Content has been edited for clarity. Hanging around a courthouse seems to be worth while after reading these stories. There's nothing boring about a case from the 1940's, guinea pig homicide, and putting witches on trial!
Plug It In, Plug It In
“Had my first argument before the Second Circuit, so obviously fairly nervous. The case before me had a very generic name, think ‘Smith vs. Generic Insurance Corp.’ Figured it was going to be dull.
But instead, it turned out that the issue was that Mrs. Smith, a widow, had her husband’s life insurance payment denied.
Why? The husband was an engineer of some sort and had constructed a device to… pleasure himself. He plugged said device into a wall socket on to ‘enjoy’ on Easter Sunday, while his family was out, but unfortunately was electrocuted and died (and presumably was found by his poor family on Easter, pantless and plugged into the wall).
The insurer tried to deny benefits based on an exclusion for ‘intentional self-harm.’ Cue a solid 20 minutes of the insurer’s lawyer being grilled by very staid and conservative judges whether the poor guy actually intended to harm himself, or, as one judge put it very mildly, ‘it seems the deceased intended… well… the opposite.’ And the insurer lawyer struggling to articulate why self-harm and pleasure are not always mutually exclusive.
From the questions, it seemed like the widow was likely to win. But man was that awkward for everyone involved.”
Out Of My Jurisdiction
“I was working in a law firm and got a call from reception advising that someone had arrived needing some intellectual property advice. I arrived at reception to find a clearly disturbed woman with a persistent facial twitch and a small wheeled suitcase. I took her to a conference room to discuss, making sure I kept a good line of sight to reception. She put the suitcase on the table and opened it to reveal a stack of thousands of handwritten pages and one half of a pair of scissors (so I guess a scissor?). She explained that she had written a manuscript about how the city council gave her schizophrenia and hepatitis, aliens stole her pets and that it was all part of a bigger conspiracy involving the army and the Illuminati. She was worried that our local newspaper was going to steal her thoughts and publish her manuscript without her consent, and wanted to register the copyright in her manuscript. We then had a perfectly rational and reasonable discussion about copyright laws. I explained that in our jurisdiction she didn’t need to register it and that she had rights as an author automatically on creation of the work. I told her the most useful thing she could do is ensure she had evidence of her creative work, and that she should send a digital copy to herself and a friend, and also leave a copy with a friend. That way if it was published without her consent she could prove it was her work. We spoke for nearly an hour, she thanked me and then left. She got free legal advice, and I didn’t get stabbed with a scissor.”
“She Hit Me First”
“I was going to court as a witness for my neighbor who was seeking a protection order. While we were there, we heard several other cases being heard.
In one case, a man was accused of beating his 14-year-old daughter and dragging her out of the car while he hit her on the ground. The mother of the child presented her case and the judge turns to the father and gives him the opportunity to present his case, and asks what happened on that day in the car.
‘Well you see the day before,’ the dad began.
‘No, I want to hear what happened that day in the car,’ the judge stated.
They continued back and forth.
‘My daughter has been gettin B’s in school so…’
‘No, what happened in the car?’
‘She has been texting boys, so…’
‘SHE HIT ME FIRST,’ the father shouted.
He never really gave a straight answer, but the judge ruled against him. At the next case, there was a similar dynamic of separated parents arguing over a child, and there wasn’t a lot of evidence of a physical danger so the judge said a protection order wasn’t necessary and recommended they deal with it in family court.”
That Seems A Bit Much
“I was a mediator in small claims court in Queens, New York during law school. Mediators attempt to help the parties reach a settlement. A woman brought a claim against a shoe store. According to her, there was a display with shoes for 20 bucks. When she got to the register with two pairs of shoes, they charged her 25 dollars per pair. She complained and told the counter person that they were on sale for 20 dollars. She brought the counter person to the display and, according to the woman, they had switched the sign so that it now said 25 dollars. She paid the 50 dollars and then sued for the 10 dollars extra that she had to pay. The cost for filing the claim was 15 dollars. After she told me her story ,I met with the two lower-level employees that the shoe store had sent to the court. They of course denied changing the sign, but I told them they can settle for 10 dollars and leave immediately or they would have to wait for a judge to decide the case. They happily paid the 10 bucks. The woman lost five dollars in the transaction.”
Who Let The Dog Out?
“My brother-in-law was clerk of the court for most of a decade.
Dude comes in with an indecent exposure charge; he was walking around the local Target in super shorty shorts, and his lil’ Shortie was longer than the shorts. Okay, this is supposedly fairly straightforward- slap on the wrist and get told to buy longer shorts.
