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What Should Lawyers Do about Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches?

By Heather Kennedy-Bordeaux, Esq. | Last updated on

With all the sangria red, canary yellow, and marmalade orange-colored leaves falling onto a world pining for Halloween, the time is now to turn off your inner scaredy-cat and ask yourself a pointed question. Will you be prepared to represent the next vampire who stakes out your office, the werewolf clawing its way into your courtroom, or the witch in need of a lawyer for a spell?

Before you answer in the affirmative and give yourself a full-size candy bar, you might want to consider that other trick-or-treaters have boldly gone before you. Consider the gauntlet they must have walked for these bite-sized treats.

What Happens When a Judge in My Case Points Out My Client Is a Vampire?

Such was the question in the case of U.S. v. Lawrence.

A Kentucky jury found Allen Lawrence, Jr., guilty of felony drug and firearm charges in 2000. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded for resentencing. At the resentencing hearing, the judge said that Lawrence had been “a practicing vampire since the age of 13.” Neither the defendant nor his counsel objected at any time prior to the conclusion of the hearing.

Lawrence, despite receiving a significantly reduced sentence after the hearing, appealed, claiming that the comment indicated a bias for which the judge should have removed himself from the case.

Holding that the appeal had no merit, the Sixth Circuit noted that there “is absolutely no support for the suggestion that the district court's fact-based, and whimsical, observations concerning Lawrence's vampirism cast any substantial doubt on the fairness or the integrity of the proceedings on appeal.” 

No doubt this decision will be gravely important in the history of American jurisprudence. Dig into the topic further by asking yourself:

Can I Compare the Defendant to a 'Vampire' in Closing Arguments?

In the Colorado case of U.S. v. Thompson, defendant Jessica Caruthers brought an appeal based, in part, on the denial of a motion for a mistrial. Caruthers was one of multiple defendants charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and conspiracy.

On the 10th day of trial, defense counsel made a motion for mistrial based on the government’s closing argument. Specifically, the attorney told the jury:

“You know, when I think in terms of what took place in here, I think about something I read once. And it went something like this: When a murderer strikes a blow, the person dies one time; but drug dealers, they're like vampires. They bite their victims, who create others like them, who create others like them, down the generations, across the land, leaving not even the unborn untouched.

What you have here are vampires.”

On appeal, defendant Jessica Caruthers alleged error based in part on the court’s failure to grant a mistrial after the closing. While the court agreed that the comment was improper, it also held that the comment did not make the jury turn against her because the judge instructed the jury to base the verdict on the evidence, and the comment referred to the conspiracy charge – a charge for which the jury did not convict.

Can an Expert Testify About Whether a Werewolf Has the State of Mind Required To Commit a Crime?

The Lawrence and Thompson cases are but two drops in the bloody bucket of cases involving vampires. And it seems the vampire’s sworn enemy – the werewolf – sometimes tangles with the law as well. Below are a couple to reference if you ever end up with a werewolf as a client.

The case of People v. Andrews out of California is illustrative. A jury convicted Mark Alan Andrews of first-degree murder in a bifurcated trial (a trial with two stages, such as determining guilt in one phase and mental state and sentencing in the second phase). One issue at the trial was whether Andrews was sane at the time of the murder. The jury found Andrews sane.

On appeal, Andrews argued, in part, that the trial court erroneously excluded a psychiatrist’s expert testimony on impulsivity during the guilt phase of the trial.

The offered testimony revealed that Andrews had schizophrenia. When he did not take his medication, Andrews sometimes believed he was a werewolf. At the time of the crime, Andrews believed that his victim was a vampire, who he killed on God's orders. Andrews’ delusion was potentially strong enough to preclude the presence of malice as required under the penal code.

The trial court permitted the psychiatrist to testify about Andrews' delusions, his belief that he was a werewolf, that his victim was a vampire, that God told him to kill her, and that his schizophrenia could lead to impulsive behavior. But an opinion as to whether Andrews had malice at the time of the murder was off limits.

Despite Mr. Andrews’ howling at the moon, the court upheld the limitations on the offered testimony as proper. Now that you are armed to the teeth about werewolves, perhaps you find yourself bogged down in the philosophical question:

Do Witches and Warlocks Have To Pay ad Valorem Taxes?

Consult the case of Roberts v. Ravenwood Church of Wicca out of the Supreme Court of Georgia, involving an ad valorem tax dispute (a tax based on the assessed value of an item, such as real estate or personal property between Fulton County tax authorities and Ravenwood, whose members are “witches” and “warlocks.” This legal cauldron stewed with the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The superior court entered final judgment in favor of Ravenwood, and the appeals court affirmed the judgment because the church participated in “religious worship.”  

Seems supernaturally straightforward, right? But, of course, nothing in the law is straightforward. At least, having considered the above questions, you will be better prepared to serve your clients, whether they are vampires, werewolves, or witches. So, award yourself that full-size candy bar, sip yourself a warm spicy cider, and have a Happy Halloween.

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