Some of us here at Chicken-Fried News are sci-fi aficionados, but it's unsettling when a federal judge includes "Dr. Who" references in his rulings.
That's what U.S. District Judge Ronald White did in a ruling commanding that former Oklahoma state Sen. Gene Stipe be remanded to the care of a prison hospital for evaluation.
According to The Associated Press, Stipe entered a probation revocation hearing in a wheelchair and used two canes to stand before the bench during the hearing. Stipe appeared to the judge to doze off, prompting the jurist to ask if he was awake.
After some point, the judge ruled that Stipe be sent to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., for a competency exam.
In his ruling, White wrote: "The defendant appeared to be drugged or under hypnosis. He struggled to vocalize his thoughts. When questioned by the court he appeared to have no comprehension of an appropriate answer until prompted by his counsel. At one point, the court was obliged to determine whether he was awake."
White's vocal version of the ruling prompted Stipe's attorney, Clark Brewster, to say that Stipe, 80, needed to remain at home for cancer treatments. The defense counsel called White's decision "draconian," according to the ruling.
That term apparently touched a nerve with White, who addressed it in his written ruling. White responded with a history lesson.
"Defense counsel described the court's action as 'draconian,'" White wrote. "The etymology of that term derives from laws created by Draco, an Athenian law scribe under which small offenses had heavy punishments. The court is not punishing the defendant, but instead is actually seeking the best method to protect the defendant's due process rights by ensuring that a probation revocation hearing of a possibly incompetent defendant does not proceed."
But it gets weirder in the footnotes, when the judge continues the history lesson and then takes a brief trip to British pop culture:
"Notably, Draco's innovations included the first written constitution of Athens. The constitution and the laws were posted in public and thus made known to all literate citizens," White continued. "The court assumes defense counsel was not referring to the Draconians, a civilization of reptilian humanoids with a sophisticated and advanced culture not unlike feudal Japan as portrayed in the British science fiction series 'Dr. Who.'"