Monday, February 19, 2007

Great Moments In Jurisprudence

While doing a little light reading on cannibalism this morning, I came across this gem from the trial of Alferd Packer, an old prospector in Colorado who led some companions into the San Juan Mountains in 1873 and came back some weeks later, alone and suspiciously fat. He claimed that his pals left him in the wilderness, and he had just barely survived his ordeal back home. Apparently, his fatness aroused suspicion, and the discovery that he had a large collection of his companions' worldly goods in his possession didn't help his cause either.
He was convicted of murder, later reduced to manslaughter, and sent for seventeen years hard labor. At his sentencing, outraged judge Melville Geery uttered one of my favorite sentencing lines ever:

"Packer, there were only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate five of them, you depraved Republican son of a bitch!"

Looking around on-line, I found that this may be apocryphal. But still, I prefer history to be on the side of a guy with a good one-liner, so I'm accepting it in my heart as if it happened that way.

A claim is made that Packer and Albert Fish, an extremely kinky old codger in the late 20s , were the only two people in the US ever imprisoned for cannibalism, but I doubt that. Off the top of my head, I can name Jeff Dahmer and Ed Gein. The Russians approached it differently. Take Andrei Chikatilo, the Monster of The Don. Chikatilo actually wasn't sentenced to prison, he was given a 9 mm intervention a few months following his trial.

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