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More Law and Disorder Print E-mail
by John Browning    Tue, May 15, 2012, 09:46 AM

If you thought last week’s assemblage of the bizarre and ridiculous from the legal system was as strange as it gets, then as Al Jolson would say “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”  Here are some more of the weirdest happenings in our courts recently.


A Case That Calls for a Stiff Sentence


Henry Wolf of California has filed a lawsuit against BMW North America and Corbin-Pacific, a manufacturer of aftermarket motorcycle seats.  Wolf claims that long rides on the ridge-like seat of his 1993 BMW motorcycle have resulted in an unusual medical condition: a nonstop erection that has persisted for the past 20 months.  According to the lawsuit, Wolf has suffered serious pain, mental anguish, and an inability to engage in sexual activity, and consequently he is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.  Urologist experts say that riders can experience numbness when the neurovascular supply to that part of the body is compressed for prolonged periods of time, although they know of no medical data to support the severity of Wolf’s claim.  BMW North America denies any liability.


Taking Your Work Home With You


Judges and attorneys frequently have to contend with all kinds of juror misconduct—jurors venturing to “research” a case, jurors engaging in improper communications about their deliberations, and even jurors conducting impromptu “experiments” recreating key scenarios in a case.  But Delray Beach, Florida juror Dennis DeMartin may have taken his job in considering drunk driving/manslaughter charges a little too seriously.  According to DeMartin, a juror in the high-profile intoxication manslaughter case against Florida polo mogul John Goodman, he conducted an experiment the night before voting to convict Goodman by getting drunk.  DeMartin self-published a book, “Believing the Truth,” in which he describes drinking 3 vodka and tonics the night before the verdict.  DeMartin writes how his “experiment,” which left him “confused” about his surroundings, convinced him that Goodman was “not fit to drive.”  Now, Goodman’s defense attorneys are seeking to have the conviction thrown out based on juror misconduct, saying that DeMartin’s drinking experiment violated the judge’s instructions and that DeMartin’s profit motives for his book are also troubling, turning deliberations “from deciding guilt or innocence into a platform for a book that he is going to publish.”


I’m Naming My Liver “Scalia”


Yale law student Eric Parrie recently donated a kidney after reading an article about organ donors, giving recipient Laura Cheaney (whose kidneys failed after giving birth in 2007) a new lease on life.  The unusual part of this altruistic act is that Parrie named the kidney “Dick Posner” (after famed federal appellate judge Richard Posner) before giving it away; he’s even written a series of letters “to” the organ.  Parrie emailed the real Posner to tell the judge about his naming decision, a move that apparently pleased the judge because, up until now, “the only thing named after him was a house cat.”


Life Imitates Art Again


In countless Westerns we’ve seen outlaws make an innocent bystander “dance” by shooting at his feet.  In the 1980s movie “Blind Date,” Bruce Willis takes it a step further, making his nemesis dance and ultimately “moonwalk” (a lá Michael Jackson) at gunpoint.  In Idaho, 30 year-old John Cross has been charged with felony assault for allegedly ordering another man to perform the moonwalk dance move at gunpoint.  Hopefully, this won’t spark a trend, and we won’t see gunmen forcing innocent folks to “Cabbage Patch,” perform “The Running Man,” do “The Sprinkler,” do “The Robot,” or engage in any number of dance moves that are best left forgotten.


Caught Up in the Raptor of it All


I’ve written about people taking steps to legally change their names to strange appellations before, but this latest one proves that some little boys never grow out of that “love of dinosaurs” phase.  23 year-old Tyler Gold of York County, Nebraska recently received a judge’s permission to legally change his name to “Tyrannosaurus Rex Joseph Gold.”  Gold says that he wanted to change his name to that of the mighty dinosaur because T-Rex is “cooler,” and because “as an entrepreneur, name recognition is important and the new name is more recognizable.”


His Jedi Mind Trick Apparently Didn’t Work on the Police


As a Star Wars fan, seeing the headline “Obiwan Kenobi Arrested in Hit and Run” took me a bit by surprise.  Had the Jedi master run over a Tusken Raider on Tatooine, or perhaps had a little fender-bender with a Jawa sandcrawler?  As it turns out, police in Roseville, California recently arrested “Obiwan Kenobi” on suspicion of causing a 5 vehicle crash on March 19 and then fleeing the scene.  The 37 year-old formerly known as Benjamin Calefeit had legally changed his name to the Star Wars character as part of a 1999 radio station contest.  Police have charged Kenobi (who was already wanted on misdemeanor theft) with a felony.  As master Yoda put it in describing another rogue Jedi, “Reckless is he.  Now matters are worse.”  I hope the Jedi mind tricks work better with the judge and jury, or else “Obiwan” is looking at some jail time, and I’m not talking about the Death Star detention block.  Turn away from the Dark Side, Obiwan.

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