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Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

May. 11, 2011
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Lunch Served, Justice Served?

Justice under the law could depend on whether a judge's stomach is growling when he pronounces sentence, according to a study of 1,000 parole decisions during 50 courtroom days observed by students from Columbia University and Israel's Ben Gurion University. While making observations for an April journal article, the students found that judges were increasingly stingy with parole as a morning or afternoon session wore on, but that dramatic spikes in generosity took effect immediately following lunch or a snack break. The lead researcher, Columbia professor Jonathan Levav, expressed satisfaction with the scholarship but disappointment "as a citizen" with the findings.

From time to time, News of the Weird reminds readers that bizarre human adventures repeat themselves again and again. Here are some choice selections of previous themes recently recurring:

  • "Man's best friend" sometimes isn't, as when a playful dog knocks a loaded gun off of a counter, causing it to fire a round. John Daniels, 28, took a bullet in the knee from his dog, for example, in Raleigh, N.C., in January. Dogs betray in other ways, too. Motorist Joel Dobrin, 32, was pulled over in a traffic stop in February in Moro, Ore., and allegedly rushed to hide a drug stash inside of a sock. However, reportedly his dog intercepted the sock for an impromptu game of tug-of-war in the car. In the ensuing battle, the sock flew out one of the car's windows, right in view of the officer. Dobrin was cited, and later indicted, for drug possession.
  • Snowmobilers fall through thin ice every season because the ice's thickness is difficult to estimate, especially at night. Less understandable is that every season, when other snowmobilers come to rescue a downed snowmobiler, they drive their vehicles as close as they can to the spot of the fall—which, of course, is right at the lip of the break in the thin ice, thus virtually assuring that their vehicle, too, will fall in, such as the four people who fell through the ice in a pond near Holyrood, Newfoundland, in February.
  • Chutzpah! Thieves usually pick out easy jobs, but occasionally they make much bolder moves—for example, breaking into the prison at New Plymouth, New Zealand's North Island, in March (carrying off a large TV set) or breaking into a police station in Uddingston, Scotland, in April (carrying off uniforms and radios).
  • Carelessness sometimes begets tragedy, as when motorists survive terrible accidents but then, while awaiting help, are hit and killed by emergency vehicles. In December, near Ocala, Fla., a 39-year-old driver survived a rollover but was accidentally run over and killed by a responding Marion County sheriff's deputy, and in April in Baldwin Park, Calif., an arriving ambulance fatally struck a 22-year-old accident victim who was, until that moment, not seriously hurt.


In 2007, Australian Wayne Scullino, then 30, quit his job in Sydney and somehow convinced his wife they should sell their house and move to Wisconsin for the sole purpose of rooting for the NFL's Green Bay Packers. He said he had enjoyed a fascination with the football team since age 15. Said Scullino, "At some point, you've got to…start living the life you want to." After one season, the Scullinos returned home, but in February 2011 he was back in the United States, on hand in Dallas for the Packers' victory in Super Bowl XLV. Scullino says his Australian friends are still bewildered. "I try to talk to them about it," he said, "but they just don't get it."

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd


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