PRIDE COMETH BEFORE THE GAS CHAMBER
In all likelihood, convicted murderer Paul Powell would have been sentenced to life in prison for his 1999 crime, but he couldn’t resist gratuitously ridiculing the prosecutor. Powell’s original sentence of death was overturned because of a technicality in Virginia law: The “aggravated” circumstance in a murder that warrants the death penalty must be committed against the actual murder victim (whereas the prosecutor had proved only that Powell had also raped the victim’s sister). Powell assumed that the prohibition against “double jeopardy” thus ruled out the death penalty and so decided to gloat, calling the prosecutor “stupid” and taunting him with details of his crimes. For the first time, Powell admitted that he had also raped the murder victim. That was evidence of a new aggravated circumstance (i.e., no “double jeopardy”), and the prosecutor obtained a death sentence. In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Powell’s appeal.
SUCKLES TO BE YOU
Women’s rights activists in Uganda finally got the attention of the Western press in December, when London’s The Independent verified the plight of Jennipher Alupot, who for seven years had been periodically forced to breastfeed her husband’s hunting dogs as she was nursing the couple’s own children. Farmer Nathan Awoloi of Pallisa explained that his dogs needed to eat, and since he was forced to send Jennipher’s family two milk cows in order to win her hand, he felt his demands were reasonable.
TAKING (CIVIL) LIBERTIES
In January, the Justice Department’s Inspector General released a long-anticipated report detailing the FBI’s post-9/11 corner-cutting in obtaining individual Americans’ phone records. Federal law permits such acquisition only with a “terrorism” subpoena (“National Security Letter”) unless the FBI documents emergency (“exigent”) circumstances to a telecom company. The Inspector General found that, from 2002 to 2006, the FBI had representatives of three telecom companies set up in the FBI unit so that agents could request phone records orally, without documentation, and in some cases merely by writing the requested phone numbers on Post-it notes and sticking them on the telecom employees’ workstations. Some of the acquired records were uploaded to the FBI’s database.
Police are still baffled by how Gregory Denny, 37, was able to “deport” Cherrie Belle Hibbard from her home in Hemet, California, in January back to her native Philippines. According to Hemet police, Denny, with a gun and fake U.S. Marshal’s badge and shirt, knocked on Hibbard’s door and convinced her that he was there to escort her to the airport and out of the country and that Hibbard’s husband had to buy her the ticket. Denny then accompanied Hibbard through airport security and put her on a flight. Upon questioning by police later, Denny apparently remained in character, continuing to insist that he is a Marshal. Denny was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, impersonating a peace officer and several other charges.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF CRAZY
Buffalo, New York, television meteorologist Mike Cejka was arrested in December after a brief police chase and charged with trespassing after he was spotted at 4am tinkering with the covering of a motorcycle in a stranger’s yard. Cejka told police he was on his way to work at the station and had merely stopped to admire the motorcycle. He was wearing a dress shirt and shoes and leather chaps topped by a pair of sweat shorts.
In February, the Board of Trustees of Saugatuck Township, Michigan, scheduled a May referendum asking voters for an increase in the property tax in order to cover unanticipated new expenses. The budget overrun was due to the mounting costs of defending lawsuits by people and companies complaining that the Township’s property taxes are too high.