News of the Weird

Lead Story
*In March, armed with evidence that a drug dealer had been killed with a single gunshot during a robbery by two men, Torrance, California, prosecutor Todd D. Rubenstein obtained separate convictions for both men for firing the fatal shot. Both robbers' guns had fired, but one missed; a determination of which was the fatal shot could not be made from ballistics tests. Rubenstein asserted confidently to one jury that Stephen Edmond Davis shot the man, and just as confidently to the other jury that it wasn't Davis but his partner John Patrick Winkleman.

The Democratic Process
*According to the 1997 platform of the Natural Law Party (based on teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) in Canada, people should use the north and east entrances to their homes rather than the south and west ones because the last two are not harmonious. Furthermore, Canadians entering the United States should do so from Niagara Falls, whose entrance (from the east) is the only nonsouthward entrance to the country. The party proposes to wipe out the federal deficit by "eliminating problems" and to create an "invincible" national defense through yogic flying (which resembles hopping like a frog). The party got 84,000 votes in 1993.

Unclear on the Concept
*In January the U.S. Postal Service in Miami issued bulletins announcing a $25,000 reward for the return of something stolen from a mail carrier but refused to say what it was, referring to it only as a "device." Said a postal inspector to a reporter: "I can't tell you what it is. I can't tell you what it's used for."

*Former Prestonburg, Kentucky, school board member Wood R. Keesee, age 59, filed a lawsuit in May against a female court clerk to whom he had allegedly loaned money in 1996. Under the terms of the $1800 loan, according to Keesee, she was to have eighteen sexual encounters with him. When she stopped after three, he filed suit.

*One week apart in March, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and San Francisco, California, schools disciplined female students who reported that they were raped on campus. A fifteen-year-old girl was briefly suspended from Ardmore High School for having sex at school, despite the fact that her clothes were soaked in blood, as was the locker room where she said the rape occurred. And an eighteen-year-old woman was threatened with eviction from San Francisco State University housing because she illegally kept a hunting knife in her room, which she used to eventually chase off the alleged rapist.

*A leading TV news program in Bogota, Colombia, reported in January that Jimmy Pacheco had been kidnapped for a month in the city of Cucuta in a scheme to pry undisclosed concessions from either his friends or co-workers. In order to avoid alarming his family, the bad guys allowed Pacheco to return home every afternoon. The kidnappers watched his house at night and snatched him again in the morning.

Least Justifiable Homicides
*In February Avi Kostner, age 52, pleaded guilty in Newark, New Jersey, to the murders of his kids, ages ten and twelve, which he said he committed because he feared his ex-wife would not raise them as Jews. (In arguing successfully against the death penalty, Kostner's lawyer continually referred to Kostner in front of the jury as "less than perfect.") And in May Harry Charles Moore was executed in Oregon for the 1992 murders of his in-laws because he was afraid they would persuade his ex-wife to move to Las Vegas and possibly get involved in prostitution and drugs.

-- By Chuck Shepherd