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Lead Story

In July in Edmonton, Alberta, 42-year-old Anthony Alan Burton pleaded guilty to a laundry list of charges stemming from a spectacular 2002 robbery attempt: After wrapping his head in gauze and covering his face with clots of silicone putty, a layer of pink foundation makeup, and oversize glasses, he’d grabbed a samurai sword, walked into a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall, and screamed, “I am the evil that you have read about! This is the face of evil!” He was collecting cash, credit cards, and PINs from the terrified churchgoers when police arrived. (According to a psychiatrist’s report presented at Burton’s sentencing hearing, he’d run out of medication several days before the incident.)

People Different From Us

In September in Pinson, Alabama, 46-year-old Joseph Logan was arrested for attempted murder shortly after watching Alabama’s 34-31 double-overtime loss to Arkansas on TV. Logan, apparently distraught over the football game, had been tossing boxes, slamming doors, and throwing dishes into the sink, and at that point his son, Seth, interrupted to ask for his father’s help buying a car. Logan fetched a pistol from his own car, grabbed Seth by the collar, and placed the muzzle of the gun on his son’s forehead; just as Logan fired, Seth ducked so that the bullet went past his ear. Said a sheriff’s deputy, “I know we take football serious in the south, but that’s crossing the line.”

U.S. Customs Is on the Job!

In August at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California, U.S. border officials impounded an SUV being used to smuggle Mexican immigrants, but their search of the vehicle missed a 13-year-old girl in a secret cubbyhole; she was discovered 42 hours later, after climbing out of her hiding place into the passenger compartment. And in July, Adrian Rodriguez reported to Mexican police that he’d discovered 33 pounds of marijuana in the undercarriage of his car, which U.S. Customs had failed to find before selling him the vehicle at auction; Rodriguez was arrested and spent a month in jail in Tijuana before an appeals court dismissed his case.

Our Litigious Society

In September in Greensboro, North Carolina, John Clayton III was awarded $1.5 million by a jury for injuries he’d suffered as a passenger in a car whose driver had slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision. The car was a police cruiser, and Clayton had just been taken into custody for failing to appear for a traffic case. He claimed the officer’s sudden stop caused him “permanent” back problems.

In August in Sydney, Australia, a judge awarded Kevin Presland more than $200,000 because a psychiatric hospital had released him prematurely; in 1995 he was brought to the hospital by police after allegedly trying to strangle a child, but was discharged after an overnight stay and hours later stabbed his brother’s fiancee to death. Presland claimed damages not only for his imprisonment after the murder but for loss of earnings; though he was eventually acquitted by reason of temporary psychosis, by then he’d spent over two years in state custody. He argued that if the hospital had not negligently released him, he never would have been jailed.

Compelling Explanations

In August the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported on the driving record of U.S. Representative Bill Janklow of South Dakota, who’d just killed a motorcyclist in a collision, pointing out that Janklow’s defense (he’d hit the cycle while swerving to avoid a third vehicle) was the same one he’d used for three previous accidents (though in one case he’d allegedly swerved to avoid an animal). In none of the four cases has there been any evidence to corroborate Janklow’s story.

Ewww, Gross!

In June a deep-sea research voyage funded by the governments of Australia and New Zealand announced that it had collected specimens of over 1,800 species, including more than 100 previously unknown to science and many that have adapted in bizarre ways to the total darkness and crushing pressure on the ocean floor. Some examples: the spookfish, which probes in the silt with a long snout sensitive to electrical signals emitted by prey animals; the fangtooth, with teeth longer than its head, which fit into sockets in the opposing jaw so they don’t puncture the fish’s brain when it closes its mouth; and the coffinfish, which walks on stubby fins, carries a glowing lure on its head, and discourages predators by swallowing water until it expands into a ball.

Give Them Points for Style

In August in Erie, Pennsylvania, a 17-year-old boy received a free Krispy Kreme doughnut at a store promotion, then stepped back in line for another and was refused. He returned a few minutes later with a McDonald’s sack over his head, asked again for a doughnut, and was again refused. Then he fell to the floor and flailed his arms and legs, demanding another free doughnut, at which point police cited him for disorderly conduct.

In the Last Month

The Oklahoma treasurer released a list of people owed money by the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund that included accused terrorist conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, who’d made a refundable deposit to a utility company while living in Oklahoma to attend flight school. And a London Underground train was delayed because a trainee driver fainted and fell out of his cab after hearing several coworkers discussing the details of a vasectomy operation.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.