Deer hunter David Berry Jnr sentenced to repeated viewings of ‘Bambi’ in jail
- David Berry Jnr will be forced to watch the animated film at least once a month during his year-long jail term
- Berry and two family members were arrested on charges of killing hundreds of deer over three years
US authorities have no idea how many deer the Berry family and their associates illegally killed in the fields and forests of southern Missouri over the last decade, but the details of their poaching operation would make any animal-lover’s stomach turn.
Over nearly nine years, David Berry and his two sons, David Berry Jnr and Kyle Berry, killed the deer, mostly at night, then cut off their heads and antlers – leaving the bodies to rot where they fell.
There was some financial motivation in the carnage, but authorities said collecting the deer heads was mostly about ego.
“Taking just the heads is their version of obtaining a ‘trophy’ and leaving the carcass behind is merely an afterthought,” said Randy Doman, the division chief of the Missouri Department of Conservation, told the Springfield News-Leader.
“While there are some cases where poachers go after the antlers for profit, with this bunch it was more about the thrill of the kill itself.”
And so when the Berrys and more than a dozen other poachers were ultimately sentenced, Lawrence county Judge Robert George apparently hoped a little Disney magic would show one of them the error of his ways.
According to court records obtained by the News-Leader, David Berry Jnr “is to view the Walt Disney film Bambi, with the first viewing being on or before December 23, 2018, and at least one such viewing each month thereafter, during defendant’s incarceration in the Lawrence County Jail.”
Berry Jnr will be in jail for a year.
The Walt Disney Company bewitched generations of children with its pioneering animated film, released in August 1942, about a wide-eyed young deer and his doting mother.
But the shocking image of young Bambi curled up next to the doe after she is slain by hunters has become as iconic as any scene in cinema history, credited with opening up taboo conversations about death and helping youngsters cope with bereavement.
Bambi often leads lists of the saddest moments in cinema, and even moved Time magazine to include the film among its top 25 horror movies ever made, alongside Frankenstein, The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead.
Although there are restrictions, judges generally have leeway to impose conditions on a sentence, like anger management classes or drug treatment – and sometimes they get creative.
For example, in 2008, a Cleveland Housing Court judge ordered a landlord convicted of multiple violations to serve house arrest in one of his own dilapidated units.
Two people who vandalised a nativity scene in an Ohio town were ordered to walk through the streets of Fairport Harbor with a donkey and a sign reading “Sorry for the jackass offence”.
It is unclear why Berry Jnr was singled out to watch the 76-year-old Disney film ad nauseam.
In total, the other co-conspirators faced a litany of charges and paid nearly US$200,000 in bonds and fines and served 33 days in jail, according to the department of conservation
All the Berrys had their hunting, fishing and trapping privileges revoked for life.
Berry Jnr’s family members have also been accused of catching fish by hand, an often-illegal process that can be dangerous to both fishermen and fish populations.
If a judge decides to get creative with those sentences, there are many, many options to choose from.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse