Another weekend at Bernie's?: Two men and a woman, described in a Cape Times (Cape Town, South Africa) story as loan sharks, brought the corpse of Thozamile Patrick Apolis in a wheelchair into an FNB Provincial bank in June in an attempt to withdraw his pension (signing for it by "helping" Apolis move his hand across the paper). A skeptical customer, who kept demanding that bank officials check for a pulse, scared off the three, who left the body behind.
Such a thoughtful son: Going against the grain of recent court decisions, the federal appeals court in New York ruled in August, 2-1, that when a man died of "autoerotic asphyxiation" (normally, strangling oneself almost to the point of passing out as a way of enhancing pleasure during masturbation, but in some cases, going too far), it was an "accident" rather than a self-inflicted injury. Thus, mom Shirley Critchlow is entitled to death benefits under her son Michael's life insurance policy (but would not have been for a self-inflicted injury).
Unclear on the concept: Federal District Judge Thomas A. Higgins of Nashville had just ordered David Bowman, 41, back to prison for violating his probation (cocaine possession and other offenses), and he asked Bowman if he had anything to say. Instead of asking for leniency, Bowman recited the litany of inconveniences that lay ahead (e.g., crowded bus back to prison, various transfers from bus to bus on the way) and then asked, apparently seriously, if Judge Higgins would please personally drive him back to prison. (To the prosecutor's suggestion that prison would give Bowman "a chance to think," Judge Higgins said, "I think part of the problem is that Mr. Bowman doesn't do as much thinking as maybe [we] would like him to.")
Inexplicable: New York City judge Laura Blackburne came under fire from the police in June when she helped Derek Sterling (described by police as a "convicted drug dealer" in a rehab program) escape out a side door of her courtroom so that he could avoid a detective poised to arrest him for a May robbery. She said she was angry that the detective didn't clear the arrest with her in advance. (Blackburne was already notorious for recently releasing a man charged with attempting to kill a police officer, ruling that he had not received a speedy trial.)
Cynthia Gorden filed a lawsuit in Chicago in May asking a judge to prevent the airing of her appearance on a "Judge Mathis" syndicated television show (for which litigants audition to appear in person in a raucous courtroom setting, making their arguments and allowing Mathis to render a decision). According to the lawsuit, Gorden, who came on the program to aggressively sue her mother, said it was the program staff's fault that she wound up embarrassing herself.
Readers' choice: Survival instinct: In September, Jerry Allen Bradford of Pensacola, Fla., had in mind to put his seven German shepherd-mix puppies down because he could not find them homes. He had already shot three and was carrying two other dogs, and his .38-caliber revolver, in his arms. According to a sheriff's report, that's when one of the two condemned dogs managed to press his paw on the trigger, firing and hitting Bradford on the wrist. He was treated at a hospital, and the sharpshooter and his three siblings were placed for adoption.
2004 CHUCK SHEPHERD