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There’s too much breaking news to bear
Peter Funt

Lost in the press of recent world events was news from Washington state about a dramatic jury trial resulting in the conviction of a 77-year-old Ilwaco woman, who now faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Doris Parks pleaded not guilty, just as she did back in 2014 when tried on similar charges. That trial was interrupted when prosecutors offered a deal, resulting in a $500 fine but no jail time.

The latest case hinged on gripping testimony from officer Paul Jacobson. Acting on a tip from a neighbor, Jacobson conducted extensive video surveillance. Despite objections from defense attorney Killian Dunkeson, the footage was played for the six-member jury, accompanied by testimony by an expert witness, Scott Harris, a wildlife biologist.

A turning point came during officer Jacobson’s testimony about surveilling the Parks’ home. He told Judge Nancy McAllister that he saw a bear walk up Parks’ driveway and onto her deck.

Although Jacobson conceded under cross-examination that he never saw Parks feeding bears, he said the animals he observed were obese.

Officers had been alerted by a neighbor, Gerry Douglas, who testified that he compiled more than 60 video clips of bears on Parks’ property. Asked by defense lawyer Dunkeson if he had ever personally witnessed Parks feeding a bear, Douglas conceded he had not. However, he told the court, “I have seen the door open up there, on the patio, and I have seen a hand with food slide out.”

Biologist Harris told the court that he examined the video evidence and concluded that some bears in the footage appeared “huge” considering that it was spring and the bears had only recently emerged from hibernation. He said he was “kind of amazed” that the bears returned to the same place so often.

Testifying in her own defense, Parks said she only feeds raccoons and birds, noting that raccoons “have very good manners.” She added that she is cautious around bears, but “I have never seen a bear hurt anyone.”

The jury took only 30 minutes to deliver its verdict, finding Doris Parks guilty of “intentionally feeding, or attempting to feed, large wild carnivores or intentionally attracting large wild carnivores to land or a building.” Sentencing is due later this month.

I’d like to thank reporter Brandon Cline of the Chinook Observer for his close-up coverage of the trial. It’s a shame that in these tense and troubled times, so much breaking news is easily overlooked.

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker