July 04, 2007 LAPEER — Only minutes after the resumption of a hearing to determine whether three members of an Imlay Township family will be tried for animal torture and cruelty, the case was adjourned.
Mark and Ellen Mills, and their adult children, Andrew and Kate, were charged with animal abuse after Animal Control officers found a dead horse and several dead lambs on their Weyer Road property.
The charges against Kate Mills were dropped last month after it was determined she was a student at Michigan State University and not living at home during the time of the alleged animal abuse.
District Judge Laura Barnard adjourned Thursday's hearing after defense attorney David Richardson stated he had not been provided certain information requested from prosecutors.
Richardson said he had asked for an "exchange of discovery" on May 24, related to necropsy photos of a dead horse removed from the Mills' property in March.
Prosecutors requested the necropsy be conducted by veterinary doctors at Michigan State University to show the animal was malnourished at the time of its death.
"I have not received any reciprocation at this point in time," said Richardson. "I have no copies of the necropsy photos."
Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Stewart told the court he made a verbal request to MSU for the photos, but had yet to receive them.
"I want those necropsy photos before anything else happens," said Barnard. "I'm going to give you a new date."
The adjournment postponed the testimony of a pair of prosecution witnesses who were in the courtroom on Thursday.
They included former Mills family veterinarians; Dr. Ralph Huff of North Branch and Dr. Charles McGee of Oxford.
Mark Mills, who has had run-ins with Animal Control officers and sheriff department deputies in the past, said the family had not used the services of Dr. McGee since 2005.
He also alleged that Dr. Huff had never seen the dead horse which has been the primary subject of the abuse and neglect charges.
Richardson said he and prosecutors have been in negotiations about a possible plea agreement between the involved parties.
One such scenario would require the Millses to plead guilty to having non-licensed dogs and failing to bury the dead animals, both misdemeanors.
That agreement, however, has not been officially offered to his clients, said Richardson.
"We're talking with the prosecutor and hopefully we can put things to rest," Richardson said.
The hearing is scheduled to be reconvened on Thurs., July 26 at 9 a.m. in Judge Barnard's chambers.