Category Archives: whaaaa?

Conviction by cuteness

Back in 2009, when I first stumbled across the website (and service) Courthouse Dogs, I was merely amused, thinking in my ’09 naivete that this was such a silly preposterous proposition that it wouldn’t have any legs (let alone 4) and would go away without as much as a woof. Boy, did I bark up the wrong tree (you’re permitted to groan now).

It turns out that this is now a growing trend of sorts and is about to receive its first serious legal challenge in the Empire State:

Rosie, the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York, was in the witness box here nuzzling a 15-year-old girl who was testifying that her father had raped and impregnated her. Rosie sat by the teenager’s feet. At particularly bad moments, she leaned in.

The new role for dogs as testimony enablers can, however, raise thorny legal questions. Defense lawyers argue that the dogs may unfairly sway jurors with their cuteness and the natural empathy they attract, whether a witness is telling the truth or not, and some prosecutors insist that the courtroom dogs can be a crucial comfort to those enduring the ordeal of testifying, especially children.

The new witness-stand role for dogs in several states began in 2003, when the prosecution won permission for a dog named Jeeter with a beige button nose to help in a sexual assault case in Seattle. “Sometimes the dog means the difference between a conviction and an acquittal,” said Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a prosecutor there who has become a campaigner for the dog-in-court cause.

There are Confrontation Clause implications, to be sure: the dog’s “nudging” the reluctant witness at key moments seems to give the witnesses testimony an added air of credibility and evoke lord knows how much sympathy in the jury for the complainant:

His lawyers, David S. Martin and Steven W. Levine of the public defender’s office, have raised a series of objections that they say seems likely to land the case in New York’s highest court. They argue that as a therapy dog, Rosie responds to people under stress by comforting them, whether the stress comes from confronting a guilty defendant or lying under oath.

But they say jurors are likely to conclude that the dog is helping victims expose the truth. “Every time she stroked the dog,” Mr. Martin said in an interview, “it sent an unconscious message to the jury that she was under stress because she was telling the truth.”

“There was no way for me to cross-examine the dog,” Mr. Martin added.

Ah, but if Mr. Martin had bothered to check the website for Courthouse Dogs, he’d have found this:

Top 10 things you shouldn’t say to your clients

eh heh, eh heh, yup, uh huh

In the end-of-the-year-lists-that-are-poor-substitutes-for-actual-writing spirit, I present to you the first of many Top 10 lists. Today, we learn about things that you really shouldn’t tell your client (it would really help if you pictured this list being introduced by Letterman portrayed by Peter Griffin).

So, without any more fanfare or irrelevant segues, the Top 10 things you really shouldn’t say to your clients, in no particular order:

10. Now, when did you stop beating your wife?

9. We’re going to go with the “your identical twin brother did it” defense.

8. You’re right, I’m not a real lawyer, but for $500 I’ll play one in real life.

7. And if you plead within the next 30 minutes, I’ll throw in an extra set of kitchen knives, free.

6. Listen, you keep saying you didn’t do it, but I really don’t believe you.

5. Remember, it’s always polite to tip your lawyer.

4. Has anyone ever told you you look like Charles Manson?

3. Maybe spending a few decades in jail will do you some good.

2. Bro, I love you and all, but that teardrop tattoo looks ridiculous.

1. Who cares how much evidence they have against you, God is on our side.

The comments are yours.

And frankly, the only reason I wrote this damn post is so I could use that picture. Don’t judge me, you’re no better.

Stop! In the name of the law!

I am J. Clarence Gideon. That’s Special Agent Gideon to you. Because you’re so stupid, according to the FBI, that you can’t tell that what I’m displaying is a blog post and not a damn FBI badge. It’s not like psychic paper, you know. All your base are belong to us.

Not fooled? Confused? See here for the story and then go to your blog and show some solidarity.

Happy Independunce Day

From the “you have the right to be stupid” clause of the Constitution:

A Fairfield man was arrested Thursday morning after buying a high powered rifle to stop an alien invasion, police said.

Fairfield Police Sgt. James Perez said Dane Eisenman, 57, responded to a classified advertisement for a .30-06 rifle about a month ago. While filing out the paper for the rifle, police said, he mentioned to the seller what he would be using the weapon for.

“He said he was going to use the weapon to kill aliens,” Perez said.

Like the seller of the gun, I, too, was unsure upon reading the headline whether Eisenman was referring to little green men from Mars or real humans from another country, trying to illegally enter these United States. The answer is neither:

Sgt. Perez said Eisenman told the seller of the rifle every 36,000 years, aliens who live under the sun come to Earth to kill humans, and he needed to be prepared because “They’re going to be coming soon.”

Ah. The feared race of Suntarans.

What I want to know is, why did the seller sell this guy the gun and then call the cops?

Every day is Caturday

Cats are popular. They’re even more popular on the internet, which was, as we all know, invented just for cats. Every day is Caturday [here’s the ED version of Caturday, which means it’s totally NSFW. I mean it, really. Not. Safe. For. Work].

Sometimes, though, the internet bleeds into real life (shocking, I know). And such has been the case the past week, with three stories – two local – involving cats and crime.

First, this tragi-comic tale of Gregory Lesco, who killed the family cat after it ate his pet bird (no, I”m not making that up):

Police say Lesco told them he was doing dishes when the bird flew from his cage to join him and the cat, named Pepper, jumped up and grabbed it. He said he hit the cat in the head with a baseball bat and then suffocated it with a rug.

He says he struck the cat to try to get it to drop the bird, and then suffocated it because he couldn’t afford to take it to a vet to treat its injuries.

Mr. Lesco, not to be confused with the equally bizarre Matthew Lesko, is charged with one count of Animal Cruelty, which happens to be a class D felony, punishable by 5 years in jail.

Then yesterday, I saw this post by Rick Horowitz about a Michigan law that makes it a crime for cats to fight. Since there’s no room in cat jails, they stick the owners in human jails instead:

The City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, apparently has some fairly weird laws on the books regarding animals.  For example, it is apparently a misdemeanor — not an infraction, but a misdemeanor with a real criminal record and a real jail sentence as a potential punishment — not that a simple thing like a criminal record could ever impact anyone’s ability to get a job or a professional license — a misdemeanor to own a cat that fights with other cats.  In addition to making it apparently illegal to have a cat that fights with other cats, Kalamazoo also charges owning a dog that barks as a misdemeanor.

I don’t know if that last bit is true, but the charges will be dropped if the cat behaves herself. The cat’s plan is working. Next step: world domination.

And finally, this morning, we get news of a honest-to-goodness cat burglar. No, I mean that literally. A woman who burgles cats (and there’s another awesome cat picture after the jump so don’t you dare not click through):