Trick or treat or…conviction?

October 28, 2011

Criminal HalloweenHalloween is well-known for pumpkins, candy, and costumes.

But if the criminal cases in Westlaw’s database are any indication, it should also be notorious for bringing out stupidity in people.

Some people get so stupid about Halloween, in fact, that they may not even realize when the holiday actually is, such as the defendant in State v. Heard (636 N.W.2d 227).

In the early morning hours of May 29, 1999, the defendant James Heard decided to rob a Davenport, Iowa convenience store.

Apparently, Heard must have believed that late May day to be Halloween, since he said “Happy Halloween” when he entered the store.

Since it was Halloween to him, Heard decided he needed a costume to rob the store, with such consisting of a paper bag over his head with eye-hole cutouts, large safety glasses, and white athletic socks over his hands.

Despite his illustrious costume, Heard was picked up by the police, and identified by the store clerk whom he robbed.

Even if they are able to get the date right, the stupidity doesn’t end there.

Some think Halloween is the perfect night to commit a crime because you’ll be completely unidentifiable with a costume on.

Unfortunately, like the defendant in State v. Rauch (118 S.W.3d 263) learned, criminal investigators can rely on more than eyewitness testimony to discover a perpetrator’s identity.

In that case, Rauch, the boyfriend of a married woman, conspired with two other men to kill the woman’s other boyfriend because he was allegedly physically abusing her.

Despite the fact that the men were wearing costumes and committed the murder on Halloween, the police somehow were able to crack the case (apparently telling a lot of people about your plans doesn’t help your anonymity).

It seems, though, that quite a few people must think that committing crimes on Halloween with costumes is a good idea.

In Williams v. State (685 S.E.2d 282), defendant Williams was a crack dealer.

Williams was unhappy that the mother of BaKarry Bailey, a rival crack dealer, was unwilling to let anyone other than her son sell drugs out of the apartment complex where Bailey and his mother lived.

Williams and an accomplice decided to kill the competition, and did so on Halloween with costumes.

As an added twist, they were able to get Bailey to open the door to his apartment by their exclaiming “trick-or-treat,” after which they opened fire and killed him.

Although Williams and his accomplice were both wearing costumes, the police were, incredibly, still able to pin the murder on Williams.

The police were able to accomplish this feat of detective work because Williams later contacted one of Bailey’s neighbors and inquired into whether Williams was successful in his attempt to murder him.

Of course, some of the crime on Halloween is over something much more minor than drug territory: candy.

In re F.J.S. (241 S.W.3d 565) involves juveniles from rival gangs warring over (you guessed it) Halloween candy.

Our last case – State v. Carrick (2010 WL 5549046) – isn’t so much about Halloween stupidity as it is about refusing to give up.

On October 31, 2009, Jason Carrick hosted a Halloween party.

Shortly after midnight, sheriff’s deputies arrived after complaints of excessive noise, and issued Carrick a citation for disorderly conduct.

The trial court found him guilty and fined him $150.

The fact that Carrick was even willing to go to trial was tenacious enough, but Carrick actually appealed the ruling, claiming the statute was, among other things unconstitutionally vague.

He lost the appeal, and was stuck with the $150 fine.  We can only hope that his life will go on.

Naturally, Carrick could have avoided all of the trouble by just turning down the music on Halloween.

Then again, all of the above criminal cases could have been avoided if they had just turned down the stupid on Halloween.

In any case, here’s to your Halloween being fun, safe, and of course, stupidity-free.

For some “scary” Halloween laws, check out this post!