Has anybody seen a man wearing a gorilla mask?

I had just sat down at my desk to begin composing a serious, sensitive, compelling, thought provoking piece on a legal subject of great importance to us all.  I had been thinking about the article for a while and had it carefully mapped out in my mind.  I was excited and ready to hit the first key when I happened to glance over at a pile of lawyer journals stacked on the corner of my desk.  My eye caught a headline which read,

“MAN WEARING GORILLA MASKED SUFFOCATED BY BOUNCERS”.

For a moment I thought my 12 year old daughter had absentmindedly left her latest copy of the National Enquirer on my desk.  But when I looked at the top of the page I saw the words LAWYERS WEEKLY USA.   This, folks, was the real thing.

Being the weak-minded human being that I am, and eager to put off every important task, I was powerless to resist reading more about the man in the gorilla mask.  Please don’t hate me.

It is 1999, somewhere deep in the southeastern United States.  A man walks into a restaurant wearing army fatigues and a gorilla mask. Not unusual, right?  (I remember seeing him one night at Snake River Grill.)  He throws a cup of liquid at a bouncer and runs out.  Several bouncers chase and catch him, then hold him face down in the street.  Gorilla man dies of suffocation, and his ex-wife sues the restaurant in behalf of the children.   The case is settled for $150K.  End of story.  No moral.  No punch line.  No earthly explanation of how in the world something like this could possibly happen.

But by now I’m hooked.  I am wondering what other newsworthy stories in Lawyers Weekly USA you need to know about.  After all, it’s my job.  And as it turns out, there is lots to report.

For those who have something really important to do at this moment, I beg you to stop reading and go do it.  For the rest stick around a couple of minutes, finish that double decaf vanilla almond latte with two percent, and read about stuff you are not likely to find anywhere else that a sane person might look.

What about this headline:

“CAN PRISON GUARDS BE SUED FOR HITCHING INMATE TO POST?”

I am sure that you and the little lady were asking yourselves that very question the other day but had no idea where to find the answer.   It seems that the jury is still out on this one, although the U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether it’s okay for prison guards to handcuff a prisoner to a hitching post for seven hours without a shirt in the hot sun.

Let’s take an informal poll.  I know we’re a little sheltered living in our tiny shangri-la, but does that really strike you as violating the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment?  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals certainly doesn’t think so.  That court has taken the position that a reasonable prison official might do that sort of thing and be justified in thinking it’s perfectly okay.

On the other extreme a headline reads:

“50 YEAR SENTENCE FOR STEALING VIDEOS IS ‘CRUEL AND UNUSUAL’”

A California court sentenced a man to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole for stealing 9 videos worth $153.00 from K-Mart.   I ask you – if it’s okay to shackle a human being to a fence post for hours on end, could it possibly be wrong to sentence someone to 50 years in prison for stealing a few videos?  The U.S. Court of Appeals thought that was a tad too harsh and reversed the sentence.  Honestly, it’s just so hard to make sense out of this crazy world anymore.  Maybe it depends on the video?

Here’s another eye-grabber:

“PSYCH EVALUATION ORDERED FOR FAKE LAWYER”

No kidding.  What person in their right mind would pose as a lawyer?  Not even on Halloween, or April Fool’s day.  Well, that’s just what the judge thought too.  This 29 year old impostor had fooled prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges  for years.  When the judge had him arrested in the courtroom for violating an order not to practice law anymore, his lawyer pleaded with the judge not to send the faker to jail while he underwent a mental health evaluation.  Why?  Because some of the impostor’s victims (spelled “former clients”) are in prison, and incarceration “may pose a problem for his safety.”  Now that’s quick thinking.

I was particularly encouraged by this next headline:

“CHILDREN CONCEIVED TWO YEARS AFTER FATHER’S DEATH”

You probably figured it out immediately, but I had to actually read the first paragraph before realizing that we’re talking about frozen sperm here.

After a father was diagnosed with cancer he had his sperm frozen.  The wife gave birth to twins a few years later.  The Feds refused to pay Social Security benefits to the children.

In a powerful declaration for the rights of kids, the judge is quoted as saying, “Posthumously conceived children may not come into the world the way the majority of children do.  But they are children nonetheless.”  Who among us could have said it better?

Here is a headline I am sure will enrage you:

“FUNERAL HOME SUED FOR DUMPING BODIES IN THE WOODS”

Talk about frivolous lawsuits!  (Just kidding.)  A funeral home somewhere in the deep south was sued for digging up bodies.  It seems that cemetery workers broke open burial vaults and dumped the bodies in the woods, and crushed down other coffins to make room for new coffins on top of them.  Folks, it really pays to read the fine print sometimes.  In some jurisdictions “eternity” is defined as two years.  Just like marriage.

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