Day 9 - Weird Cases - Who Would You Vote For?


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Day 9 - Weird Cases - Who Would You Vote For?

  1. 1. WEIRD CASES thA voter who was canvassed by the 18 century candidate John Wilkes said that he’d soonervote for the devil. Wilkes then asked “And if your friend is not standing?”Although sympathy for the devil isn’t widespread, one keen supporter is Jason Indreland, aprisoner in Montana. He filed a $10 million lawsuit alleging that his rights as a Satanworshiper had been violated by the prison authorities as he had been denied access to asatanic medallion and literature such as the Book of Satanic Rituals. The case has justended.In 2008, Indreland was jailed in Yellowstone County pending drug charges after being caughtwith 15 grams of methamphetamine. While there, he alleged that he was deprived of hissatanic pendant and denied access to other paraphernalia of his beliefs such as the book ofrituals and “The Satanic Bible”.He said he was the subject of torments by the prison authorities who did things such as pushChristian cards under his cell door and put him in the especially punitive maximum securityunit because of his beliefs. He claimed $10 million compensation for mental and physicalanguish, and punitive damages.In the case, Indreland represented himself and the interests of Satan. The courts have beenwary about cases featuring a superhuman force. In an old Canadian criminal case a MrFinnerty from Ottawa, having dismissed several lawyers stood alone in court. “Who is yourcounsel today, Mr Finnerty?” asked the judge. “Yer Honour, God is me counsel” came thereply. The judge then turned to the lawyer for prosecution and said “Well, Mr Hambling, that’spretty tough competition. Would you like an adjournment so that you may consider retainingoutside counsel?”In the case of Indreland and Satan, Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby dismissed the claim thatthe satanic medallion had been confiscated for religious reasons, ruling that the authoritieswere justified in removing it as the chain was too thick and could be used to choke someone.The claim that he’d been placed in maximum security for religious reasons was dismissed ashe had in fact been put there for fighting. His claim about the tormenting Christian cards wasdismissed for lack of proof. On the only remaining allegation – the denial of satanic literature –the judge ordered the two sides to come to a settlement. That has just happened. Indrelandsettled his $10 million claim for $50 and a promise by the authorities that they would reviewthe way they inform inmates when literature that might promote violence is withheld. He isnow serving a three year sentence.Satan has been involved in earlier cases. In 1971, Gerald Mayo sued “Satan and His Staff”for violating his constitutional rights. His writ alleged that Satan had on numerous occasionscaused him misery, placed “deliberate obstacles” in his path, and thus “caused plaintiff’sdownfall”. The US District Court in Pennsylvania dismissed the action for various reasonsincluding that there was no evidence of Satan residing at an address within the jurisdiction ofPennsylvania.Gary Slapper is Professor of Law at The Open University. His new book Weird Cases ispublished by Wildy, Simmonds & HillThese articles were published by The Times Online as part of the weekly column written byGary Slapper