Law School legal humor on the record

OTR: Russian Roulette & Bottle Abuse

Criminal law was oddly amusing today. It might be the winds…

Bottle abuse?
Jill: “Does it matter that he1 was trying to abuse his wife?”
Prof R: “How do you know he was trying to abuse his wife?”
Jill: “Well he threw a beer glass at her!”
The Social Policy of Russian Roulette…
Jack: “There may be a social policy that if you’re dumb enough to play Russian Roulette then you get to have your brains blown out.”
Prof R: “It’s sometimes called the Darwin effect.”

Professor R then showed us a powerpoint slide of Russian Roulette and apologized that he couldn’t make the graphic spin.


1 Mayes v. People, 106 Ill. 306 (Ill. 1883)

There are the facts of Mayes v. People:

They are, briefly, these: The deceased was the wife of plaintiff in error, and came to her death by burning, resulting from plaintiff in error throwing a beer glass against a lighted oil lamp which she was carrying, and thereby breaking the lamp and scattering the burning oil over her person.

Plaintiff in error came into the room where his wife, his mother-in-law and his young daughter were seated around a table engaged in domestic labors, about nine o’clock at night.

He had been at a saloon near by, and was, to some extent, intoxicated,– not, however, to the degree of unconsciousness, for he testifies to a consciousness and recollection of all that occurred.

When he sat down, the deceased, noticing that one side of his face was dirty, asked him if he had fallen down. He replied that it was none of her business. She then directed the daughter to procure water for him with which to wash his face, which being done, he washed his face, and he then directed the daughter to procure him a clean beer glass, which she did.

He had brought some beer with him from the saloon, and he then proceeded to fill the glass with the beer and handed it to the deceased. She took a sup of it, and then offered it to her mother, who declined tasting it. The deceased then brought plaintiff in error his supper, but he declined eating it, and was about to throw a loaf of bread at the deceased when she took it from his hands and returned it to the cupboard.

After this, having sat quietly for a few minutes, he asked for arsenic. No reply was made to this request, and thereupon he commenced cursing, and concluded by saying that he would either kill deceased or she should kill him. He wanted a fire made, but deceased told him it was bed time and they did not need any fire.

He then picked up a tin quart measure and threw it at the daughter. Thereupon deceased started, with an oil lamp in her hand, toward a bed-room door, directing the daughter to go to bed, and as the deceased and daughter were advancing toward the bed-room door, he picked up the beer glass, which is described as being a large beer glass, with a handle on one side, and threw it with violence at the deceased.

It struck the lamp in her hand and broke it, scattering the burning oil over her person and igniting her clothes. Plaintiff in error made no effort to extinguish the flames, but seems to have caught hold of the deceased, temporarily, by her arms. This occurred on Monday night, and on Saturday of that week she died of the wounds caused by this burning.

The plaintiff in error claims that he was only intending to pitch the beer glass out of doors–that he did not design hitting the deceased, and that the striking of the lamp was therefore purely an accident.

In this he is positively contradicted by his daughter and mother-in-law, the only witnesses of the tragedy besides himself. He says, to give plausibility to his story, that the door leading into the yard was open, and that deceased and daughter had to pass between him and that door in going to the bed-room, and that deceased was near the edge of the door and moving across the door when he pitched the glass.

They both say this door was closed, and that he threw the glass. The language of his mother-in-law, in regard to the throwing, is: “He threw at her with vengeance a heavy tumbler;” and his daughter’s language is: “He picked up a tumbler and threw it with such force that it struck the lamp.” We can not say the jury erred in believing the mother-in-law and daughter, and disbelieving plaintiff in error.

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  • gudnuff
    February 26, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Really wondering what the prof’s response to this was…

  • Asian Grocers
    February 28, 2009 at 12:35 am

    I thought it was funnier when he said that the defendant could be objectively construed as being nice to his family and wife because he ‘offered her his beer.’ I didn’t know that shoving a beer glass into someone’s face and forcing them to drink it was ever considered ‘nice’! Oh Professor Crim…

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