'Don't shoot': pet parrot's words may be used in Michigan murder trial

A Michigan prosecutor is considering whether the words of a pet parrot could be used to try the woman accused of killing his owner.

Bud, a 19-year-old African grey parrot has been repeating the phrase “don’t fucking shoot” ever since his owner, Martin Duram, was shot multiple times and killed in Sand Lake, Michigan during May of 2015.

“He’s using Marty’s voice,” said Christina Keller, Duram’s ex-wife, who now owns Bud. “It imprinted in his brain, and he can’t let it go,” Keller told WOOD TV in Detroit. Several times a week, she said, Bud parrots what may have been Duram’s final words.

Duram’s wife Glenna is standing trial for the murder. She survived a self-inflicted gun wound to the head the same day as Martin Duram’s murder. Newago county prosecuting attorney Robert Springstead said that his office is trying to study Bud’s words and learn if it could be admissible in court. “It’s an interesting novelty and it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn about African parrots,” Springstead told the Detroit Free Press.

It isn’t the first time a parrot’s testimony has been considered for court. In 1993, Santa Rosa attorney Charles Ogulnick was the public defender for a man accused of murdering a business associate. The murdered woman’s parrot Max, an African grey like Bud, was in the home at the time of the killing and had begun repeating the phrase: “No Richard, no no no!”

Ogulnick’s client was named Gary, so he wanted that evidence to be heard in court.

“I was making the argument that it wasn’t hearsay, it was a recording device,” Ogulnick told the Guardian. He enlisted the expert opinion of Dr Irene Pepperberg, an expert on the African grey, who explained that the bird could, and likely would, accurately repeat words exchanged in a stressful situation after hearing them only a few times.

The judge in the case ultimately denied any consideration of Max the parrot’s words and Gary Rasp was ultimately convicted, and is serving a life sentence.

But in the case of Martin Duram and Bud, the roles are reversed from the Santa Rosa case.

Rather than a defense lawyer trying to acquit a client, here a prosecutor is considering the parrot’s words for trial. “If the district attorney wants to introduce it, it wouldn’t surprise me if the judge thinks it’s a good idea,” Ogulnick said.

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