TAMPA — Six jurors deliberated for more than two hours Wednesday afternoon but went home before deciding whether 49-year-old Maurice Bayless bred and trained pit bulls to fight.
They will continue today.
For two days, they looked at photos of filthy, chained and wounded pit bulls. Eight puppies and 10 adult dogs were seized from his home. All older dogs were deemed too aggressive for adoption and were euthanized.
On a video, jurors saw one lunging at another and a man saying, "Go get him."
Assistant State Attorney Natalia Silver told them that man was Bayless, and that he exercised his pit bulls to exhaustion in hopes of making them champions, pumped them with nutrients and drugs to make them strong, and forced them to breed so he could sell future fighters.
Defense attorney Mark Rodriguez told them prosecutors did not prove any of it — not that the dogs were wounded while in Bayless' care, not that the puppies were products of a champion fighting bloodline.
"The state can't prove a thing that Mr. Bayless did or did not do with any of the animals that were found on his property," he said.
Evidence the state presented as proof of dogfighting was, on its own, legal. But it was the state's burden to prove Bayless' intent to use it illegally.
Jurors saw weighted collars prosecutors said were used in rigorous training regimens and surgical tools they said Bayless used to stitch up dogs after fights.
Could the collars have been used to tire and calm aggressive dogs? The tools used to legally clip dogs' ears? Rodriguez tried to cast reasonable doubt.
Jurors saw a tattoo on Bayless' arm depicting a dog and the words, "scratch to win."
A lottery reference, the defense attorney posed.
Marine lingo, Bayless' twin brother, Michael, said.
Jurors saw blood sport magazines and records of fights. Rodriguez noted some of it was a decade old and said it was just "ancient history" strewn about a messy house.
But Silver responded, "We covet what we keep, and that is what this is about.
"Yeah, it started a long time ago," she said. "But there is no evidence that it ever stopped."
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.