Legally Speaking: Not your typical day in court

By John G. Browning | Apr 2, 2013

There are days when things proceed with the same dreary predictable pace in the legal world.  Mundane pleadings are filed, arguments made dozens if not hundreds of times before are recited as if by rote, and a judge processes the case in an almost assembly-line fashion before disposing of it with the bang of a gavel.

Then, of course, there are the strange days where it can sometimes seems like you’re in a bizarre alternative universe where what is being said and done gets weirder as you go along.

Consider the following examples:

You Put a Spell on Me 

Romance writers like to fancifully describe how a young woman can “bewitch” her boyfriend, or how a man can become “enchanted” with his latest paramour.

But, according to Mychia Vang of Winder, Ga., her ex-husband, Bruce Lor, literally cast a spell on her.  Vang and her mother filed a police report in March claiming that Lor had cast spells and used magic enabling him “to know what they do and where they go.”

Listen up, ladies—it’s called a GPS.

Wardrobe Matters, Part 1

Quick tip for everyone defending a murder suspect—it helps when you don’t allow your client to wear a T-shirt that says “Killer” to his next court appearance.

Eighteen-year-old T.J. Lane plead guilty to the Feb. 27, 2012, fatal shootings of three students in the Chardon (Ohio) High School cafeteria.

At a March 2013 sentencing hearing, Lane’s attorney Ian Friedman was shocked when his client removed his button-down shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the word “Killer” on it.

Lane went on to shock onlookers when he made a disgusting statement about the shootings and made an obscene gesture in the courtroom.

Lane was later sentenced to three life sentences without parole; his attorney described Lane’s choice of shirt as “something that was not expected.”

Gee, you think?

Wardrobe Matters, Part 2

Recently, a fugitive from justice living in the town of Huwei, Taiwan, made the mistake of wearing a shirt that had been a gift from his son.

The shirt read “Wanted” (in English) in the style of an old-style wanted poster; the fugitive, Wu, didn’t understand English and so didn’t appreciate the meaning of the shirt.

But a quick-thinking police officer with some limited English proficiency noticed the shirt, checked Wu’s status on his law enforcement computer, and arrested him.

No “Bingo” For You! 

Eighteen-year-old Austin Whaley of Covington, Ky., wandered into a bingo hall on Feb 9 and yelled “Bingo.”

Game operators stopped the game, and a number of the elderly patrons were upset, thinking someone had actually won.

Whaley was charged with second-degree disorderly conduct, a charge that could have brought him 90 days in jail.

But Kenton District Judge Douglas Grothaus had a different sentence he ordered Whaley not to say the word “bingo” for six months.

As arresting officer Richard Webster observed, “Just like you can’t run into a theater and yell ‘fire’ when it’s not on fire, you can’t run into a crowded bingo hall and yell ‘bingo’ when there isn’t one.”

I’m not sure that’s what Oliver Wendell Holmes had in mind.

Groundhog Day in Jail

Authorities in southwestern Ohio’s Butler County aren’t too happy with the still-frigid weather they’re enduring, contrary to the early spring “prediction” of famed groundhog/prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil of western Pennsylvania.

So unhappy, in fact, that in an official-looking “indictment,” Butler County prosecutor Mike Gmoser has charged the famed groundhog with “misrepresentation of spring.”

The indictment reads “Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early.”

Bill Dealey, president of the Punxsutawney club that organizes Groundhog Day, says Phil has a lawyer and will fight any extradition attempts by Ohio authorities.  Does Bill Murray know about this?

In the Name of the Force, I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife

Legislation has been proposed in Scotland that would allow leaders of “Jedism” (and other alternative religious movements) to officiate at weddings.

According to the 2011 U.K. census, 176,632 people listed their religion as “Jedi” (more than 14,000 of these are in Scotland), so apparently some people feel there’s a need to have “Jedi Knights” who can preside over weddings for the Star Wars faithful.

The bill goes to parliament later this year.

As Han Solo might say, hokey religions are no substitute for a good blaster by your side, kid.

Bringing Out the Worst in People—Law School Style

Finally, here are two items that illustrate why you have to be a little different from the norm to consider law school.

First, we have the tale of 22-year-old Paul McDermott of Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  McDermott was studying to be a mechanic in 2010 when he was involved in a horrific car accident that left him with brain damage and severe memory loss.

With his auto repair dreams now dashed, what does McDermott hope to do for a living?

Why, become a lawyer, he says.

Brain-damaged and going to law school—it’s the joke that tells itself.

Meanwhile, at the University of New Mexico Law School, one student is taking her lessons a little too seriously.

Jennifer McCabe has filed a lawsuit against the law school, claiming that she was injured when the “Think Chair” she was sitting in collapsed when she leaned back in it during a class.

Fellow law students are skeptical, with one student observing that “it’s kind of stupid that you fell out of the chair, so you’re going to blame someone else for it.”

A lawsuit brought by a law student against the law school over a chair—I hope the law school doesn’t take this one sitting down.

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