Some cases just waste court's time

Friday, April 5, 2002

"It's a tragic waste of time and energy to try to justify the actions of this man"

If you found a person dead on your living room floor and failed to notify anyone, state law says that's abandoning a corpse and you're guilty of a crime. Or, according to Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff, "It's not intuitively obvious to me that leaving a dead body is a bad thing." Yep that's what Judge Wolff thinks. Remember that if he decides to run for office someday.

The Missouri Supreme Court is hearing a case this week from Jackson where James E. Bratina found his wife lying dead in his living room but instead of reporting the death, he went to work and left the body alone with his 3 year-old daughter. He returned later in the day and then notified police.

Bratina was charged with abandonment of a corpse and his case has now made its way to the high court.

The court in all of its infinite wisdom is trying to clarify the definition of "abandonment," including how long the body must remain before it can be declared as abandoned.

Now what irks me about this case is the utter stupidity of wasting a court's time with such actions. Bratina was clearly in the wrong for whatever reason. I suspect the fact that his wife died from mixing drugs and alcohol may have had something to do with his delay in reporting the death. But that aside, when you leave a dead body - much less alone with a young child - surely you are in violation of the law.

What argument could Bratina's attorney possibly make to justify these actions? Well the answer is clear. This case reminds me of Bill Clinton trying to fool the American public with his definition of the word "is." How absurd!

Bratina's attorney argues that the law is worded in such a vague manner as to make it confusing on what notification means. Well my God, any rational person of average intelligence would or should know that you notify someone immediately in the case of death. You most certainly don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that leaving a dead body around for any length of time is wrong on several fronts.

Maybe it's a function of the legal community to debate the merits of such cases. I, however, believe it's a tragic waste of time and energy to try to justify the actions of this man and his abandonment of a body. He should pay a price for his actions. Maybe a mental exam would be a good starting point.

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