The Richmond Register

April 20, 2013

The case of the cheesy evidence

You be the judge

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

BEREA — When Otto opened his delicatessen one morning, he found his hot dogs in a state of frenzy. A burglar had ransacked his store during the night, and in addition to emptying his safe, the burglar took a big bite out of one of Otto’s most expensive cheeses leaving behind a clear impression of his teeth.

Several days later, “Mouse” was picked up by the police on suspicion that he was the culprit who had burglarized Otto’s delicatessen.

During the course of his being questioned by the police, one of the detectives offered “Mouse” a cup of coffee and a piece of cheese to eat.

Not one to turn down a piece of cheese, after taking only one hefty bite, however, the remaining piece of cheese was snatched out of “Mouse’s” hands and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

When the report came back, it clearly revealed that the impression left by “Mouse’s” teeth was identical to the marks left by Otto’s burglar.

Charged with the crime of burglary, “Mouse” was indignant.

“I’ve been lumbered!” he insisted in court. “I should have been warned that my biting into the cheese could be used as evidence against me. Since I wasn’t warned, the evidence was illegally obtained and cannot be use to convict me.”

IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you permit the cheesy evidence to be used against “Mouse” as having been obtained unconstitutionally?

This is how the judge ruled: NO! The judge held that “Mouse’s” bite into the cheese was basically no different than taking a person’s fingerprints or footprints which violates no Constitutional right.

(Based upon a 1954 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Decision)

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.