Except it turns out this isn’t this guy’s first rodeo. In fact, it’s his TWENTY-FIFTH rodeo. Dude was an exhibitionist, and this was his MO. He was already banned from all retail establishments in half the counties in the state, and a handful of counties in the neighboring states. At this point, he’d had so many convictions that he was looking at 25 to life for indecent exposure.”
Stars And Stripes
“My step-grandfather was an Oregon Supreme Court Justice. He’d retired long before I met him so I never saw any of his cases in person, but he told me one particular story about a man who tried to represent himself in court.
This young man, probably in his early 30s, comes into the courtroom wearing a military service uniform. The guy seems well-groomed, coherent, capable. My grandfather served in the Air Force and while he thought it odd someone would appear in court in uniform, he respected the dude. The military guy starts his defense but only gets a couple of sentences in before he holds up his arm and points to the service stripes saying, ‘And these, these are where I get my power from. All my energy comes from these stripes.’
Everyone starts looking around the room at each other as if silently asking, ‘Uh, did you all hear that correctly?’ My grandpa asks him to clarify what he means and he says the stripes are powerful and give him their energy so he can be powerful too. Grandpa stops the court proceedings and orders the guy to have a mental evaluation ASAP. He’s immediately taken out.
The next day my grandpa gets a knock at his office door. He opens it and low and behold it’s the same military dude from the previous day, wearing the same outfit. The dude’s just standing there and grinning a massive, unsettling smile. Apparently, the psychiatrists determined he was of sound mind and wasn’t a threat to himself or others so let him go (my grandpa never told me when this story took place but I’m assuming it happened before 72 hour holds were a thing). My grandfather just stood there dumbfounded before asking, ‘Uh, anything I can do for you?’ The guy wanted to talk about his case and getting the trial rescheduled, acting as nothing happened. Grandpa eventually convinced him to go talk to the receptionist instead.
I don’t know if there was a follow-up trial or what happened to the man or even if he was really in the military”
Not Today Sir
“I used to be a probation agent. In this state agents are class one law enforcement, the same as game wardens and highway patrol.
So, as a probation agent, I worked in the court room a lot. The judges in the area all knew who I was and knew my name.
There were two reasons we were ever in court. That is for violation hearings and pleas. For plea deals, the defendant is admitting he or she did something in exchange for a lighter sentence. There’s a benefit for both the defendant and the state as well. But during the plea, the judge will craft a basic rundown of what he wants the probation to look like. He may want mental health screening, or substance testing and rehab. That sort of thing. Now, the judge can alter or change any part of the supervision. The judge has a wide authority on this. Because of this wide authority, the judge might ask, ‘Agent Citadel, if I order this, can you reasonably do it?’
So I’m always in court doing paperwork and ready to answer questions. They defendant doesn’t always get probation. But I’m there during sentencing anyway.
So, long story short. This case revolved around a dad that had been assaulting his daughter for five years I think. Basically since she was 11 or 12 I think. No one could actually determine how many times she had been assaulted. Even if they could, it wouldn’t be feasible to have two thousand separate indictments.
So, what they did was they had four indictments. One for each separate body-part-specific assault. And one last one for child endangerment.
So. With sentencing, whenever there is a victim, the court always lets the victim give a statement. So, basically, this victim gives the same ‘I’m not scared of you and you can’t hurt me anymore’ sort of response that we are so used to hearing. You’ll hear this out of the most broken people imaginable. I think that this sort of statement must be an important part of healing, even if it isn’t true at that point in time.
So, the victim gives her statement. The public defender says, ‘Your honor, can we put this behind us with offender probation and offender therapy? I see Agent Citadel over there, I know he’s a good agent, my client would be in good hands with him.’
So, the solicitor is standing there. She is a six-foot-tall Polish woman with a slight accent. If she is anything this woman is beautiful like polished steel. She is hard as nails. They call her The Hammer. She of course asks for active time to be served concurrently. That means, if the guy gets full-time on all cases, he will do like whatever percent on whatever he gets sentenced. Might end up being like 20 years.
So, the judge actually has a bad back. So this dude is tired of sitting. So he stands up. And he says, ‘Mr. I’m sure you’ve been hearing me give out probation all day today. And I’m sure you’ve seen Agent Citadel sign people up. Well, I’m here to tell you, I’m all out of probation.’
At this point. I raise an eyebrow and look at this judge. I’m thinking. ‘Oh… I’m about to see some real justice.’
