-- While two co-appellants chose to have lawyers represent them before the Supreme Court of Canada in their challenge of their marijuana convictions, David Malmo-Levine spoke for himself, addressing the justices for 40 minutes on May 6, arguing that his right of "substance orientation" was similar to someone's right of sexual orientation. After his session (which he began by waving hello to the justices), Malmo-Levine revealed that his entire courtroom wardrobe was made of hemp and that he had taken a few hits of hashish beforehand. Said he, "I was happy, hungry and relaxed, but I was not impaired."
-- The annual World Pole-Sitting Championships began May 1 in Berlin (and if the winner is decided after Nov. 17, he will have a new world record). Contestants sit on a 15-inch-by-23-inch platform, 24 hours a day, and electronic sensors detect if anyone leaves the platform for any reason except for the 10-minute break every two hours. The event's organizer said the Dutch are the sport's "purists," that in Dutch competitions, "you don't get to sit on a board, and you can't come down (for restroom breaks)."
A juror in the recent London trial in which five Irish car-bombers were convicted was let go by the judge for inattention because she carried out spiritual rituals in the jury box while clutching a witchcraft book in one hand and placing the other, as required by the ritual, on the floor. And in York, Pa., trial is nearing for Matthew Turner, 22, who was arrested last year after pursuing a man for his adrenal gland, which he thought would bring a week-long high if licked or eaten; allegedly, he had stabbed the man in the side, and when the man escaped, Turner chased him relentlessly through town, knife drawn, until police caught him.
-- In April, when the Republicans on the New York City Board of Elections killed a plan to repair voting machines that had underrecorded votes in the 2000 election (with most of the unlucky voters being Democrats), Republican Commissioner Stephen Weiner denied that his party's disinterest in properly functioning machines showed bias against Democrats: "There are some people who don't want (their vote) register(ed), but who report to the polls for civic reasons."
-- Maximizing the opportunity to avoid detection, some illegal immigrants from Mexico choose to enter the United States through a desolate mountain-desert area east of Yuma, Ariz., but in May 2001, 14 of them died of dehydration in a blistering sun. In April 2003, their families filed a $42 million lawsuit in Tucson against the U.S. Interior Department for having failed to install water stations in the area.
-- At a May court appearance in Melbourne, Australia, to answer charges of unsanitary food at his Rajah Sahib Tavern and Tandoori Grill, Larry Mendonca denied that the moldy items that inspectors found were part of his restaurant's fare. Moldy relish and 8-year-old pickles? Mendonca said they were his personal foods, not the restaurant's. A bowl of chilis topped with mold? His. A moldy jug of salad dressing? His. Besides, he said, "It was scum, not mold."
-- Responding to a February incident in St. Clair Shores, Mich., in which a girl performed oral sex on a boy during a middle-school class (both were suspended), the superintendent and the principal wrote to parents: "Just like our country was shocked into awareness when never-before acts of terrorism occurred in New York City, our district was shocked into awareness when middle-school students engaged in indecent acts in the classroom." (The boy's parents filed a lawsuit over the suspension, pointing out that their son was a "victim" in that, when the girl started, he had no "legal duty" to resist.)
-- Pennsylvania's attorney general and prosecutors in Arapahoe County, Colo., made similar interpretations of child pornography laws recently in defending their decisions not to reveal information. The attorney general said he could not publicly identify Web sites he had ordered suppressed by Internet service providers because, to identify those sites would be "disseminating" child pornography. And the Colorado prosecutors refused to show defendant Joseph Verbrugge the 200 photographs it would use against him (as is required in all criminal cases) because to do so would be to disseminate child pornography to him. (In January, a Colorado appeals court rebuked the prosecutors.)
Convicted killer Roderick Ferrell, 23, asked for a new trial in March, telling a judge in Tavares, Fla., that he had an inadequate defense at his 1996 murder trial. Ferrell had admitted then that he was the leader of a teenaged, goth-outfitted "vampire clan" that often cut their arms open to suck each other's blood and which murdered the parents of one of its members. Ferrell told the judge this time that he had been seeing a psychiatrist in 1996, whereupon the judge asked who had originally told him he needed help; Ferrell replied, "The school, the sheriff's office, my mom. Basically the whole city."
Cat-hoarder Heidi Erickson, 42, had two Boston-area homes raided in April and May, at which authorities rescued a total of 112 sickly cats and found several cat carcasses. Erickson is one of the more aggressive hoarders on record, both for her proclivity for litigiousness (40 cases in seven years) and the circus-like atmosphere she created at a subsequent court hearing (during which she denied the accounts of numerous witnesses that the cats were ailing). She told one person her mission was to breed the "imperfections" out of Persians. Erickson said she was a victim of discrimination (epileptic disability, sexual lifestyle) and would challenge any eviction or any restrictions by authorities in Beacon Hill and Watertown, Mass.
A man escaped in February after robbing a Wienerschnitzel drive-thru in North Long Beach, Calif.; identifying him was difficult because he had smeared what appeared to be chocolate pudding over his face. And Edwin Lockhart, 48, had less success than that robbing a Sun Trust bank in Palatka, Fla., receiving a 10-year sentence in April; he was identified despite having stuck several sanitary napkins on his face.
In May, a second Indian mayor, Amarnath Yadav of Gorakhpur, was removed from office because "he," a eunuch, had run as a female but was declared by a court to be just an effeminate male and thus ineligible to seek a female-reserved electoral office. Also in May, the South African Rugby Football Union fined its Golden Lions about US$4,000 for momentarily having only two black players on the field, when league rules require a minimum of three at all times.
In May, a county human services procurement officer in Portland, Ore., mindful of the sometimes-quixotic needs of the agency's mental-health clients, included in a list of potential resource requirements a person fluent in the "Star Trek" language Klingon (but later said no actual job openings are envisioned). And in May, Microsoft's British division announced it was developing an Internet-ready portable outhouse with computer and plasma screen, to be unveiled this summer at various British festivals; Microsoft headquarters then told reporters the project was a hoax, but after consulting with the British division, headquarters conceded that it was a real project but said it was being discontinued.
Police chief Beverly Lennen instituted an advance-reservations system at the jail, to serve activists who wanted to be arrested protesting a visit by President Bush (Santa Fe, N.M.). The museum director who housed Marco Evaristti's installation, in which patrons were invited to turn on a live goldfish-containing blender, was acquitted of animal cruelty charges because the two unlucky fish died instantly (Copenhagen, Denmark). Five stowaways, having boarded a ship in Buenaventura, Colombia, bound for Miami, emerged joyously when it docked after five days at sea, but then learned that it wasn't Miami, that mechanical trouble had forced the vessel back to port at Cartagena, Colombia.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)