-- April's annual religious fertility celebration in Nagoya, Japan, designed to improve the rice harvest, featured as usual a 12-foot-long, bright pink, plastic penis, carried through the street, followed by displays of smaller organs and a giant banner of a blood-vesseled penis, testicles and pubic hair. Souvenir candy of the same shape was sold during the event, and at the end of a parade, the giant organ was placed on the fertility shrine.
-- In mid-April, five weeks before the national elections, the governing party in Indonesia announced, via "scientific calculation," according to one leader, that President Suharto had won re-election with 70.02 percent of the vote.
-- Edmond James Ramos had his first-degree burglary charge (burglary of an occupied dwelling, a more serious crime than burglary of a vacant dwelling) thrown out in Los Angeles in January by an appeals court. Ramos' lawyer had demonstrated that the only "occupant" that night had passed away of natural causes minutes prior to Ramos' entry; thus, the dwelling was legally empty.
-- In February, Maryland circuit court judge Thomas Bollinger Sr. agreed to wipe the record clean of Charles Weiner's spousal battery charge after he completes probation -- for the sole purpose of helping Weiner join the Chestnut Ridge Country Club, which had until then rejected him because of his criminal record. (In 1993, Bollinger gave a rapist probation for an attack against a drunken woman, remarking that finding an unconscious woman on a bed was "the dream of a lot of males, quite honestly.") Four days later, Bollinger reversed his decision and removed himself from all domestic violence and sexual offense cases.
-- In April, the science journal Nature reported that, for the first time, nonhuman DNA was used in a criminal trial and was the crucial link that convicted Douglas Beamish of murdering his estranged girlfriend on Prince Edward Island, Canada. A single strand of hair from Beamish's cat Snowball was found on a jacket that contained the victim's blood and that had not yet been proven to be Beamish's.
-- A Texas district judge in Houston declared a mistrial in March in the murder trial of John Bradford Crow, 25, based on the misconduct of prosecutor Craig Goodhart. During his closing argument to the jury, while sarcastically referring to Crow's claiming to be a good guy, Goodhart walked over to the defense table and slapped Crow aggressively on the back, eliciting gasps from the spectators and rendering Crow's attorney momentarily speechless.
-- In Santa Cruz, Calif., in February, Mr. Danis Rivera, 25, rejected a plea bargain that would have sent him to prison for one year for having sex with underage girls. However, at his trial he was in such a foul mood that he constantly spit at court personnel and finally had to be outfitted with a Hannibal Lecter-type bonnet over his face. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
And in a Providence, R.I., courtroom in April, Latin King gangster George "Animal" Perry, on trial for murder and racketeering and frustrated at the length of the prosecutor's closing argument, which denied him a much-needed restroom break, rose from his chair, unzipped his fly, and took one anyway.
-- In March, Donna Skinner, 30, was arrested at a pay phone in Irwindale, Calif., and accused of having made 1,500 obscene calls since August to a local Home Savings of America bank. Police confiscated a script they say she had been reading from, though they gave no motive.
-- In March, border guards discovered a plastic tube running from the home of a bootlegger in Latvia to a field 400 meters away in Estonia and through which flowed the vodka they accused him of smuggling. The Latvian man was taking advantage of a 60 percent price premium in Estonia.
-- In October, the Unitarian Universalist Church and heirs of Jonathan Holdeen settled their 20-year-old dispute on the disposition of Holdeen's estate, which was created in 1945 as a series of trusts that eventually would have amassed so much money they would allegedly have funded the entire federal government and rendered taxation unnecessary. In fact, the church, which was a nominal beneficiary of the trusts, argued for their abolition in 1977 on the ground that they would soak up so much of the world's money that the administrators of the trusts would become too powerful.
-- St. Charles Catholic Church (Picayune, Miss.) and nearby St. Margaret Mary Church (Slidell, La.) posted security ushers at the doors in February to make sure that parishioners were not pocketing communion wafers. Devil-worshiping ceremonies often use wafers for symbolic desecration, and when six people were seen leaving St. Charles in December with their wafers, the churches' leaders began to fear a local Satanic conspiracy.
-- In April in Houston, Robert Perry Russell Jr., 44, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual assault and diapering of a 14-year-old boy, but police say the number of victims may have been as many as 10. According to police, Russell liked to take boys out in a boat, tell them a tale about a headless killer seeking to rescue a toddler from the dangerous lake and who kills all other people, and suggest that putting on the diapers he happens to have with him would be a good way, should the killer appear, of convincing him of his toddler status.
In October, after more than three years of litigation and 18 days of trial, a judge in Chicago awarded condominium unit owner Eleanor Mellick $217,000 in her lawsuit against the condo board. According to the lawsuit, the board president had moved a Dumpster away from his own parking space, resulting in a narrowing of Mellick's space from 111 inches in width to 93, and parking in the cramped space had aggravated her arthritis.
Dishwashing: In March, a busboy at a Key West, Fla., Marriott resort allegedly shot and killed a supervisor who had apparently made some constructive criticism of the busboy's loading of the dishwasher. And in May, police in Helena, Ark., detained a 15-year-old boy they suspect shot his older sister to death after a dispute over which one would wash the dishes.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)