Animal remains routinely found at Miami-Dade County courthouse

Employees believe animal sacrifices being performed as act of religious expression

By Constance Jones - Anchor

MIAMI - It's become a common occurrence at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building. Lawyers and employees on their way to work stumble to upon bags and cardboard boxes filled with dead animals.

"I've seen this several times before," attorney Carlos Gonzalez told Local 10 News. "I see chicken parts. I see tongues."

Those who work at the courthouse know it's typically not a case of animal cruelty, but rather an act of religious expression. Many believe it was left by a Santeria practitioner or voodooist.

"For people who are in need for a good judgment, they are going to turn to rituals that they believe hold some sort of power," Barry University assistant professor of practical theology Marc Lavallee told Local 10.

Lavalle said those leaving animal parts at the courthouse is really just a mark of popular religious practice.

Voodoo priestess Amelia Ingrid Llerria said those who are seeking favor with certain spirits might use animal offerings. She actually performs these ceremonies, but only after she gets a permit from the city of Miami. 

"What we may call animal sacrifice -- killing goats, it is so horrible to everyone," she said. "Then again, if I go to a slaughter house, I can see thousand being slaughter. Is it good or bad? Depends on the society."

Llerria said negative stereotypes have created a dark cloud over her religion. She is working to redefine the public's opinion on voodoo.

Sacrificial animal offerings were challenged by animal advocates in 1993, but the United States Supreme Court ruled animal sacrifices are legal for religious purposes.

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