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Day 4 - Weird Case - The Importance of Being Earnest


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Day 4 - Weird Case - The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. 1. WEIRD CASESIn The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell says indignantly that “strangecoincidences are not supposed to occur”. Mindy Lynn Neugebauer, from Mangum,Oklahoma, might have thought the same thing recently when she was caught by police inpossession of drugs.Ms Neugebauer had texted an acquaintance with a message that said “if you want a hit of thisstuff before it’s all gone you better get over here”. What Ms Neugebauer didn’t realise wasthat when she sent the message she had not keyed in the number she’d intended so it did notgo to her acquaintance but to another man altogether. The random recipient happened to beChris Counts - an agent at District III Drug Task Force. You can imagine his reaction whenhe opened the text.Agent Counts texted back immediately to ask her for the address and she replied with theinformation. He then checked the sender’s phone registration and identified Ms Neugebauer.Officers turned up at her home and asked her about the text. She said it was just a referenceto some marijuana she had wrapped up in a cigar paper. However, she allowed the officers tosearch her home and under her mattress they found a plastic bag containing suspectedcocaine. She was issued with a felony warrant on charges of possession of a controlledsubstance and unlawful possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute. Her case willbe heard later this year.People accidentally bringing the police to their door, and paying a high-price for it, havetriggered some unusual cases. Ranking high in the league of such odd convictions is the caseof Brian McGacken in Farmingdale, New Jersey. A neighbour who heard a woman screamingloudly inside McGacken’s house called the police. Officers arrived and McGacken opened thefront door dressed only in a bathrobe. Asked about the loud screaming he said it was hisgirlfriend expressing rapture during “loud sex”. The officers asked to see the girlfriend andshe came downstairs wearing only a towel and confirmed that she had indeed been enjoyingthe company of Mr McGracken.Then, when McGracken went upstairs to get his ID as requested, one of the officers followedhim up and “smelled the odour of raw marijuana”. They found 15 marijuana plants, severalbagged quantities of the drug, and distribution paraphernalia. The case, which went all theway to the appeal court, turned on whether the officers were allowed to enter the house underan “emergency aid” exception to the general rule which requires a search warrant. The stateargued the officers acted lawfully when, responding to the 911 call about the loud scream,they entered the house to check there was no-one else apart from the towelled girlfriend whomight have been in distress. The appeal court upheld McGracken’s conviction. The loud sexled to a long sentence: McGracken was given ten years.Gary Slapper is Professor of Law at The Open University. His new book Weird Cases ispublished by Wildy, Simmonds & Hill.These articles were published by The Times Online as part of the weekly column written byGary Slapper