Thursday, February 4, 2010

Headline from the Kentucky Post today: Man Sentenced For Giving Shrooms To Friend

The 135-word transmission is skimpy enough to just paste in below. I will not credit the reporter by citing her name, mainly because she failed to use serial commas before certain grammatical conjunctions, and that annoys me.

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — A western Kentucky man has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for supplying hallucinogenic mushrooms that led to the death of a Paducah teenager as he tried to enter the wrong house.

McCracken Circuit Judge Craig Clymer sentenced 20-year-old Taylor Thompson on Wednesday, saying the prison time was necessary to send a message that drinking and using drugs have serious consequences.

Thompson pleaded guilty in December to trafficking in a controlled substance, marijuana possession and having drug paraphernalia.

Taylor told police he brought mushrooms to a party in July 2009, ate some himself and gave some to other people.

One of those was 18-year-old Caleb Barnett, who later broke into a neighbor's home, thinking it was his own. The homeowner fatally shot him. Barnett died in surgery at Baptist West Hospital on July 30.

You read about that fateful night and get the sense this is the case of another Puritanical backwoods judge sticking it to kids who play with consciousness-expanding, non-addictive, non-synthetic substances. Judge Clymer wanted to “send a message” by shoving a 20-year-old kid into the correctional meat grinder, costing god-knows-what in tax dollars to process and house the guy in a state jail system that is already woefully overpopulated and underfunded (Foster et al., 2005; 2007).

Judge Clymer raises his gavel like a scolding mother—some termagant bitch who hasn’t been laid since her son was conceived, and who has always trembled with repressed wonder at the thought of doing something devilish, like smoking a doobie, but never let herself give it a try. “Now you go to your room young man, and you think about what you’ve done!” Down comes the hammer. Two-and-a-half years? The report says Taylor Thompson gave Caleb Barnett the shrooms. Someone had taught him to share his treats, Your Honor. And Jesus, isn’t it enough that Thompson’s friend was murdered at the hands of a stranger?

The judge’s sentence alone is enough to get my dander up. But it’s that penultimate sentence in the little article that evokes that familiar cinematic scratch of a record stylus across vinyl in my mind. “The homeowner fatally shot him.”

At this, I can’t help but think that Judge Clymer’s punishment is fully representative of a festering social sickness. This is not just ignorance and—pun intended—poor judgment on the part of an elected official. It’s inexcusable myopia and idiocy. Does it occur to anyone else that the gifting and the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms did not cause the death of an 18-year old partygoer that night? A goddamn bullet did. Maybe two or more bullets.

I am a person who has every intention of becoming a big fan of shooting firearms at things. I’m going to go spray some lead at a paper target as soon as they’ll allow me, in fact. (Which will be as soon as I walk into a firing range and slap $9 on the counter.) But the situation described above, and all its busted implications, is no less than fucking stupid.

I’d love to poll 100 people in Paducah, Kentucky who knew about this case and this trial, and run the results up against my hypothesis that less than 3% of them would even consider that the greater issue here is gun control, gun ownership, and the turned cheek to accepted, unprovoked violence based on some frontier mentality that we have failed to outgrow in what we call our great, progressive America.

I’m tired and there’s little more to say about this. Other than this news snippet practically closes with a punch line to a joke that is in no way funny. The joke is sitting on a judicial bench in McCracken County, and in the sensibilities of innumerable hearts and minds in the heartland. …Shit.


Foster, J. P., Garrett, B., Higgins, G. E., Jepsen, C., Rickettes, M., Troske, K., White, K., & Young, L. (2007). Kentucky jail management strategies: Final report. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation: Louisville, KY.

Foster, J. P., Young, L., Kennedy, S., Goodman, C., & Stutzenberger, A. (December 2005). Jail evaluation study. Kentucky Department of Corrections: Frankfort, KY.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more! Two things...where's the discussion regarding the issue of excessive force used by the homeowner?? Did this homeowner feel his life was being threatened by this teenager trippin out on shrooms?? I mean...I've "heard" that shrooms makes you happy and giggly...not mean & threatening. And second...the comment about the use of commas...totally up for debate...I thought there were real rules that existed regarding commas, but it seems that the rules differ from professor to professor as to how I am supposed to use commas...! So, I am just not going to use them anymore. I'm on strike from commas! ;)