Friday, December 11, 2009

Heavy Metal in Case Law

Well I just settled both of my trials set for next week, so I've been sitting here wondering what to do with myself now. I'm kind of a rare breed of lawyer, not to toot my own horn or anything. My fiancee's mom remarked to her once that if anyone saw me when I was not wearing a suit, they would never guess that I am a lawyer. That's very true. When I am not working, my style of dress includes jeans and a black band t-shirt (I have several, including Goatwhore, Suffocation, and others), occasionally some manner of jewelry (necklace, studded bracelet, etc.), and boots. I remember law school classmates of mine thinking I was a little odd, although there were a couple of others like me.

At any rate, there's not much funnier than the stereotype of stodgy judges and snooty lawyers discussing heavy metal. I happen to be a lawyer, but I'm not snooty. Arrogant, sure, snooty, no. FYI, you HAVE to be arrogant to be a lawyer. It's a fact of life. I began thinking of heavy metal in the courtroom, and since I have a nice, free search engine at my disposal, I ran a search for cases discussing heavy metal.

Here's what I have come up with:

Schoneboom v. B.B. King Blues Club, 2009 NY Slip Op 30419 (2009).
This is a personal injury case in which the Plaintiff was injured at a concert. It's mostly amusing because none of the bands mentioned at the concert were metal bands. Kill Your Idols and the Crumbsuckers (referred to here as Crumb Suckers) are NY-based hardcore acts. I quote this case mostly for the rather funny explanation of slam-dancing described in the Plaintiff's deposition as "[a]lot of people bouncing around, bouncing off each other. A Jot of people having a good time." But, uh-oh, some of the people were out of control. Shocker. The Plaintiff was kicked in the back of the knee and went down, bringing this action for breaching the duty of safety. The Complaint was dismissed as neither the Plaintiff, nor his friends complained about the maliciousness of the big, bad moshers to security. Thus, there can be no claim that the club breached its duty of keeping people safe there.

Wallace v. State, 956 A.2d 630 (DE 2008).
I won't get too far into this case as it is a murder case. The relevant portion is the information on the Defendant's arrest. He made a bunch of comments in the police car (never, ever, ever do that), in which he asked how much jail time he was facing (essentially an admission, duh), asked the officer about his bullet proof vest (was he going to shoot the guy?), and then asked the officer to find some heavy metal on the radio, specifically Slayer. Dumbass. Of all the music acts you want to let the arresting police officer know you listen to when you are arrested for murder, Slayer probably ranks approximately 1,942nd, somewhere lower than 50 Cent, but above Cannibal Corpse, thanks to subtle songs like "Dead Skin Mask" and "Criminally Insane".

People v. Williams, 148 P.3d 47 (CA 2006).
Hey kids, did you know that prosecutors will ask you questions about your heavy metal listening habits to link your activities to Satanism? No? Well, they do. Thankfully the court in this case didn't see any evidence of Satanism other than the Defendant listening to heavy metal. Oh, what a world we live in.

People v. Ramirez, 139 P.3d 64 (CA 2006).
Mr. Ramirez was found guilty of the Night Stalker murders and sentenced to death in 1989. I remember none of this. Ramirez was appointed a psychiatrist to determine his fitness to stand trial. No shit, when this is your statement prior to imposition of sentence:

"As for what is said of my life, there have been lies in the past and there will be lies in the future. I don't believe in the hypocritical moralistic dogma of this so-called society and need not look beyond this room to see all the liars, the haters, the killers, the crooks, the paranoid cowards, truly the trematodes of the earth, each one in his own legal profession. You maggots made me sick. Hypocrites one and all. We are all expendable for a cause, and no one knows that better than those who kill for policy, clandestinely or openly, as do the governments of the world which kill in the name of God and country and for whatever else they deem appropriate. I don't need to hear all of society's rationalizations. I've heard them all before and the fact remains that is what it is. You don't understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."

Someone has a big opinion of himself.

The Court saw fit to follow up by stating in a foot note to the words "Legions of the night", the following:

The phrase "legions of the night" had been used in "heavy metal" rock lyrics around that time. The song "Legions" by Savatage, released in 1987, calls on the "legions of the night" to "To do our deeds." ( [as of Aug. 7, 2006].) Similarly, the band Testament released in 1987 a song entitled "Alone in the Dark" that says that "Faustus prepares the legions of the night." ( [as of Aug. 7, 2006].)

I have no idea why the Court decided to offer that explanation. It boggles the mind. The mind is boggled. Boggled, is the mind.

State v. Bennett, 81 P.3d 1 (NV 2003)
Last one for today, and boy is it a doozy. The Defendant and another individual attempted to rob a convenience store. The Defendant shot and killed the clerk while the other guy shot, but did not kill, a customer. The Defendant's principal stated "heavy metal music seemed to lead Bennett in the wrong direction due to its hypnotic effect, that this music may have led him to drugs..." Granted, the principal was happy that Bennett was now turning his life around, but here we have the testimony of one person who clearly believes that the source of the problem was heavy metal music. Oh my god. The state, in an effort to color the Defendant as a possible devil-worshipper, offered several of his cassettes into evidence. We also have this sentence: "Also during the penalty hearing, the jury heard testimony that Bennett was led in the wrong direction by his fascination with heavy metal music and was influenced by Beeson as well as his other peers." Wow. I've said it before and I will say it again: heavy metal is entertainment. It takes an extremely weak-willed person to go out and murder someone because of heavy metal. The Defendant in this case is sick. That's all there is to it. He may have been fascinated with heavy metal, but heavy metal did not lead him astray. Look at me: I am a lawyer, I have no criminal record, yet I am a huge fan of heavy metal and listen to it everyday.

One last quote before I go. In The People v. Petznick, 114 Cal.App.4th 663, 7 Cal.Rptr.3d 726 (Cal.App. Dist.6 12/18/2003), we have this "Russell said he and defendant both liked heavy metal bands that played music with violent lyrics. Insane Clown Posse was such a band." {facepalm}.

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