Expert witness: Murder trial could hinge on parrot who keeps saying ‘don’t f*cking shoot’

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By Will Buckley on

Animal lore


The ex-wife of murder victim Martin Duram is convinced her pet parrot Bud could prove to be the crucial witness in a forthcoming trial.

Duram was shot dead last year and his wife suffered a head wound but survived. Initially, she was considered to be the only witness to the shooting but as inconsistencies in her story mounted the police looked around for corroboration.

Enter Bud — an African grey parrot who was present, and caged, when the shootings took place.

Martin’s ex-wife, Christina Keller, claims that since the killing the parrot has spoken about little else. She says that Bud just keeps saying “don’t fucking shoot” in her former husband’s voice over and over again.

“I’m hearing two people in an intense argument,” says Keller, who believes “Don’t fucking shoot!” were Duram’s final words.

“Two people that I know, voices that I recognise.”

Nor is she alone. Martin’s mother also reckons Bud could provide crucial evidence telling Wood TV’s Ken Kolker:

That bird picks up anything and everything, and it’s got the filthiest mouth around.

Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead is keeping all his options open:

Certainly, as we work our way through the case, that may be something to look at.

Although he already foresees difficulties when it comes to the judge asking the witness to raise his right or left hand. “To a parrot, are you raising a wing, a foot?” he asks, reasonably enough.

It would not be the first time in world justice that an animal has given crucial evidence in a murder trail.

A decade ago in France a dog called Scooby was led into the witness box to see how it reacted to a suspect. Scooby “barked furiously” suggesting that the apparent suicide might have been something else. The French judge Thomas Cassuto praised Scooby for his “exemplary behaviour and invaluable assistance” before, after much deliberation, deciding not to build a case around him.

Animals have had a long, not always dignified, legal role. In medieval times pigs were often put on trial, often dressed in waistcoat and tie, for assorted offences and sheep and donkeys were routinely convicted of having sexual relations with men.

And in 1647 in New Haven, Thomas Hogg was charged with buggery when a local sow gave birth to piglets all bearing an uncanny resemblance to him. In the absence of witnesses and giving Hogg the benefit of the doubt the judge refrained from finding Hogg guilty (a hanging offence) and merely whipped and jailed him.

An early example of Hogg-whipping.