Our justice system allows for a lot of great things. It can ensure that a crooked CEO gets his comeuppance. It can ensure that everyone (mostly) gets the same treatment when charged with a crime.
It also permits morons to sue cats. That's less inspiring.
Sometimes journalists who originally reported some of the stories we discuss unintentionally write funnier descriptions then we could ever hope to write. This is particularly true when it comes to an archived New York Times story from November 29, 1877, regarding an altercation between a woman named Mary, a monkey named Jimmy and their ensuing court case.
Bottle-Alley, a place the New York Times described as an area where "personal misunderstandings" between "Italian noblemen" are "settled" with "their favorite weapon, the stiletto," was home to a street minstrel named Cassio Dillio, an organ grinder with a "large specimen of the monkey tribe" named Jimmy by his side. One day, as Cassio grinded his crank and Jimmy danced a jig, a "Robust daughter of the Emerald isle," Mary Shea, decided to give little Jimmy a piece of candy as a token of appreciation. Once Jimmy began to chow-down on some sweet nectar, Mary tried to have a little fun with him by snatching the candy from Jimmy's mouth. Jimmy "thereupon assumed a decidedly aggressive attitude" and bit Mary's finger. Cassio and Jimmy were arrested and to court the case went.
Upon hearing the case the judge stated, "If Mr. Darwin were prosecutor in this case, he might succeed in convincing me that the statues authorize the holding of criminal monkeys, but I do not think I can legally commit him." Miss Shea protested, but to no avail. Jimmy removed his velvet hat, climbed atop the judge's desk and attempted to shake his hand. And, although we couldn't find an official document to back this up, it is reported that the official police blotter for the case read: "Name: Jimmy Dillio; Occupation: Monkey; Disposition: Discharged."
If history has taught us anything it's that there is a reason for that whole separation of church and state thing. If you give the church too much power of attorney they can go ape shit and sue bed posts for toe stubbings or--somehow more realistically--leeches for infesting a Swiss pond.
In 1451, some leeches were in a pond near Lausanne, Switzerland. Some guy thought there were too many leeches in this pond. The local Bishop took the pond leeches to court on the count of there being too many leeches in the pond. No, this is not a list about the five most awesome things you can do after massive cerebral hemorrhaging.
When it comes to most Ecclesiastical court cases against animals (and there are quite a few) it isn't usually customary for the offending animals to be present for the silly proceedings. Yet, the Bishop was instructed to bring the slimy creatures in to the local magistracy so that they can hear the notice they were being served.
"Will the defendant, uh... stop doing that?"
The leeches were gathered in a pile before the court and were told they had three days to leave the area. We can only hope that after said ruling was announced, the leeches simply slithered stupidly in place in fierce defiance of the law like a bunch of invertebrate James Deans, effectively enraging the court. In truth, the leeches did not respond, nor comply with the court's demand because leeches, from any region of the world, always and only speak leech. We're not even sure if they have ears.
"You're tearing me apart!"
The initial threat in the case of God v. Leeches, for some reason, didn't work. The court responded in kind by taking another course of logical legal action: they performed an exorcism on the leeches. Apparently, this worked. Granted, the leeches didn't pack their shit and proclaim "Fuck Switzerland!" as much as they just kind of died, or, as we're sure the Ecclesiastical court probably likes to remember it, "exorcised until complete and utter fucking annihilation."
While some embrace bestiality enough to splatter it across a seemingly endless array of hardcore porn sites, others, like 1700s New England Puritan minister Cotton Mather, took a far more rational stance as he stood atop a metaphorical mountain and boldly declared, "THAT SHIT IS FUCKING GROSS!!"
Mather: Hard on sin, harder on animals. In a completely nonsexual way.
It was in a 1662 New Haven, Connecticut that Mather came across one Mr. Potter. Potter was a frisky 60-year-old whose wife's vagina was not feral enough for his tastes seeing as he had been sodomizing animals since the tender age of 10. This, of course, is why video games are a good thing to have around your kids.
Guess who never misses an opportunity to use this pic? Fucking Cracked, that's who.
Potter's wife was in no way oblivious to Potter's buggery, as Mather accounts, "His wife had seen him confound himself with a bitch ten years before; and then he excused his filthiness as well as he could unto her, but conjured her to keep it secret." Mather continues his account with what we think is one of the greatest sentences ever written: "He afterward hanged that bitch himself and then returned unto his former villainies, until at last his son saw him hideously conversing with a sow." The hung bitch in question is the animal, not his wife.
Once word of Potter's animal sexing got around, he and his bestial sex buddies were picked up by the authorities. There is no account of the legal proceedings that took place, so we'll just assume the court case began and ended like this: "Mr. Potter, you are being charged with the heinous anal defilement of a formally reputable lot of stock. We, the court, find you guilty on the grounds of I just vomited in my mouth a little. Court is adjourned."
For his many sexual escapades, Potter was sent to the gallows and, in a rather horrible twist on the idea of victimizing the victim, so were his animal booty calls.
Did you know that Americans aren't the only ones into bestiality? Apparently, the French do it too. Jacques Ferron was one such Frenchmen as he was caught giving a she-ass (or as Cotton Mather may have put it, a "bitch-ass") the business end of his penis in Vanvres, France, in 1750. Once the due process of law kicked in to high-gear he was found guilty of donkey-banging and was sentenced to hang.
If, like us, you are desensitized to life's more debauched moments then this story probably isn't very captivating to you. But, here's the twist.
French animal law stated that when a human and a non-human creature copulate, both must be hung by the neck until dead--regardless of the fact that the animal was just standing there practically begging to be plowed. But the people of Vanvres found this law appalling and banded together to do something about it. All of the citizens, including a local priest, collectively signed a petition on behalf of the bitch-ass stating that they had known the "she-ass for four years, and that she had always shown herself to be virtuous and well-behaved both at home and abroad and had never given occasion of scandal to anyone" therefore, "they are willing to bear witness that she is in word and deed and in all habits of life a most honest creature." As a result, the donkey was acquitted of all charges.
Now, if that isn't forward thinking, we don't know what is. Granted, Ferron was still hung, but forward thinking none-the-less. There is hope for us after all.
If a chicken were to lay a yolkless egg today, the shell would probably end up in some kitschy roadside museum beside the largest ball of pubes south of the Appalachians. But in 1474 Switzerland, it was a national crisis that demanded immediate attention lest the world be engulfed by the fiery rage of Satan.
Image courtesy Liz Carlson
Shortly after a cock from Basel laid a yolkless egg, legal proceedings were put in to motion that would charge the cock "for the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg" that if hatched could yield a basilisk. In line with the law of the time, the cock was appointed an attorney. They pled not guilty.
The prosecutor argued that such eggs were much sought after by those in league with Satan due to how well they mixed with other magic potion ingredients such as "eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog." Also stating that one of magical persuasion would much rather prefer a yolkless egg laid by a demon cock over a philosopher's stone, and that Satan would employ such witches to create such eggs for the sole purpose of causing injury to those of the Christian faith. The cock's lawyer, like most modern court appointed attorneys, proved himself utterly useless by pretty much agreeing to everything stated by the prosecutor. His argument, though, was that laying an egg was an involuntary act. Therefore, if the cock was possessed by Satan and did lay an evil egg, it was through no fault of his own. None of the law books of the time contained a record of Satan making such a compact with one of brute creation; he felt good about his case. So, what does a prosecutor do if such a case has never been recorded within a book of law? Reference the other book of law, the Bible.
He argued that although the Devil did not make compacts with those of brute creation, he did sometimes possess them, as stated in Matthew 8:28-34. It was at this point where the cock's attorney essentially threw his arms in to the air proclaiming, "Aw, fuck!" knowing the case was lost. And it was. The cock was convicted and burned at the stake... along with his egg.
In 1519, the small northern Italy commune of Stelvio found their crops trashed and torn asunder. Their culprits were none other than a roving gang of dastardly moles (or field mice, depending on your translation from Old German). Rather than taking the shorter, more logical route of just getting rid of them, they brought them before the court "in order that the said mice may be able to show cause for their conduct by pleading their exigencies and distress." The moles were appointed a defense lawyer named Hans Grinebner "to end that they may have nothing to complain of in these proceedings." In other words, these fucking people thought these moles were going to talk. As in vocalize.
The prosecutor, Shwarts Mining, brought many of the townsfolk to the stand as witnesses to the destruction, professing that it made it difficult to pay their rents. The defense argued back with a simple "Circle of Life" argument, stating that had it not been for the moles the town would be plagued by various insects and larva. He demanded that if the moles are to be sentenced to depart that they be sent to a designated area for protection from "dog, cat, or other foe."
The judge ruled that the moles be banished to a new area immediately with an extra 14 day respite "granted to all those which are with young, and to such as are yet in their infancy." If they weren't out by the end of the 14 days, pregnant or not, they were excommunicated and damned. That's it. No mole murder. Just a stern "Get the fuck out."
Similarly, in 1734, a group of Franciscan friars in Brazil took termites to court for eating away the walls of their hallowed monastery. The big difference here was the termites' lawyer who took it upon himself to tear some ass by telling the friars they were lesser beings than the bugs for having encroached on their lands, then having the balls to kick them out. The termites would have won the case if it weren't for the monks deciding to compromise instead. Their compromise? Strangely, the same as the moles: excommunicated to another land. The sentence was read aloud to a termite hill.
It was 1981 in Augusta, Georgia when resident Carl Miles took to the streets to show off his incredible cat, Blackie. Unlike some other animals on this list that inept humans expected to speak, Blackie actually could. Carl and his wife Elaine made a pretty good living off of Blackie and her two catchphrases, "I love you" and "I want my momma," by accepting cash on street corners and making television and radio appearances. They made such a good living, in fact, that the state informed them that they needed to file for a business license in order to continue pimping their horrifically meowing cat or face jail time. The Mileses eventually caved, but not before they took the case to court in an effort to challenge the constitutional validity of the Augusta city ordinance as they believed it infringed on Blackie's freedom of speech.
As a footnote in the district court opinion, the judge recounted a very special day in which he witnessed Blackie speaking first hand on the Mileses usual street corner.
"Knowing the matter to be in litigation, and suspecting that the cat was Blackie, I thought twice before stopping."
"I asked him if his cat could talk... if I would pull over on the side street he would show me. I did, and he did... Blackie said 'I love you' and 'I want my Mama.'"
"... requested a donation which was provided. I felt that my dollar was well spent."
The judge ends his rather long footnote by stating, "I do not know if the man whom I saw with the cat was the plaintiff Mr. Miles." Which is reasonable seeing as Augusta is the land where talking cats from all over the country go to get their big break in to the glamorous world of nothing.
But even with the judge going fanboy over Blackie it couldn't stop the law from using simple logic to settle the matter.
"... he cannot be considered a "person" and is therefore not protected by the Bill of Rights."
And it all ended with one of the more spectacular "Oh, Snap!" moments in legal history as the court stated that even if Blackie had the right to free speech, he wouldn't need his owners to speak for him seeing as "Blackie can clearly speak for himself."
And here, at the :27 second mark, you too can experience Blackie's hellish and terrifyingly adorable words...
For more retarded stories from the courtroom, check out 7 (Stupid) People Who Sued the Scientific Method. Or find out about some animals that should be taken to court, in 7 Species That Get High More Than We Do.
Or visit Cracked.com's Top Picks to see how we sued the Internet... and won.