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Berry v. Superior Court

California Court of Appeal
208 Cal. App. 3d 783 (1989)


Michael Berry (defendant) owned a pit bull named Willy. Berry purchased Willy as a fighting dog from a breeder of fighting dogs. The breeder told Berry that Willy was a fighting dog and had good gameness and wind and an exceptionally hard bite. Berry lived next to the Soto family, who had four young children. Berry and the Soto family shared a driveway. Berry referred to Willy as a killer dog and told the Soto family that the dog was behind a fence. However, the fence was not a full enclosure, and anyone could get to the area on the side of Berry’s home where Willy was chained. Through that area, Berry was growing almost 250 marijuana plants. James Soto was two-and-a-half years old. When his mother went inside for a minute and left James playing on their patio, James wandered into Berry’s yard. The family then discovered Willy attacking James. James died from his injuries. Before this attack, Willy had not ever attacked a person. The State of California (plaintiff) charged Berry with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes. The prosecution also considered charging Berry with second-degree murder after the preliminary hearing. During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution presented testimony from an animal control officer qualified as an expert on fighting dogs. The officer testified that pit bull dogs have been selectively bred to be aggressive and can attack without warning. The officer also testified that pit bull dogs can attack in unpredictable circumstances. The trial court determined that probable cause existed to continue the criminal case, and Berry filed a petition to review this finding.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Agliano, J.)

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