More Texas Justice: After 37 years in prison, Jerry Hartfield goes to court in April for a retrial of his 1977 conviction (and death sentence) for murder in Bay City, Texas. Actually, the 1977 conviction was overturned, but before Hartfield could demand his release (he is described in court documents as illiterate with an IQ of 51), the then-governor commuted the sentence to life in prison in 1983. It was only in 2006 that a fellow inmate persuaded Hartfield that the commutation was illusory — since there was, at that point, no “sentence” to commute. Hartfield’s lawyers call Texas’ treatment a blatant violation of his constitutional right to a “speedy” trial, but prosecutors suggest that it is Hartfield’s own fault that he has remained in prison the last 30 years.
— Congressional wisdom has prevented the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from using competitive bids to decide how much to pay for medical devices — and among the most steeply overpriced products are “vacuum erection systems” (“penis pumps”) that invigorate seniors’ lives. CMS pays an average of $360, while the Department of Veterans Affairs, which also buys the pumps but by competitive bid, pays about $185. In a January report, the Health and Human Services inspector general estimated the government could save $18 million a year (and beneficiaries another $4.5 million) if CMS could use competitive bidding.
— Frances Wadsworth-Jones’ jewelry design show (“Heaven Sent”) at the Museum of London runs until April, with centerpiece brooches that resemble bird droppings. Why, she was asked, would a woman want to wear jewelry suggesting that a pigeon soiled her lapel? “The stain is very intimate,” said the artist. It’s “something that you wouldn’t want, and you’re turning it into something beautiful.” Wadsworth-Jones’ pieces have sold for as much as the equivalent of $4,000.
Democracy in Action
Christopher Schaeffer likely became the first public officeholder in the U.S. sworn in as an openly declared “Pastafarian” — an adherent of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — when he took his seat on the Town Council of Pomfret, N.Y., in January. Schaeffer was wearing the traditional Pastafarian religious head covering (a colander).
Catherine Dajnowski, 40, was arrested in February in Boca Raton, Fla., after she had climbed into a shopping cart in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket and would not allow a Publix employee to return it to the store. Dajnowski called 911 three times from the cart, demanding that police come make the employee leave her alone.