Lead Story

Michael S. Doherty’s murder conviction was reversed in November by the Texas Court of Appeals because of his lawyer’s “ineffective assistance.” The two most serious errors came in courtroom conferences in which the lawyer, checking facts with his client, whispered loudly (within earshot of the jury), “You didn’t take all the money, right?” and “What did you do, hit him over the head first?”

Creme de la Weird

Bruce Hillbourne, a 30-year-old prison inmate in Gloversville, New York, was apparently attempting to postpone a parole hearing in February when he swallowed 24 size AA and A batteries, which had to be removed through surgery. His record is 36 batteries, which he swallowed while incarcerated in 1986.

Charles Barfield, 47, was charged in Pompano Beach, Florida, with the “fatal attraction” murder of Jeffrey Dryfka, 25, in February. According to Dryfka’s notes, he had been pursued for seven years by Barfield after breaking off a short homosexual affair. Dryfka adopted disguises and moved frequently, but Barfield finally tracked him down.

Mari Louise Medacco, 17, was arrested in Muskegon, Michigan, in February and charged with having tricked two high school girls into believing she was a boy and having sex with them on numerous occasions. Medacco allegedly called herself Mario, covered her chest with bandages (claiming rib injuries), engaged in sex only in the dark, and wore an artificial penis.

Roy Schenk, a 58-year-old chemist in Madison, Wisconsin, last year attempted to market a “dating contract” on college campuses. In his contract, the female agrees that if the male spends money on her, he gets to choose whether or not they’ll have sex. Said Schenk, “I’m asking women either to quit being prostitutes or be honest prostitutes.”

Houston police were initially baffled as to how 24-year-old Robert Lutz died after they found his nude, partially decomposed body encased in yellow plastic inside a coffin in a man’s home in July. Then they began receiving unsolicited calls from gay men describing “mummification,” which one caller said is a “major bondage trip. After a while you get curious to see one all the way through [to death].”

Government in Action

The General Accounting Office revealed in August that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been paying pension and disability benefits to more than 1,200 dead people (including 100 that have been dead for more than ten years). The department would save $5.7 million per year by matching its pay records with other government records on death.

National, province, and city governments jointly contributed $13.5 million in July to establish a “comedy complex” in Montreal–a building that will house a humor museum, a performance hall, a restaurant, boutiques, and the offices of the National Academy of Humor, a school for comedians.

A Michigan auditor’s report in January on the Muskegon Center for Developmental Disabilities questioned the center’s use of residents’ fees, citing a $780 expenditure for oil paintings to adorn the rooms of blind patients.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proposed in August that Queen Elizabeth (already the world’s richest woman) get a pay raise of 54 percent, from $9.2 million to $14.2 million a year (and that other royal family members get comparable raises). A newspaper poll on whether Prince Edward was worth his proposed $180,000 raise counted 37-to-1 against.

The U.S. Postal Service announced in June that according to audit results the IRS underpaid its postage bill by $2 million. The IRS said several of its offices did not understand the complex regulations governing certified mail.

David T. Quezada, director of the fair-housing council in Orange County, California, and a champion of tenants’ rights, was accused by the council in June of numerous housing-code violations at his duplex, including exposed wiring, leaky plumbing, and rotting floors. He admitted knowing about the discrepancies since 1987.

Missouri first lady Janet Ashcroft ordered the state library in Jefferson City opened on Mother’s Day this year just so that her son could do some schoolwork. (She later apologized.)

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