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Trust Me, I'm an Expert: Shit Experts

Last month, after learning of the existence of testifying experts in fields such as "smell" and "lap dancing," I introduced a new series of posts called "Trust Me, I'm an Expert." Today I give you the latest addition to this lineup: the shit expert.

[Wait, did he go there, you are asking? Did Carton write the word shit without an asterisk where the "i" would be ("sh*t")? Oh yes I did, because that is exactly what the august and distinguished Court of Appeals of Iowa did 21 times in its opinion concerning shit experts released on Wednesday. So please direct all complaints to: Court of Appeals of Iowa, Iowa Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319. Or you could just try to deal with it.]

In short, in State of Iowa v. Landis, an inmate at the Iowa State Penitentiary named Steven Landis squirted a prison security guard in the face and chest "with a stream of brown liquid that smelled like human feces." Landis then started yelling, “I got you with shit.”

Landis was later charged with and convicted of assaulting Helmick with feces in violation of Iowa Code section 708.3B (2009) (inmate assault -- bodily fluids or secretions). He appealled the conviction on the grounds that "the State failed to prove the substance he sprayed on Helmick was feces." Specifically, Landis argued that the "lay opinions" offered at his trial "regarding the brown substance were insufficient to sustain a conviction and expert testimony was required."

So was a shit expert required here? The lower court said no, finding that "every human being has personal experience and observations of fecal material and I think that, as a result, every human being who is of competent mind can offer a lay opinion as to whether a substance is feces or not. ..." On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Iowa agreed:

Paraphrase of an old adage seems apropos under the circumstances: If it looks like feces, if it smells like feces, if it has the color and texture of feces, then it must be feces. No witness with a degree in scatology was required, nor was scientific testing required to establish the fact the substance was feces. Thus, Landis's conviction for assault on a correctional officer with a bodily fluid was supported by sufficient evidence.

So scratch "testifying shit expert" off of your list of potential jobs. In Iowa, at least, that job simply does not exist.

Posted by Bruce Carton on July 15, 2011 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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