Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Recently in Strange Courtroom Behavior Category

Inside courtrooms across the country, people are often afflicted with the desire to punch the lawyer prosecuting them, or sometimes, even their own lawyer.

But doing so is a really fast way to end up with assault charges as courthouses are not only under near constant video surveillance, law enforcement officers are rarely not nearby. Sadly, this seems to be what happened recently in an Ohio courtroom when a 42-year-old criminal defendant was sentenced to 47 years, and then punched his attorney right in the face, and, apparently, also bit him on the butt.

A 65-year-old convicted serial bank robber is making headlines for asking the judge for the maximum sentence as well as to be sent to his favorite prison. As wacky as this sounds, the old-timer has his reasons. Fortunately for him, the judge agreed to hand out the maximum sentence, but did not comply with the request to send him to his preferred institution.

Chris Peak was released from custody most recently last year. However, he was told by prison doctors that he had approximately six months to live. That terminal diagnosis happened about two and half years ago. Peak, who has spent more time behind bars than free, asked the judge sentencing him for stealing $347 dollars during the commission of a bank robbery, for the maximum sentence, so that he might be able to die in prison. Peak used a knife to commit the crime, and then threatened a cab driver with the knife to attempt a getaway, but the driver reportedly disarmed peak and broke the blade. Peak received a 63 month sentence.

Teach a man to use a vending machine, and he'll panhandle until he can afford some potato chips. Teach a man how to use a coat hanger to rob a vending machine, and he might end up with 28 criminal convictions and behind bars on 23 separate occasions.

For Harley Busse, of Chicago, his modus operandi of stealing change out of vending machines got him a 12 year prison sentence for stealing $44 from a university vending machine. While it may not have been his first conviction, recently, the appellate court in Illinois ruled in Busse's favor, explaining that a 12 year sentence for a petty theft crime was grossly disproportionate.

An amazing story unfolded last week in San Francisco. Victor Rodriguez, a twenty-year-old inmate, was released from San Francisco County Jail last Wednesday -- on accident! After a few days on the lam and after the story started getting press, Mr. Rodriguez did turn himself in to authorities.

Apparently, the accident that provided Rodriguez with the free pass occurred when the court clerk erroneously dismissed all charges. That clerk better have a V8 next time. Rodriguez had been charged with additional crimes since his arrest and when the judge sought to dismiss the new charges only, the clerk accidentally dismissed the whole case.

For the past few years, immigration officials have focused on deporting immigrants who commit crimes. Convictions for drug offenses or sex offenses, aggravated felonies, weapons possession, and crimes of moral turpitude could all get a legal immigrant deported to his or her home country.

But can owing over $84,000 in child support get you deported? To heaven? That's what one "sovereign citizen" was wondering in an Alaska courtroom last week. Unfortunately, the answer is no.

The job of a jail guard shouldn't be too complicated -- make sure the inmates don't escape and don't hurt anyone. Oh and, if one inmate is testifying against another in a murder trial, maybe don't put them both in the same jail cell.

An Ohio guard didn't get that second piece of advice, apparently, and it didn't take long for the murder suspect and the witness against him to come to blows.

Have a good excuse for getting out of jury duty? Bag it. If the former leader of the free world can show up and serve, so can you.

Former President George W. Bush reported for jury duty on Wednesday, destroying everyone else's chances of skirting jury service on a flimsy excuse. Thanks, Dubya.

People have tried almost every trick in the book to get out of jury duty.

But, dressing up as a prisoner to get dismissed from jury duty is definitely a novel idea. James Lowe, of Barnet, Vermont, was summoned for jury duty on Tuesday. Unlike most people, he showed up wearing a prisoner costume! He had on a black and white striped jumpsuit and matching beanie.

We don't know if he did so hoping to get out of jury duty, but, apparently, it worked.

Top 3 Weirdest Defenses

My dog ate my homework! It's the classic defense for not turning in homework.

Most criminal defendants plead guilty to get a shorter sentence. However, some attorneys really earn their money when they come up with crazy farfetched defenses for their clients. Sometimes, those defenses even work!

Here are our picks for the top three weirdest defenses presented in court:

An already strange case of a suspected bank robber got down right stinky last week, when the defendant began eating his own feces while on the witness stand Wednesday.

Andrew Gilbertson of (shockingly) not Florida, is on trial for robbing a bank in San Luis Obispo. Gilbertson's sickening snack brought his trial to a temporary halt while the judge called for a recess, presumably to clean the courtroom.