An Arizona appeals court ruled in February that someone can be guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana even though its psychoactive ingredient has long left his system. Since tests of marijuana measure both active and inactive ingredients, and since the active substance vanishes quickly but the inactive one remains in the body for weeks, a marijuana consumer may test “positive” even though not the least bit impaired. (In fact, since neighboring Colorado recently legalized some marijuana possession, a Colorado driver motoring through Arizona weeks later could be guilty of DUI for a completely legal, harmless act, as could the 35,000 Arizona medical-marijuana users.) The appeals court majority reasoned that since the legislature did not distinguish the inactive ingredient from the active, neither would the court.
Richard Blake took the witness stand in Ottawa, Ontario, in January to deny that it was he who had invaded a home and stabbed two people numerous times. With a straight face, he had an answer for all of the incriminating evidence. He had the perp’s car because “a stranger” had just handed him the keys; he didn’t recall what the stranger looked like (but guessed that he probably resembled Blake, because for some reason Blake got picked out of the lineup); he donned the stranger’s bloody knit cap (abandoning his own cap); he handled the stranger’s knife and bloody glove, and that’s why his DNA was on them; he fled at the first sight of police, ramming a cruiser to escape (even though he had “done nothing wrong”); he fled on foot after the collision and hid in a tree (but only to get away from a swarm of black flies). After deliberating politely for a day, the jury found him guilty.
A longtime high school teacher of French and Spanish is suing the Mariemont, Ohio, school district for having pressured her to resign in the face of what she calls her phobia, a “fear of kids” disorder, which she says should be protected by disability-discrimination law. Maria Waltherr-Willard, 61, had been reassigned to teach some junior high students, but doctors said she suffered hypertension, nightmares, chest pains and vomiting when around the younger-age children.
OUR LITIGIOUS SOCIETY
In September 2010, a speeding, intoxicated driver ran a stop sign near Dade City, Fla., careened off a highway, and rammed two trees along a private road, instantly killing himself and his passenger. In January, the estate of the passenger filed a lawsuit for wrongful death, charging the residents along the private road with letting the trees grow in a dangerous location where they could be easily hit, especially since the residents had failed to light the area adequately. “How it’s our fault, I have no idea,” said one surprised resident, who noted that the entire neighborhood had mourned the strangers at the time of the sad, traumatic collision.
CASE (OF BEER) LAW
Keith Brown and four other inmates at Idaho’s Kuna prison filed a lawsuit in December against eight major beer and liquor manufacturers for having sold them alcohol at an early age without warning of its addictiveness–and are thus responsible for the men’s subsequent lives of crime. Brown, 52, said he personally has been locked up a total of 30 years and is now serving time for manslaughter. In addition, the Oglala Sioux tribe has sued beer distributors and the state of Nebraska for enabling easy access to nearby beer even though it was banned on the reservation. The lawsuit was dismissed on jurisdictional issues, but the tribe may refile soon.
A 53-year-old Rosenheim, Germany, postal worker was relieved of criminal charges in January when a judge ruled him innocent of discarding mail (as jealous “whistle-blowers” had charged) after concluding that the carrier finished routes early simply because he worked faster. Although the charge was dropped, he was reprimanded for taking unauthorized (i.e., simpler) routes. And after a 400-pound woman broke both arms accidentally falling through a sidewalk in New York City in January, doctors told her that a thinner woman might have died from the same fall. “Thank God, they said that my size was the only thing that saved me.”
PEOPLE WITH ISSUES
Australian researchers recently uncovered a minor prison phenomenon in that country that might shed light on isolated cases reported in southwest U.S. prisons (mentioned in News of the Weird in 2012): inmates inserting objects underneath the skin of their penises, somehow under the impression that (a) it doesn’t hurt and (b) it provides sexual pleasure and virility. Among the items discovered in Australia: buttons, dice, deodorant roller balls. The apparent favorite among the several Hispanic men discovered in the U.S. Southwest: shaved dominoes. In many cases, infections resulted and sometimes required major surgery.