“Some Rumors Should Rest Untested”

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Here's an opinion by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that is unpublished, but should not go unread.  Below are the first two sentences of the court's opinion – I have reversed the order for slightly greater comedic effect:

Four teenage girls aimlessly driving in Windom[, Minnesota,] ten days before Halloween recalled rumors about a "scary house" that, "if you honked your horn at the property," the crazy owner "would come out and shoot at you."

Some rumors should rest untested.

Arguably, that rumor was not quite true, because nothing happened when the girls drove by the house.  But then "one of the girls remembered that the specific rumor was that 'if you came back around the second time, they would shoot at you.'"

Some rumors should rest untested twice.

No one was injured, even though the gunshot panicked the driver, who promptly drove into a ditch.  Police in fact found a bullet lodged in the door of the car, but the owner of the scary house, Gary Weidner, denied having anything to do with it.  He did admit to police, though, that it was "possible" the bullet would match one of the 20 guns he owned.  But if his theory of the case was that someone shot a bullet from one of his guns, retrieved it, and then later threw it at the car, he was unable to prove that.

It also did not help that a "short parade of witnesses" testified to other incidents showing that Weidner generally engaged in an "armed, terroristic, property-patrolling pattern of intimidation."  The main legal issue in the case was whether these were sufficiently similar to be admissible, and the court held that most of them were.

Also, of course, there was the testimony of the young ladies.  The court credited the testimony of one of them in particular, who said she had heard the bullet hit the car as they drove by the house.  When the court said she "had a rather unique perspective about the sound of the bullet hitting the car," I thought this would be because she had been sitting nearest to the door that was hit.  But there was more to it:  "She explained that she could identify that sound because she remembered hearing the same sound when she accidentally shot her father's truck."

The court affirmed Weidner's conviction.

Link: Minnesota v. Weidner, No. A08-1707 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2009) (unpublished).