Obiter Dicta

Frigid Fracas


As he had done on previous occasions, Parker, 51, was attempting to purchase a cup of ice from the Deca­tur, Ala., store, in addition to a bottle of a popular soft drink. A sign had been posted advertising a cup of ice for 25 cents, but apparently it didn’t specify the size of the cup.

When Parker stood at the checkout counter holding a large cup of ice and the soft drink bottle, the total came to more than $4. That made the cost of the ice more than $2.50. Hesitant to complete the transaction, Parker exchanged words with the clerk, and before long the two had something of a brouhaha going.

A police officer intervened in the argument and ordered Parker to pay for the ice. When he refused, Parker was arrested and charged with theft of property. While he was in jail, a charge of disorderly conduct was added—and his car was towed.

Parker spent much of the next 18 months becoming familiar with the legal system. He got a chilly reception in Deca­tur Muni­cipal Court in 2003, where he was found guilty, but he appealed and won an acquittal in March when the case was heard by a jury.

That cup of ice generated a legal bill of roughly $4,500—not to mention the $100 Parker laid out to retrieve his towed car—and it looks like he is still on the meter. Parker says he is planning to initiate legal action against the city of Decatur in an effort to recover his legal expenses. He has also filed a complaint with the city, alleging false arrest by the Decatur Police Depart­ment.

Department spokesman John Brad­ford had no comment other than to say he expects a civil lawsuit as a result of Parker’s arrest.

KEY MISTAKES?

While Demonstrating Arrest Techniques, Equipment Malfunction Puts Sheriff in a Bind

Larry Donner was slapping the cuffs on teenagers left and right in May 2002, and as a sheriff, it might even have been a dream come true. But alas, this was only a demonstration in a Burwell, Neb., high school classroom, and the hardware had to come off as soon as it was put on.

It didn’t work that way for Burwell High student Seth Bar­rett, however. Donner, the Garfield County sheriff, tried to remove a stubborn cuff from Bar­rett’s wrist, but had to give up when the key broke off in the lock.

Hmm, what to do?

According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in March by the boy’s parents, Donner took the boy to a welding shop where the cuffs were removed. But despite precautions taken, Bar­rett suffered third-degree burns that later required surgery.

Donner, the lawsuit says, then took the boy to a medical clinic and authorized treatment and medication without permission from his parents.

Barrett family attorney Maren Cha­loupka says Donner, the school district, the county and the welding shop are named as defendants in the suit, which alleges negligence and civil rights violations.

“[Seth] was denied the right to have his parents make decisions for him,” Cha-loupka says, “as opposed to the government.”

Chaloupka says the welding device carried a sticker warning of burns.

The attorneys for the school and county both declined to comment.

Sidebar

Stories by The Decatur Daily and Omaha World-Herald; research by Wendell LaGrand

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