Everyone knows Bud can talk like the parrot that he is.
The question — for one prosecutor, at least — is whether the bird, which may have witnessed a brutal killing, should be allowed to sing like a canary.
Only weeks ago, the idea seemed like an absurd plot twist in a bad Jim Carrey flick from the mid-’90s.
But this week, Newaygo County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Springstead told the Detroit Free Press that authorities are studying the parrot’s words to determine whether the bird’s speech can be considered admissible evidence in a court of law.
“It’s an interesting novelty and it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn about African parrots,” he said. “It is something we are going to be looking at to determine if it’s reliable to use or if it is information we need to prosecute this case.”
Springstead admitted that putting a parrot on the witness stand could get complicated.
He told CBS affiliate WWJ-TV last week that he “highly doubts there is any precedent” for using a bird’s speech as evidence. When a judge asks someone to raise their right hand, he wondered, “to a parrot, are you raising a wing, a foot?”
The prosecutor’s question arrives after Glenna Duram, 48, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the May 2015 killing of her husband, Martin Duram, according to NBC affiliate WOOD-TV.
She is being held in Newaygo County Jail without bond, the station reported.
Family members believe Bud, an African gray parrot, may have witnessed the shooting that left Martin Duram dead and his wife severely injured.
They believe this because the bird’s latest phrase — the one he won’t stop shouting at the top of his lungs mimicking his owner’s voice — is a chilling one: “Don’t f—ing shoot!”
Duram’s body was found near his wife, who suffered a gunshot wound to her head but is alive. Although police initially assumed she was a victim of the shooting, police reports obtained by WOOD-TV revealed that she eventually became a suspect in the slaying.
Relatives told the station that they think Martin Duram’s final moments were imprinted in the bird’s memory and that he continues to relive the slaying. They noted that Bud mimicked both the victim and his wife.
“That bird picks up everything and anything, and it’s got the filthiest mouth around,” Duram’s mom, Lillian Duram, told WOOD-TV.
“I personally think he was there, and he remembers it and he was saying it,” Duram’s father, Charles Duram, added.
Bud’s new owner, Duram’s ex-wife, Christina Keller, agrees, telling the station that the bird has a habit of replaying the voices of a man and a woman locked in a fierce disagreement.
“I’m hearing two people in an intense argument,” said Keller, who believes “Don’t f—ing shoot!” were Duram’s final words. “Two people that I know, voices that I recognize.”
“It’s intense,” she added. “When it happens, my house turns cold.”
Police reports reveal that investigators have been asked whether the bird could be used as evidence, according to WOOD-TV, but they don’t show how police responded.
Earlier this month, Springstead told the station that he had heard about the talking parrot but hadn’t reviewed any footage of the bird. He said at the time that he was waiting for Michigan State Police to finish the investigation before deciding whether to file charges, noting that “there’s some evidence to support” the idea that Glenna Duram killed her husband.
“Although the law allows charging on probable cause, I don’t like to do that, especially when you have a very serious case,” Springstead told the station. “When the investigation is done, I like to be satisfied there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Duram told police that she remembers nothing of the shooting and regained her memory only once she was in the hospital. She left three suicide notes for relatives before the shooting that she claims she doesn’t remember writing, police records reveal.
“I know for a fact I didn’t kill my husband,” police quoted her as saying.
Doreen Plotkowski, owner of Casa La Parrot in Grand Rapids, told WABC that African gray parrots typically vocalize phrases they’ve heard many times, but the birds also are capable of using words they’ve heard on only a few occasions. Presented with video evidence of the bird using the violent language, Plotkowski told the station that she “definitely” heard the bird mimicking an argument between a man and a woman.
She told the station that she also heard the bird say, “Don’t f—ing shoot.”
“In my mind, it’s something that he’s heard, definitely heard before,” she said. “And if it’s fresh in his mind, he might even say it more now.”
Michael Walsh, a Muskegon, Mich., lawyer, told WOOD-TV that the bird is inadmissible because there’s no way to trace his dirty mouth.
“How did it get there?” Walsh said, referring to Bud’s words. “If there’s no reliable way of making that determination, you can’t rule out that the bird witnessed a homicide or that the bird witnessed something on TV.”