018: If I’m Innocent, Someone Else Must be Guilty!

Stella Case No. 018, Originally Published: 13 November 2002

Jodi Lynn Henry, 38, admitted she put prescription tranquilizers in her children’s ice cream. The Phoenix, Ariz., woman told police that she thought if she drugged herself and her two daughters, they would wake up in paradise.

Henry figured this was what she’d get by drugging herself and her kids. Instead, she got attempted murder charges.

Luckily, they all survived, and Henry was charged with attempted murder. She was, however, found not guilty. Not guilty? Then obviously someone else must be to blame for the attempted forced overdose of her and her children!

Henry sued the Jewish Family Services, a nurse practitioner, and her mental-health care provider for malpractice. While the suit doesn’t say how she may have been harmed by the alleged malpractice, the “medical complications” resulting from her treatment somehow caused a drug-induced delirium, and that is what is responsible for her drugging her own children. The suit seeks unspecified damages to compensate her for what she did with her own hands.

She’d have to be crazy to think she’d win.

Source

  • “Mom Who Drugged Kids’ Ice Cream Sues,” Arizona Republic, 30 October 2002.

Case Status

I didn’t find any mention of Henry in relation to the suit, so I have to assume it failed.

Letters

The next newsletter was flooded with letters about the previous case (the inFamous Flamingos).

John in Michigan: “Murello is being more of a jerk than the flamingo-happy Scheks, I’d say. They were there first; he decided to buy the property next door. (You noted how big his property was, but not, say, how far apart the two houses are; I admit to being curious about that. [Me too, but the source story didn’t say. -rc]) Seems to me like Murello made the first impositions. The Scheks clearly weren’t happy with Murello’s building plan, and clearly these people couldn’t come to an agreement about it, since they took Murello to court. When neighbors have a dispute, they get to argue about it. If the Scheks aren’t violating any zoning code, then the courts have no right to stop them.”

Ken in Michigan: “The Stella award definitely belongs to the Scheks and their lawyers. It’s blatantly obvious that the First Amendment is being ‘used’ as a tool here, not as the ‘right’ it was intended to be. It’s sad that this idea, one of many that makes America unique, can be reduced to this type of status. It’s just plain harassment. Since when is ‘art’ specifically to slow traffic? Please.”

Kim in Michigan (my, aren’t the Michiganders coming out in force on this issue!): “While I agree that the flamingos and decorations may be tasteless, I really wonder about the person [Murello] who would build a house valued at $1.35 million on a piece of property dependant on an easement. We have purchased much smaller pieces of property, considered the easements, and they are not usually a real positive way to access your property. Usually you want to own your own access to the road. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I believe with an easement you are, to some degree, at the mercy of what the property owner does with that easement property. Perhaps it should be shame on him if he pushed for an easement and expected control over what happens on and near it. And shame on him for expecting people not to be at least a little unhappy with enough construction people and equipment to build a $1.35M house driving up and down their driveway.”

Dawn in Oregon: “I would say that [Murello] suing for 8 million dollars over a property only marketed at 1.35 million is the frivolous part. If their property is kept up, I don’t see how a judge could stop them from decorating in whatever manner appeals to them.”

Ken in Connecticut: “The Stella goes to the original litigant (the Scheks) who tried to stop the neighbors from building on their own land. Common law addresses the Murellos’ problem. If the Scheks had a hideously decorated yard before the Murellos bought their property, then Murello would have no complaint under common law. But since the Shecks began their decorating binge after Murello bought then they can be held liable for damaging the value of Murello’s property.”

I don’t know, Ken; you’re proposing that it’s an actionable offense to redecorate?

Bruce in Ohio: “The greatness of your publications is from the fact that you make fun of everyone who deserves it. I say the more Stellas you can give in one case, the better the story.”

Our panel of six jurors from the Court of Public Opinion votes this way: three held for the Scheks, two for Murello, and one voted against both of them. And that lopsided result is despite the original report noting that in the first hearing, the judge sided with Murello! So you see why this stuff isn’t easy, eh?

Meanwhile, a lawyer remembers a similar case he worked on:

Stephen in Colorado: “I’ve dealt with a number of neighbor disputes over the years, but the Schek/Murello case reminded me of one in particular I represented a rancher whose property was encumbered by an easement. Like the Schek/Murello case, the easement permitted the neighbor to use my client’s driveway to access his property. My client kept cattle on his property, and the cattle would loiter on the driveway periodically. The neighbor didn’t like this because his kids had to use the driveway to get to the bus stop, and he didn’t like the fact that his guests might have to shoo away cattle when they came to visit. So the neighbor, who is a pilot, sued (even though he bought his lot knowing full well that my client used his property as a ranch).

The pilot wanted the court to order my client to fence off the driveway (thus reducing the total area where the cattle could graze). The court denied the pilot’s request and ruled in my client’s favor. The court also ruled, however, that my client could not keep a gate across the entrance of the driveway, as that would interfere with the pilot’s use of the easement. As a result, my client was forced to tear down his gate and replace it with an expensive cattle guard. A few weeks later, my client called to ask me if he could put a sign up over the entrance. I advised him that he could, if the sign was acceptable to the local code authorities and if it did not interfere with the pilot’s use of the easement. The last I heard, my client had renamed his ranch and erected a giant welcome sign that read: ‘The Drunken Pilot Ranch’.”

There’s always a loophole!

My 2020 Thoughts on the Case

Whether rooted in religion or mental illness, this is a truly pathetic case. Let’s hope Henry got it together, and that she and her children are doing well.

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3 Comments on “018: If I’m Innocent, Someone Else Must be Guilty!

  1. How in hell was she found not guilty in the first place?

    Hell you say? But I don’t know: it’s a very good question that isn’t answered in my source materials. -rc

    Reply
  2. Maybe the issue hinges on the difference between finding someone is “innocent” of a crime as contrasted with finding them “not guilty”. They ARE very different holdings, you know!

    In the first situation, the decision is that you did not commit the crime; in the other the jury finds that there is not enough evidence to make a decision. In the US the decision is usually “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”.

    Reply
    • “Guilty” and “Not Guilty” are, as far as I know, the *only* things a jury can find a defendant in the United States. There is no “Innocent” ruling separate from “Not Guilty” — the burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution making a case for guilt and the defense only has to prove that the prosecution did not meet that requirement. The defendant is supposed to be considered *innocent* under the law until proven guilty, not “not yet proven innocent”.

      Reply

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