Biweekly Edition: 4-9

Latest innovative pro se pleading

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  • Romance novelist who wrote essay called “How to Murder Your Husband” is now on trial for murdering her husband

A dangerous book will always be in danger from those it threatens with the demand that they question their assumptions. They’d rather hang on to the assumptions and ban the book.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind

Biweekly Edition: 3-26

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  • When I practiced law, I wholeheartedly agreed that this is a total waste of space and time

Bookish Linkage

  • Now Oklahoma wants to require librarians (who a lawmaker compares to cockroaches) to inform on children
  • Bookstores do seem to be carrying a lot more f*cking books these days

[S]ome people’s idea of [free speech] is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.

Winston Churchill, October 13, 1943

Loco Lawsuits: The woeful tale of Leo, the Bichon Frise

On February 11, 2000, Sara McBurnett was driving to the San Jose airport to pick up her husband. Their 19-pound Bichon Frise dog, Leo, slept on the front seat. A black SUV with Virginia license plates passed her on the right shoulder and cut in front of her into the lane to her left. McBurnett also needed to change to the left lane, but her bumper tapped the SUV when she did so.

The driver of the SUV got out and stormed back to McBurnett’s car. When she rolled down her window, he shouted, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Leo was now on McBurnett’s lap, and the man reached in, pulling him out of the car. He then threw Leo into lanes of traffic, where several vehicles hit him. When McBurnett retrieved Leo and put him back in the car, the SUV took off at high speed. Leo died on the way to an emergency veterinarian clinic.

A Bichon Frise (not Leo)

The story drew international attention, and a local radio station collected $120,000 in reward money to catch the SUV’s driver. Tips led police to arrest Andrew Burnett, charging him with a felony for cruelly killing an animal. During his June 2021 trial, his attorney said Leo bit Burnett’s hand and, because a tooth stuck in his hand when Burnett jerked back his hand, the dog was pulled through the window and fell to the ground.

It took the jury less than an hour to find him guilty. In sentencing Burnett to the maximum three-year sentence, the judge called Burnett a liar and his version of events “absolutely ridiculous” and “preposterous.” After the sentencing, McBurnett called Burnett a “pathological liar.”

In July 2003, an appeals court unanimously affirmed Burnett’s conviction, saying there was substantial evidence that he caused “the cruel death of Leo.” Burnett also argued he wasn’t responsible because Leo supposedly ran back across the road before being hit by a white van. The court called the contention “absurd.” He also complained

Evidently having plenty of time on his hands in prison, in February 2003, Burnett filed a lawsuit over Leo’s death – against McBurnett and the San Jose Mercury News.

Representing himself, Burnett claimed his spine and neck were injured when McBurnett’s car tapped his and that she tried to hide the extent of damage to her vehicle to downplay him being injured. He also claimed McBurnett defamed him in the media and that the newspaper “knowingly and maliciously” printed libel about him. All of this, he alleged, not only caused him lost wages but “mental pain and anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, fright and shock, ad mortification.” He claimed damages of more than $1 million. Burnett asked to proceed in forma pauperis. The court denied the request and the lawsuit evidently proceeded no further.

These weren’t Burnett’s only experiences with the judicial system. Within months of his conviction for killing Leo, Burnett pled no contest to providing false documents to a traffic court to avoid paying speeding tickets and was convicted of stealing equipment from and destroying a van he used while working for Pacific Bell. In 2015, he requested reducing all of his convictions to misdemeanors. The courts rejected the request.

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.

Mark Twain (1899)

Biweekly Edition: 3-12

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The problem with regrets is that they’re so regrettable.

“Opus,” Bloom County (June 3, 2016)

Biweekly Edition: 2-26

Nonbookish Linkage

  • The jackalope, which keeps watch over local bars, tourist traps, junk shops, greasy spoon diners and dimly lit pool halls

Bookish Linkage

Even if you have to die tomorrow, die as a literate.

M.F. Moonzajer, Love, Hatred and Madness