When the enforcement of Florida’s law goes bad—the people of Florida pay.

“A Florida teen is facing adult felony charges after she caused a small explosion on school grounds in what her friends say was a science experiment gone bad.  Kiera Wilmot, 16, was accused of mixing household chemicals in a water bottle, causing the top to blow off and producing smoke, WTSP.com and TheLedger.com reported.  No one was hurt, and Bartow High School property was not damaged.  Wilmot was charged with possessing or discharging a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.  She was also expelled and will have to pursue her high school degree in an expulsion program.  Students told WTSP.com that the incident was due to a science experiment that went awry.  The school principal, Ron Pritchard, said he thinks ‘Wilmot was just curious about what would happen when the chemicals were mixed and was shocked by the result. She is a good kid,’ he said.”[1]

Under Florida Statute 790.001(4)(a), a “Destructive device” does not include: a device which is not designed, redesigned, used, or intended for use as a weapon.  Clearly, this student’s science experiment was not “designed, redesigned, used, or intended to be used as a weapon.”  The principle’s own statement shows that the girl “did not ‘intent’ for her science project to explode.”[2]  So why is this minor being prosecuted for a science project gone bad?  This is clearly not the way to encourage our young science majors.

Under Florida law the “possession or discharge of a destructive device[3] on school property occurs when the “person who exhibits a…destructive device…except as authorized in support of school-sanctioned activities.”  The real question is, was this a school sanction science project?  The principal’s statement seems to resolve this question by calling it “a science project.”

Even if the this was not a “school sanctioned project” the statute clearly expresses a required intent in the very definition of a “destructive devise,”  as designed to be discharged.  The Florida court will likely interpret the statute most favorably to the accused and conclude that the discharge of a destructive device…the device must explode [and] function as it was intended.[4]

This student’s science experiment was merely that, an experiment.  The plain meaning of an experiment is that of understanding cause and effect, without any intentional outcome.

Although, there are many that would love to ruin someone’s life merely because of fear.  There must be a limit to the absurdity of that fear.  If we begin to arrest and charge all creative minds because their science project has gone bad, we will find ourselves without any great scientist to further societal growth.

The real question is why this student was not being supervised during this science project.  Perhaps the principle and teacher should be liable for failing to supervise the student during a science project instead of placing the blame onto the minor who was under (or should have been under) the supervision of the state (school).

It is clear in the text of the statute that the Florida legislature never intended to prosecute a child when, under the supervision of the state (school) for a science project that goes bad.  This is what happens when we fail to encourage creative thinking and teach critical reasoning to our children, they simply grow up to enforce absurdity and allow fear to control them instead of knowledge.


[1] ABA Journal, Teen faces felony charges in exploding water bottle incident; was it a science project gone bad (2013) available at, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/teen_faces_felony_charges_in_water_bottle_incident_was_it_a_science_project/

[2] Id.

[3] Florida Statute 790.115(1)

8th grader arrested over NRA t-shirt – BizPac Review

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An 8th grade student in West Virginia was arrested and taken to jail for wearing a National Rifle Association (NRA) t-shirt to school.

Jared Marcum had no idea the trouble that awaited him as he got dressed for school on Thursday morning, or that his pro-Second Amendment shirt would launch a fight over his First Amendment rights, the local CBS affiliate reported.

“I never thought it would go this far because honestly I don’t see a problem with this, there shouldn’t be a problem with this,” Jared told WOWK-TV.

His t-shirt has an image of a gun printed on it and that was enough to get him suspended from Logan Middle School, arrested and facing two charges, obstruction and disturbing the education process.

Jared’s father Allen Lardieri had to rush from work to pick his son up from jail over something he says was blown out of proportion, according to WOWK-TV.

“I don’t’ see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a t-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it,” Lardieri said.

As noted in the report, the school’s dress code policy prohibits clothing that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages and more but nowhere in the document does it say anything about gun images.

via 8th grader arrested over NRA t-shirt – BizPac Review.

Hendry teacher arrested for battery on student

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Hendry County—A LaBelle Middle School teacher was jailed on charges of battery against one of her own students last week, resulting in her suspension while a court determines whether she is guilty or not.  Lois Parker, a sixth grade teacher, was arrested on Friday, Jan. 11, after a sixth grade student told the principal that she had grabbed him violently, leaving bruises on his arm — all of this in front of a classroom of kids. According to the arrest report, the teacher is alleged to have used poor judgement in disciplining a student who refused to read from a book.The victim said it all began with Parker advising the class to take out their reading books. The boy reportedly said he did not have his book and, when he asked other students to borrow their book, the teacher became irate. She is said to have walked over to the child and grabbed his shirt collar, causing a red irritation on his neck.  The boy, who suffers from a slow learning disorder, told investigators that his teacher then grabbed his wrist, twisted his arm backward, and pulled him to the front of the class to read to the class. The teacher told him to read from a dictionary, which he refused to do.She grabbed him by his shirt collar again and pulled him to the back room, where he was instructed to fill out his own referral form, and was not allowed to leave the room until after school let out.A deputy who responded noted bruising on the victim’s right arm.

 Hendry teacher arrested after run in with headstrong student, by Savannah Rounds, The Clewiston News, Updated January 16, 2013 at 12:22PM

Adversity or Burglary? Texas Man Convicted In Bizarre Squatting Case

JONATHAN TURLEY – Published 1, November 16, 2012

David Cooper, 26, is an example of how dangerous a little legal knowledge can be. The Texas man was arrested after squatting in a $405,000 Arlington home after the family left for Houston so that the mother could receive cancer treatment. Cooper said that he read about adverse possession in the law library at Southern Methodist University. He drew up an affidavit stating that he was asserting ownership by adverse possession and that was enough during an initial visit by the police. When the family arrived, however, the police finally put an end to the claim and criminally charged him with felony theft and burglary. His wife, Jasmine Williams Cooper, was charged with burglary. A jury convicted Cooper but acquitted his wife (after Cooper insisted that she did not stay at the house with him).

Read the full story via Adversity or Burglary? Texas Man Convicted In Bizarre Squatting Case « JONATHAN TURLEY.

How America’s Death Penalty Murders Innocents | Common Dreams

Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

How America’s Death Penalty Murders Innocents

The evidence is in: the US criminal justice system produces wrongful convictions on an industrial scale – with fatal results by  David A. Love

The US criminal justice system is a broken machine that wrongfully convicts innocent people, sentencing thousands of people to prison or to death for the crimes of others, as a new study reveals. The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a new National Registry of Exonerations – a database of over 2,000 prisoners exonerated between 1989 and the present day, when DNA evidence has been widely used to clear the names of innocent people convicted of rape and murder. Of these, 885 have profiles developed for the registry’s website, exonerationregistry.org.

The details are shocking. Death row inmates were exonerated nine times more frequently than others convicted of murder. One-fourth of those exonerated of murder had received a death sentence, while half of those who had been wrongfully convicted of rape or murder faced death or a life behind bars. Ten of the inmates went to their grave before their names were cleared.

Read more at: How America’s Death Penalty Murders Innocents | Common Dreams.