This week, however, we return home for a survey of some of the lighter moments in our legal system.
The following examples illustrate that no one appreciates legal strangeness quite like we do here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
You Have the Right to Wear a Fake Moustache
Remember those fake nose, glasses and moustache disguises you could get as a kid? Well, believe it or not, your right to wear a disguise is protected by law.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tackled the issue of whether having a witness testify while incognito violates a criminal defendant’s right under the Sixth Amendment to confront the witnesses against him.
The case involved a confidential informant testifying in a public courtroom against an alleged member of a powerful Mexican drug cartel accused of weapons smuggling. While the witness understandably wanted to remain in disguise, defense lawyers argued that the jury might prejudge their client if a prosecution witness showed up in court with a fake moustache and wig. The appellate court came down in favor of false moustaches.
You Have the Right to Remain Stupid
Thirty-two-year-old Brandon “Mickey Vegas” Gadson vehemently denied charges of flying three women to Alaska and advertising them as prostitutes in 2010 during a recent sex-trafficking trial. But then, the mounting evidence to the contrary began to undermine Gadson’s statements that he wasn’t a pimp.
First, there was the little matter of being caught in an undercover prostitution sting with three women and $10,000 in cash. Then, there was the annoying fact that Gadson had posted ads on Craigslist.org and Backpage.com offering the women as “available for commercial sex acts.”
Finally, it’s really hard to maintain credibility when denying you’re a pimp when you have the word “Pimp” tattooed on your neck, as Gadson does.
Not surprisingly, Gadson will be spending the next year and a half behind bars.
You Have the Right to the Breast Defense Available
Fifty-year-old Donna Lange of Everett, Wash., stands accused of murdering her boyfriend.
The act of murder isn’t itself all that unusual, but her alleged choice of weapon is. Witnesses claim that Lange smothered her lover to death with her breasts.
Police have recommended charges of second-degree manslaughter (maybe they should throw in motorboating without a license, for good measure).
This isn’t an isolated incident, either; in November 2012, a German woman was accused of trying to murder her boyfriend with her 38DDs.
For some criminal defendants, I suppose, their cups runneth over.
You Have the Right to Blame the Zombie Apocalypse
Twenty-six-year-old Jared Gurman of Long Island, N.Y., is accused of the attempted second-degree murder of his girlfriend Jessica Gelderman.
Gurman allegedly shot her in the back with a .22 caliber assault rifle. The couple had apparently had a heated argument over whether a “zombie apocalypse” could happen in real life, with Gelderman disagreeing with Gurman’s position that it could.
Sounds like someone’s taking those episodes of “The Walking Dead” way too seriously.
You Have the Right to Become a Walking Lawyer Joke
Fifty-eight-year-old Minnesota lawyer Thomas Lowe was just disbarred.
What caused the Minnesota Supreme Court to revoke his law license? According to the order disbarring Lowe, he had admittedly had an affair with a client he was representing in a divorce case.
As bad as that may be, it gets worse: Lowe actually billed her for the time they spent having sex!
Some critics of the legal profession would say that’s like getting charged twice for the same service.
You Have the Right to Think Creatively, But Don’t Expect the Court to Agree
There have been several instances around the country of pregnant women trying to beat traffic tickets for using the High Occupancy Vehicle or carpool lane by explaining that there were indeed two people in the car.
But 56-year-old Jonathan Frieman of San Rafael, Calif., recently got very creative in trying the same argument.
After being pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer for an apparent vehicle-occupancy violation, Frieman showed the patrol officer incorporation papers as his passenger, saying that, legally, a corporation occupied his car and should be counted as a passenger since under the law a corporation is considered a “person.”
Yet, despite Frieman’s lawyer arguing that highway signs requiring “two or more persons” are unconstitutionally vague, traffic court judge Frank Drago would have none of it.
“Common sense says carrying a sheaf of paper in the front seat does not relieve traffic congestion.”
Frieman was found guilty.
Common sense – 1, creative excuses – 0.
You Have the Right to Petition the Government For Anything, Even If It’s Based on a Bad Sylvester Stallone Movie
The White House’s “We the People . . .” website allows citizens to petition the administration for just about anything; of course, to get an official White House response, a petition has to garner at least 25,000 signatures.
Earlier this year, a petition for Texas to secede from the Union got a lot of media attention.
But what about some of the lesser-known petitions?
One such petition asks the Obama administration to secure funding for and begin construction on a Death Star (yes, just like in “Star Wars”) by 2016. That petition was signed by 1,428 people who left their parents’ basements long enough to sign it.
Another petition, with 2,972 people signing on, calls for the government to “dissolve the current legal system and replace it with a single Hall of Justice, run by Judges; motorcycle-riding law officers who act as police, judge, jury, and executioner.”
That’s right: there are 2,972 people out there who would like to replace the rule of law with something straight out of the abysmally bad Sylvester Stallone movie “Judge Dredd.”
I fear for the future of this great nation.
You Have the Right to Have an App for Just About Anything
We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that.” Well, if your marriage is on the rocks, now divorce advice is no farther away than your iPad.
The app “iSplitlite,” is an iPad based tool that “helps divorcing couples split up their marital assets/debts” and assists in making “visual decisions about ‘who gets what’ more quickly, with less adversity and acrimony.”
Wow—an app to assist in the dissolution of a marriage.
For those of you who feel we’ve let technology run amok, consider this: you still have to fight over who gets the iPad itself.