They're accused of repeatedly shooting a dog with a bow an arrow until it died. It had animal rights activists converging on the courtroom in Tacoma.
Defendants Stephen Paulson, 21, and 19-year-old Troy Loney face charges of felony first-degree animal cruelty.
But on the trial's first day, the prosecution lost its first battle in court. The judge decided the prosecution must now prove that the two defendants didn't just kill a dog, but that they wanted to make it suffer.
What animal rights activists thought would be an easy conviction, is now very much in question.
"We want to see jail time in this case," says Susan Michaels of Pasado's Safe Haven, an animal rescue organization. "It's the least of what these two guys deserve for what they put this dog through."
Michaels and other animal rights activists are watching a tougher battle than any of them expected. Prosecutors say Paulson and Loney tied a stray Siberian Husky to a tree, shot it with a bow and arrow, and then pulled the arrow out and shot it over and over again.
On the surface, the case seemed like a slam dunk. "It's a heinous, heinous abuse of an animal," says Tava Bess of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society. "I really hope this sets a precedent for cases in the future."
Last spring, Loney told us what happened: "We shot it with a bow." But he denied they shot the dog several times, saying they were just trying to put the stray out of its misery.
"I'm not cruel to animals, I just figured I would do what's best." Witnesses reported the animal was shot at least 10 times.
Activists sitting in court don't buy Loney's statements and say the pair's actions in court are proof.
"They don't look remorseful at all," says Bess. "They were giggling and laughing, as soon as their attorneys re-entered the courtroom they stopped laughing. It's a joke to them; they think they're going to get off."
And the intentions of Paulson and Loney, are now the linchpins of this trial. Trial Judge Thomas Felnagle ruled the prosecution must now prove not just that the men killed the dog, but that they wanted to make it suffer.
"It's a different ballgame," says deputy prosecutor Dennis Ashman. "And I think it makes it a lot more difficult."
That's not what the animal lovers who packed the courtroom wanted to hear. "It makes me sick to my stomach," says Bess. "If this is not a case of animal cruelty, then I'm unclear what is."
Jury selection will continue through Wednesday. If the two men are convicted they could face up to a year in jail.