So he continues. He looks at the victim and he says, ‘Young lady, what you said moved me. You said you’re not scared today here in my courtroom. Young lady, I can’t make sure you’ll never be scared again in your lifetime. But, I can make sure that HE will never scare you again. Miss, I’m going to make sure you never have to see him again, unless you really want to. In the matter of (here he recites four different general sessions’ indictment numbers.) I find you guilty on all counts and I’m sentencing you to the max on all counts, and they will be served consecutively, exactly as you assaulted that girl. Consecutively. Your crimes didn’t happen all at once, you won’t be able to pay for them all at once, either.’
He got 124 years and will die in prison. There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom. I hope that girl is doing okay.”
“A True Nutcase”
“I supported a friend (19f) who had to go in and make a police report on our once trusted, long-standing (but now ex-) friend (22f). In short, while both girls were out, somehow my friend’s pet ferret escaped her enclosure and attacked my ex-friends guinea pigs who had to be put down. Now this is all very sad, my friend was feeling awful and ready to apologize and pamper my ex-friend as much as she needed.
Instead, the moment ex-friend got home, she punched her straight into the brick patio and proceeded to beat her. My friend was shocked and terrified, ran to her room but she kept going. Bleeding and bruised, my friend managed to lock ex-friend out, but then she picked up a SLEDGEHAMMER, then a DRILL, threatening to kill her. With the help of mates she escaped with a smashed phone, but now homeless.
Ex-friend is an influencer with about a 200k following of tweens. Got her MOTHER and her army of fans to brigade against my friend and any of us who obviously sided with her for almost a year. Never apologized or owned up to anything all the way to court. As a first time offender she was only put on probation.
…Nonetheless the police officer got a kick out of the absurdity of the story as the most bizarre thing he’d heard that day.
Another bizarre thing was when filing the report, we realized that despite knowing her for three years we didn’t even know her last name. Apparently that didn’t matter – the police officer got her name up near instantly as she was already on record for attempting to file a restraining order against a girl she didn’t like for no reason.
Ex-friend also doxxed this girls address online and she was getting death threats and living in fear for months (we only found out all this later – a true nutcase).”
Those Were Different Times
“Years ago, I used to process court transcripts. I often would read them because some were really crazy, especially older ones because times were just different back then. Anyways there was one dated around 1940, it was a man divorcing his wife. After the divorce was final he sued her for mental distress and anguish because apparently, her lady bits stunk awful. Because of it, he didn’t want to sleep with her and it caused him to feel like less of a man because he wasn’t doing the deed as much as he thought he should. He won the case, got custody of their child, and she was ordered to pay a decent amount of money to him.
Also the judge urged her to go to the doctor and get help for her smelly bits because until she did, she would likely never find another man or be happy in life.”
“Gonna Eat That?”
“As a journalist I sat in on many trials. None of them weirder than the trial of Ronald Gene Simmons. Simmons stood accused of killing fourteen family members at his compound in Dover AR, as they gathered to celebrate Christmas. Not included in this trial was for the murder of two, and wounding of 4 others in Russellville, AR.
Simmons was more than happy to admit guilt, and accept the death penalty, but (at the time, at least) the death penalty required a trial with both a guilty and penalty phase. Simmons also didn’t want legal representation, but that, too, was required for the death penalty.
The trial was largely pro forma, though the court-appointed attorney was actually quite skilled, and did as good a job as circumstance allowed. After the State rested, Simmons insisted, over strenuous objections of counsel, to take the stand. He delivered a rambling tale, drawing heavily on Ephesians and Leviticus, how, as head of household, it was his right to do as he wished. He wanted his daughter/wife to leave her (legal) husband and, with his granddaughter/daughter, to live together, ‘As God intended.’ When they didn’t he killed them and the rest of the family.
Pretty open and shut, but the DA had to, in the unlikely case of appeal, establish that Simmons wasn’t crazy, and understood the full consequence of his actions. So, on the cross, the DA went at Gene hard, on matters of man and God’s law, and his understanding of both. It was as effective as it was bizarre. It seems to have gotten under Simmons’ skin a bit, because, as the parties stood before the Judge, discussing the schedule for the afternoon, Simmons, just turned and cold-cocked the DA, in full view of the jury.
The jury wasn’t out long.
The courthouse was one of those small, rural buildings, alone in a square in the center of town. The locals were driving around the square in trucks and cars shouting, ‘Burn him!’ As the jury deliberated the penalty phase, and other proceedings took place in the courtroom, the media and Simmons, handcuffed to the table, were kept in the same room in the basement. Literally across the table from each other. We didn’t talk. He just sort of occasionally stared at us, but most often, just off into space.
