SCRANTON -- Late Monday afternoon, a jury in Lackawanna County found a University of Scranton student not guilty of animal cruelty. Apparently the jury agreed with the man when he argued he killed the feline in self-defense.
The jury came down with that verdict around 5 p.m. after hearing two very different stories during the trial.
Peter Freshour, a senior at the University of Scranton, admitted last summer he stabbed and killed the stray cat.
It was up to the jury to decide if the circumstances added up to a crime.
Freshour left the Lackawanna County Courthouse saying he could finally put a bizarre afternoon last summer behind him. He admits that he stabbed and killed a cat in last August but never admitted to a crime.
Freshour testified in court that he was attacked by the stray cat outside his apartment on Taylor Avenue. Freshour happened to be carrying a knife and out of fear, he says, reacted.
Freshour says the incident snowballed from there.
“The biggest thing I would urge for the public is to acknowledge that, in our system, you are innocent until proven guilty and to give people that benefit.
I received innumerable amounts of hate mail, I had to cancel my Facebook.”
“It was very emotionally charged. And the reason it’s emotionally charged is that you have an individual, extremely well-respected member of the University community and he’s facing these charges which would have affected the rest of his life. Any charge affect somebody’s life and future but this would have been a career ender for him,” said Freshour’s attorney Paul Walker.
A jury found Freshour not guilty of one count of animal cruelty. Prosecutors say though the facts were cut and dry, they had to prove Freshour was malicious when he killed the cat.
The trial drew a lot of attention from animal rights activists, who feel the way the law is written is wrong.
“I’m very disenheartened with the justice system, but I have been for a while anyway. Animals are considered property and the laws have to change not just here but in the state of Pennsylvania,” said animal rights activist Denise Kumor.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys said this case is one of the more bizarre criminal trials they'd ever seen, We asked jurors about their deliberations as they were leaving the courthouse this afternoon. None of them wanted to comment.