Pot valiant 


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."

Pole position

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)."

Poll position

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."

Geek speak

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.

This gland is my gland

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.

Watering loophole

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 the 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.

Breaking the mold

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 (including moldy relish, chili peppers, salad dressing and 8-year-old pickles) were part of his restaurant's fare. Mendonca said they were his personal foods, not the restaurant's. Besides, he said, "It was scum, not mold."

Head injuries

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 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," and when the girl started, he had no "legal duty" to resist.

No show

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 websites 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.

All-day sucker

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 teen-aged, 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."


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