On the table between us was a box of doughnuts that once had a dozen, but only one (glazed with chocolate topping) remained. One of the hardest things in my journalist career was not looking at the killer, and asking him, ‘Ya going to eat that?'”
She’s A Witch!
“There was a dispute between neighbor’s wherein two parties accused their female neighbor of being a witch.
Case was initially brought up relating to charges of stolen property, criminal damage, burglary and animal abuse. The accused was alleged to have stolen from the neighbors gardens and outhouses, with the abuse pertaining to the deaths of several livestock (multiple chickens and a goat).
Said case was weird overall, particularly when the two parties made claims that the neighbor was casting harm spells on them, danced bare in the moonlight and chanted into the early morning.
All charges were proven to be true based on physical and recorded evidence.”
That’s Just Wrong
“I was in court for a dog without a leash citation, and to start things off, the judge quiets the room for briefing. She does her spiel and directly after the bailiff walks from the rear of the courtroom up to the bench, leans in to whisper something and hands her an object.
The judges face turns toward us and asks the bailiff, ‘Where is he!? Please come to the stand!’
As a gentleman approaches, the sounds of an adult video start playing from the phone that the bailiff handed the judge.
‘You have the audacity to watch that stuff in my courtroom while I’m briefing everyone!? I can’t believe this…this is a first….’ proclaimed the judge.
I don’t quite remember what the charges against the man were initially, but the judge added 72 hours for contempt of court.”
Talk About Stalling
“I was on a jury of a case that went for six months, and at times it was an absolute circus. It was a fraud case and only one man on trial, but it was clear to blind Freddy he was part of a crime syndicate that tried to sell an office building they didn’t own for 117 million dollars.
The case had been tried before and there was a lot of handwritten evidence that both the prosecution and defense focused on to the point it felt like we were on Sesame Street some days, as all we would do is look at how curves were formed in certain letters. We had about 10 folders each all to prove whether it was this guy’s handwriting.
Then a witness got up who was clearly involved in the syndicate to rat this guy out, and lied about having no involvement. Through good questioning, we learned he did three years in prison for fraud, had a bunch of items seized on his computer that were for no other reason than the fraudulent sale of an office building, but he maintained in court he had no involvement. You know you are a bad liar when a whole jury laughs at your stupidity.
The biggest problem with the case though was the detective in charge was on stress leave, and never gave any evidence. The reason it dragged on for six months was because it was clear the defense wanted to cause a mistrial and prolonged everything they could. There were constant excuses for breaks, and at one point there was a (his words not mine) ‘A spontaneous nose bleed’ to cause a break in proceedings.
The thing was, their plan was working. Over the course, of six months we ended up going down to nine jurors. I remember one juror got extremely ill and another had her wedding and were excused. I can’t remember the reason for the others, but we were told if one more person had to leave the case would be declared a mistrial and I could see the defense were hanging on that happening.
It didn’t happen though, we came to a unanimous decision with nine jurors and a verdict was given.”
“She Sent You Nudes?!”
“My ex girlfriend forgot to lie in court. Fully two years after we dated, an ex got a restraining order on me as revenge for saying her tattoos sucked; she claimed I had stalked her, assaulted her, and threatened her. We go to court, she tells her side, the judge picks at a couple of holes in her story, then asks her (per the law on restraining orders) how she feels I am a threat to her safety, security, and privacy. The only thing she had to say? ‘Nobody should be able to say that about [my tattoos].’ She gave something like seven pages of written allegations and 30 minutes of opening testimony declaring me a crazed and dangerous lunatic, and then right when it counted, all she could remember was the time I linked her own comment on an online platform. I guess it was too much effort to live a lie.
Of course, she started out by forgetting that a harassment restraining order requires actual evidence of harassment. So it wasn’t great for her case that she openly stated that I had avoided all contact with her for the last two years. In fact, we had recently seen each other at a show. Also, if you feel that your privacy has been violated by mocking your tattoos and want to make fake claims of stalking and assault, make sure that the date of those false allegations is not a day that you texted to confirm that you had correctly stalked my whereabouts, grabbed my cheeks, then spent the rest of the week sending lewd texts and sending nudes…’cause that will go into the public record. When I asked at the free legal clinic if the judge would rather I censor the nudes in my exhibits, or if it would be better to leave them as is, the female lawyer helping me responded ‘she sent you nudes!?’ and busted a gut laughing.”