the students about their jobs after their hearing.

It was a new experience for Davis, the student who said she enjoyed hearing both sides of the story. She's been thinking about becoming a lawyer, and got a dose of how it works on Tuesday.

"I don't know, I'm still trying to decide," says Davis, laughing.

Luckily Davis, and others who watched the case, still have time to figure it out; hopefully this helped.

For more on Courts in the Community, click here.

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