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California man whose pit bulls killed woman convicted of murder

By Daina Beth Solomon

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Southern California dog owner whose four pit bulls mauled and killed a 63-year-old woman near her home last year was convicted of murder on Friday.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury found Alex Donald Jackson, 31, guilty of second-degree murder after less than a day of deliberations. He faces 24 years to life when he is sentenced in October.

"This defendant knew how dangerous these dogs were, and he didn't do anything about it," Deputy District Attorney Ryan Williams said following the verdict. "It was only a matter of time before someone else was hurt."

Devitt was taking a morning stroll on the roadside in Littlerock, a sparsely populated high desert town about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, when a pack of pit bulls began to claw and bite all over her body. She died in an ambulance of blood loss after suffering up to 200 puncture wounds.

Animal services took custody of the dogs immediately following the attack.

  Prosecutors argued during the six-day trial that Jackson's dogs menaced or bit nine people over nine months, and that he knew the deadly risk they posed. On two occasions, witnesses testified that Jackson stood by idly while his dogs attacked passers-by.

  "He didn't do anything, didn't try to stop the dogs, didn't intervene," said Williams.

  Jackson's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

  About 30 people a year die in dog bite-related deaths in the United States, which is home to more than 70 million dogs, according to a spokeswoman from the National Canine Research Council.

  Prosecutors often seek involuntary manslaughter or gross negligence charges against dog-owners when their pets commit a deadly mauling, said Stan Goldman, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

  Jackson joins just a handful of owners charged with murder in recent years.

  In 2001, Diane Whipple, a 33-year-old collegiate lacrosse player and coach, was fatally mauled by two Presa Canarios, a dog breed that can grow as large as 130 lbs (60 kg), in a hallway outside her San Francisco apartment.

  The dog's owners, a married couple who lived in the same apartment building, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and the wife was found guilty of second-degree murder.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)

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