OAKLAND -- A jury deciding the fate of a 61-year-old attorney accused of animal abuse for leaving 100 cats in her home in squalid conditions were declared deadlocked Friday after a week of fruitless deliberations.
The jury's inability to reach a unanimous decision means the case against Jan Van Dusen will remain in limbo as the Alameda County District Attorney's office must decide if it will seek another trial against a woman who stored dead cats in her freezer, dying cats on her stove and had almost 100 mostly feral cats in her 1,400-square-foot home.
Van Dusen escaped a conviction and a possible three-year prison sentence because one juror refused to find her guilty of animal abuse, the jury reported after a mistrial was declared.
Van Dusen declined to comment after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Burr declared a mistrial. Her attorney, Dwana Bain, said she was both relieved but worried that her client will once again be prosecuted.
"I have and always will maintain that there was no law broken," Bain said. "Ms. Van Dusen has been the victim of a political campaign against her."
Deputy District Attorney Tim Burr declined to comment.
Burr urged the jury in closing arguments last week to find Van Dusen guilty of animal abuse after a six-week trial in which he presented evidence showing rancid conditions inside Van Dusen's Magnolia Street home in Oakland.
Pictures he displayed during the trial made jurors cringe as they depicted a house littered with cat feces, wooden floors warped from urine, and unkempt cages that had urine leaking from their sides and litter boxes overfilled with diarrhea.
Witnesses testified that the smell inside the home made throats burn and eyes water.
Burr said Van Dusen should be found guilty because she created an environment in her home that left her cats at high risk of dying and suffering from great bodily harm. 11 cats were found dead in Van Dusen's freezer and refrigerator. Another 18 cats had to eventually be euthanized after they could not be treated.
Bain, however, argued to the jury that the images displayed by the district attorney were small snapshots that made the conditions at Van Dusen's house appear worse than they actually were.
Bain said some of the cleaning issues occurred in just a couple of days before Van Dusen's house was raided by Oakland Animal Control in October 2011. And, Bain said, those issues were caused when a former friend of Van Dusen's failed to clean as he promised he would. Bain said Van Dusen did not cause the illness that killed some of her cats and said her client routinely rescued sick cats from the streets that no one else wanted.
Bain said the entire case against her client was pushed by leaders at Oakland Animal Control who have had issues with Van Dusen in the past about the ways she tries to cut down on the city's feral cat populations.
Two jurors who agreed to speak to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity said they were extremely frustrated that a verdict was not reached and both believed Van Dusen was guilty.
Both also said they feared Van Dusen would once again being collecting cats in her home and putting them in danger.
"It's a sad day when one person can change the outcome of a (defendant) who was clearly guilty," one juror said about the lone dissenter on the jury. "There was a lot of money spent to get to this point and to me that is a shame."
The jurors said the lone dissenter on the group believed that the district attorney did not provide enough direct evidence to prove that the conditions Van Dusen left her house in contributed to cat deaths or left other cats at high risk of death.
However, the jurors said, the dissenter could not articulate why he or she felt that way.
"It's not like we started out in the middle, for the whole week," another juror said. "We all said guilty and just one person said not guilty,"