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Odor of cow, hog manure becomes issue

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Differences in the odor of hog and cow manure, and whether a dairyman is responsible for what a hog farmer faces could be questions for a Marshall County jury this month.

Those issues were raised by Fayetteville-based attorney Ray Fraley on behalf of his client, Charlie Haskins, 63, of Haskins Chapel Road, Bedford County who was arrested on pollution charges in August 2009.

Representing the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is Troy McPeak who, among other things, says Haskins is charged with violating permit laws over confined animal feeding operations. Haskins has had, at one time, some 3,500 hogs on his farm across the Duck River near the dirt track and the Round Hill community where four homes' water wells were polluted.

During a pre-trial hearing when Judge Robert Crigler declined to dismiss the case, Fraley claimed to have a U.S. Department of Agriculture document about a nearby dairy farm.

"The state is asking a jury to speculate that this is a result of Mr. Haskins' farm," Fraley told Crigler. Jurors would have to "guess that it's more likely than not" Haskins' fault that his hogs' manure was improperly disposed by the way it was spread on the ground.

"Are you going to let the jury hear that the pollution was in Bedford County and the wells were in Marshall County?" Fraley asked.

Verifying Fraley's point, Crigler said, "So you could argue some other farmer did it... They're great arguments, but it still seems to me that it's a jury question."

Testimony from a state's witness, McPeak said, will include the conclusion "that it smelled like hog waste, not cattle or chicken waste."

Fraley contends the state should have the polluted water tested for hog and cattle DNA.

It's alleged that Haskins had the hog waste spread in the wrong place at the wrong time of year, McPeak said.

He and Fraley sparred over venue questions. An apparent contention is that if the alleged offense was committed on Haskins farm in Bedford County, then the case should be tried in Shelbyville.

Crigler ruled venue is a jury question.

Crigler, Fraley and McPeak also examined a proposed set of jury instructions to be delivered just before deliberations begin. It's an important step before trial since one of the indictments against Haskins charges him with both a misdemeanor and a felony in the same count. Amended indictments were discussed.