Between June and August, high school dropout Jonathan Harris, 34, acted as his own lawyer in three Philadelphia felony cases and won them all, including a murder trial that could have sent him to death row. At press time, he had scheduled two more for himself, on a 2001 gun charge and at a new trial on several lesser charges related to the murder (although he had taunted a prosecutor in court about taking him on again). The prosecutor blamed the murder verdict on unreliable and no-show witnesses.
Zachary G. Holloway, 20, and a pal were arrested in Springfield, Ill., in September and charged with breaking into one car (and stealing, among other things, a motorcycle helmet) and attempting to break into another. To try to get into the second car, Holloway put on the helmet, stood back from the car, and charged into it, head-butting a window, unsuccessfully, twice. The two were arrested shortly afterward.
Ms. Jamila Glauber filed a lawsuit against the transit system in Juneau, Alaska, because a driver's attempt to enforce the well-known no-eating rule on a bus (it was a Snickers bar) caused her, she says, at least $50,000 worth of emotional distress (July). And Kenneth Williams, in jail near San Diego, awaiting trial for raping an underage girl, filed a lawsuit against the facility because of the mental stress and anguish and weight-loss caused by finding a fly in his mashed potatoes (June). And the post office in Fulton, Mo., removed a tape dispenser that had long been available for customers to seal packages, because a customer had hurt himself using it and had filed a claim against the Postal Service (June).
A 46-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition when she dropped a coin while at a drive-thru window at a McDonald's, then opened her minivan door to retrieve it, taking her foot off the brake, allowing the van to inch forward, trapping her head in the open door, which lodged against a post (Burke, Va., August). And the CEO of Diebold Inc., a leading manufacturer of voting machines that register votes through the company's unique technology, committed to support President Bush's re-election and wrote a fund-raising letter for Ohio Republicans (August).
-- The police department in Madera, Calif., and its officer Marcy Noriega filed a lawsuit in July against the manufacturer of Taser guns (nonlethal guns that fire incapacitating electrical charges), claiming it was the company's fault that Noriega, reaching for her Taser, inadvertently drew her real gun and fatally shot a man resisting arrest. According to Noriega, the Taser looks so much like a real gun that she couldn't help it, and Taser International Inc., should have provided better warnings and training.
-- Fund manager Scott R. Sacane of Norwalk, Conn., defending himself in July against charges that he ignored Securities and Exchange Commission rules requiring investors to give notice when they buy large percentages of a publicly traded stock, said the mistakes were not his fault. In a filing with the commission, he said he had no idea that he had acquired 33 percent of one company (far exceeding the reporting threshold) and 78.5 percent of another, blaming the problem on a software failure over a three-week period.
-- In August, Tom Jennings filed an appeal to his earlier dismissal as public affairs manager for Mobile (Ala.) Area Water and Sewer System, which was caused by his having had pornography on his office computer. In the appeal, Jennings blamed most of the downloading on other people, but took responsibility for a file labeled "buttshot" (an image of his own buttocks), claiming that it was photographed accidentally when he was changing clothes and that the only reason he loaded it onto his computer was "because I wanted to talk to some of my friends about deleting it."
-- There was a conflict reported in August in an aggravated assault in Skowhegan, Maine, as to who had stabbed Paul Vienaire, according to police. Jean Lampron, 46, was charged with the stabbing, but she said Vienaire's ex-wife did it. Vienaire, however, said that the ex-wife "ordered" the stabbing but that Lampron actually carried it out. Police attributed both explanations to alcohol, since Vienaire's ex-wife died long before the incident occurred.
According to a June police report in the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, W.Va., a 19-year-old man drove from Greenwich, N.Y., to Huntington to meet for the first time a 17-year-old girl he had been "chatting" with over the Internet, to persuade her to return to New York with him. Her mother refused to let her go. The man walked away, "intentionally banged his head on the door frame of his car and fell to the ground, unconscious." He was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital.
Egyptian law scholar Nabel Hilmi told a weekly newspaper in Cairo in August that he and other Switzerland-based expatriates are preparing a lawsuit against "all the Jews in the world" for the "trillions of tons" of gold and jewelry that Jews swiped during their exodus from Egypt in the time of the Pharoahs. Also in August, a 14th-generation descendant of Montezuma asked the Mexican government to reinstate the long-dormant pensions the king of Spain agreed in 1550 to pay the descendants for the appropriation of Aztecs' land.
Police in Avon Park, Fla., charged April Marie Brown, 28, with criminal mischief after she allegedly, at the direction of her son, 12, drove him and a pal around town on a Saturday night as the kids vandalized 11 stop signs, doing more than $1,000 damage. And in September, according to Wichita Falls, Texas, police, Joann Rubio, 31, drove her pickup truck alongside a truck driven by a 19-year-old man, so that her 16-year-old son in the passenger seat could shoot the man; he was hit once, and mother and son were later arrested.
Arizona law treats selling, downloading, trading or buying child pornography as the equivalent of actually molesting a child, with a penalty of 10 to 24 years per count, with multiple counts to run consecutively, and two high school teachers (convicted of photos-only, no child interaction) are now serving 200 and 408 years (the latter for having 17 photos) in prison, respectively. Critics point out, according to a May report in The Arizona Republic, that there are cold-blooded murderers serving less time in the state, and that a life sentence without possibility of parole could be obtained by as few as 12 computer-mouse clicks at a pornography Web site.
Latest Street Price for a Child: $250 (Judith Ann Garland, 20, was convicted in Baltimore in September of offering a 2-year-old boy because she needed $250 for bail on drug charges.). Latest Cat to Inherit an Estate: Tinker, a black stray taken in by Margaret Layne, who died in May at age 89 in London, England (inherited a house worth about US$600,000 and a trust fund worth about US$175,000).
Police decided not to charge Lula Brown for 911 abuse even though she had called the emergency number just to report that a McDonald's tried to charge her for extra barbecue sauce (Avon, Ohio). A fisherman had to be rushed to a hospital by helicopter after the bull shark he had just caught and was posing for photos with bit his arm (Freeport, Texas). With United Nations funding, the pygmy musical group Ndima released a 10-track CD of songs backed by music made by animal horns, rawhide drums and bamboo pipes (Republic of the Congo).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)