Legal Grounds: August 2009 Archives
Legal Grounds - The FindLaw Legal News with an Attitude Blog

August 2009 Archives

Time to call it a trend: the AP reports that New York has just become the sixth state to ban the use of shackles during childbirth. (On prison and jail inmates, we mean; New York readers can stop worrying that free citizens might be chained to a bed by overzealous medical personnel. We hope.)

Perhaps, like us, you were under some quaint 21st-century notion that our civilized society would never chain down a woman in the throes of labor, prisoner or not. But apparently, there are still 40-plus states out there where nine-months-pregnant inmates are considered so threatening that they must be lashed in place. Even in New York, one vestige of the practice will remain: the new law allows inmates to be cuffed by one wrist during transport.
Researchers' Conclusions Something to Snort At?

File this one under already-broken news. News reports this week are revealing the startling conclusion of a study by a UMass-Dartmouth professor: most paper currency has cocaine on it.

Shocking!
you say. Perhaps, until you realize that 1) the amounts of cocaine found on bills are truly tiny, posing no health risk; and 2) this phenomenon has been known about for decades.

The ever-thorough snopes.com sums up the history of drug-testing performed on our money, concluding that the presence of cocaine in trace amounts on bills has been known about since at least the 1980s.

86-Year-Old Shoplifter Gets 2 Days

Where are you now, Morty and Helen Seinfeld? Having famously defended the rights of senior citizens to shoplift batteries and other things that seem to need constant replacement, Jerry's fictional TV parents might enjoy the story of Ella Orko, who, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, got sentenced Monday to time served -- two days -- after her arrest for shoplifting at a Chicago grocery store on August 2.

Thing is, she wasn't exactly a naive first-timer. Authorities say that the 86-year-old has a petty-crime history going back half a century, beginning with her first shoplifting arrest back in 1956. In total, Orko has been pinched 61 times, and convicted on more than a dozen occasions.
Headed to court in Will County, Illinois? For your own sake, get a good night's sleep beforehand, or at least a power nap in the hallway beforehand. Courtroom sleepiness is likely to land you in the lockup.

That's what happened to Clifton Williams recently, anyway, according to a Chicago Tribune story. Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak didn't take kindly to Williams' yawning during a July 23 sentencing for Williams' cousin, and slapped him with a charge of criminal contempt of court.

To be sure, at least some courtroom spectators were in agreement that Williams' yawn was no simple, involuntary action, but rather was timed and exaggerated so as to disrupt the sentencing proceeding, however briefly.

As a reward for his performance, Williams will actually be facing more jail time than his cousin the drug defendant, who got two years' probation for his offense. Williams received six months in jail, which, according to the Tribune story, is the max he could receive without actually going to a jury trial. He's expected to serve at least three weeks of that sentence.
Amateur Shoplifting Effort Leaves a Bad Taste

Three thieves with expensive taste in wine are still at large, but their most expensive take is safely back in a cooler in a Hopkinton, Mass., wine store today, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

The perps had made off with four bottles of wine last week, among them a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild -- a bottle worth an estimated $20,000 after esteemed wine critic Robert Parker scored the vintage a perfect 100, while lamenting that he couldn't go any higher.

The Mouton Rothschild made it back into the hands of police after an anonymous tipster recognized one of the thieves in a security video, though no arrests have yet been made.

So who were these dastardly wine purloiners?
"I Hope At Least One of These Things Can Dial 911"

Few would ever accuse the U.S. Senate of being a fast-acting body. But Nicholas Sparks sure made them look proactive last week for introducing texting-while-driving legislation. The Burt, New York resident also made the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute look like real experts for claiming a 23x risk factor for texting while operating a commercial truck. All Sparks needed was a tow truck, a couple of cell phones, and a swimming pool.

It seems that on July 29, Sparks, not content with the ordinary daily challenge of driving a flatbed tow truck with a car attached, decided to turn it up a notch or two. Taking the concept of distracted driving to new levels, Sparks went all out, sending texts with one phone while talking on a second phone.