Lead Story

Dr. Michael Gilbert, 75, a prominent psychiatrist who over three decades has taken the witness stand numerous times to describe criminal defendants’ mental states, recently entered a defense of insanity himself in Miami. He is charged with offering to bribe a police officer to find a hit man to kill a suspected child abuser. The prosecutor thinks Gilbert is faking.

Court Reporter

Lynn Persoff was cited for contempt of court in August for violating a court order not to bad-mouth her ex-husband, Myron. At a black-tie social event in Boca Raton, Florida, a community in which both are well-known socialites, she called him a “moron.”

Jill Bangle of Los Angeles sued her veterinarian for $1,500 in expenses and additional surgery in September after he removed too much skin while performing a face-lift on her Shar-Pei.

Hugh Craig Jr., angry that he scratched his car on a high curb in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot, sued the Wendy’s chain in June in Indianapolis, and decided to throw in all the legal claims he could think of, including false advertising (because the hamburgers contain no ham). He is seeking “$1.99 quadrillion” but says he will accept that amount in cheeseburgers if Wendy’s buys them from White Castle.

Penny Pellito, 52, a homemaker in Miramar, Florida, who says she is psychic, went to trial in February claiming that a board that fell on her head while she was shopping four years ago caused her to lose many of her powers. She says she can still pick racetrack winners but can no longer “take on [other people’s] bodies [in her mind].” She said she never claimed to have the power to anticipate falling objects in stores.

Last summer in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a dispute about whether a confiscated substance was marijuana, superior court judge Howard E. Manning ordered the bailiff to get rolling papers and light it up. Manning and a detective in the case then concluded from the smell, officially, that this substance was marijuana.

A federal court in New York refused to dismiss a woman’s sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer last fall despite the fact that the woman had “repeatedly” stabbed her former supervisor “without provocation” at a deposition. The court noted that the woman had behaved at subsequent depositions and promised not to stab the man again.

An Illinois appeals court ruled in a legal malpractice case in November that a lawyer’s sexual relationship with his client had no effect on the quality of legal services provided. The court reaffirmed that every lawyer owes a fiduciary duty to his client, but refraining from having sex with them is not part of that duty.

In January, Donna Wallah won $11,500 for injuries suffered in a 1989 car accident in Nashville. Among her losses was that one of her saline gel breast implants deflated several weeks after the accident, followed shortly by the other one, both caused, she claims, by her being thrust against her car’s shoulder belt.

George Franklin, 51, was found guilty in November of killing his daughter’s best friend 21 years ago. The chief witness against Franklin was the daughter, now 30, who said that she had repressed her eyewitness view of the crime until recently when a glance from her own daughter triggered a flashback.

Carlos Lerma, 45, was found guilty of 51 drug trafficking counts by a Houston jury in December, despite having smeared broken eggs on the walls of the federal courthouse for good luck on the morning the verdict was announced. He was also charged with defacing government property.

A Pennsylvania appeals court turned down the request of Richard and Kathy Keranko to force Jim Osbourne, a coach in the Washington County Youth Baseball League, to let their son Matthew, 16, on the team. Four years ago, Kathy poured soda on Osbourne’s head because he had benched another of their sons.

Casey Kronberger, 10, sued Dustin Zins, 8, for $78,000 in 1989 in Bismarck, North Dakota, for a 1988 dirt-throwing incident, but a jury ruled last year that both boys were equally at fault for Casey’s dental damages. In November 1990 a new trial was ordered, but the court affirmed that Dustin’s parents would not be liable for damages under any circumstances, so Casey can collect only from Dustin.

Janet Crowther of Mereaux, Louisiana, won $340,000 from a K mart store for injuries sustained in a 1985 incident. Crowther had gone to the store to buy towels, but when a clerk wheeled a cart of Cabbage Patch doll clothing into an aisle close to the towel display and then announced a “blue-light special,” bedlam broke out and Crowther was trampled.

A man who calls himself the “World’s Fittest Man” (he once did 52,000 sit-ups in 32 hours) recently broke into tears in a San Francisco courtroom when confronted with his “inadequacies.” He was describing how, at a local trade show, he accepted a challenge to be hooked up to a “neuromuscular stimulator.” According to a witness, the “world’s fittest man” “shot up in the air and fell like a brick.”

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